How did four weeks pass me by? I knew I’d missed a couple but would have sworn it was only a fortnight.

The herbs are doing well.

Ok, the sage and rosemary are. I have a fantastic sage butter pasta recipe but I need to make it again so I can take a picture. Because buttery pasta flecked with sage is so hard to imagine.

I somewhat ran with things once I’d done some planting and created an entire vegetable garden.

It looks nice when the lawn is mown. The crucial thing was that I spent very little. The paving slabs were coming up from a patio I’m changing, the cobbles were taken from around the pond that we’re changing and the pots were knocking around (some more heavily knocked than others!). I read something about French potage gardens and loved the idea of mixing in some flowers. I love alpines but wasn’t sure where to put them. In my potage garden naturally!

As if that wasn’t enough I got the husband involved and he built me a planter from old bits of decking. It’s placed on what used to be patio and the trellis will get trimmed soon. It was a quick solution to stop Morley and Satch using the bed as a litter tray!

Look inside! I grew these from seeds (the other stuff was all plug plants)
Radishes, two types of lettuce and... a surprise! I’ve still got the packets if I can’t work it out when they get bigger.

It’s been good fun as we’ve been able to get some fresh air and not work constantly on the businesses. Baby also seems quite fond of watching us labour so that was good.

Tonight between cooking dinner and editing client work I baked a cake I haven’t made in years. I used to make it when I did a lot of walking as a teenager as it kept well and was highly calorific. Seems crazy that the latter was a positive.

I’ve returned to it for a number of reasons. I’m already baking more as a life without treats seems pretty miserable and cake is cheaper than wine but I’m trying to look to traditional recipes to further push the budget. Over the years I’ve got into the habit of making luxurious fruit, nut and chocolate cakes. Almonds instead of flour, an entire jar of Nutella; it was hugely decadent but rare.

These were cakes that would have been alien to my grandmothers, particularly my father’s mother. Granny was a straightforward cook. Actually scrap that. She was a terrible cook but she baked well. Simple, practical cakes to sustain my farmer Grandad.

Sticky Gingerbread

This makes enough for a large roasting dish. I’m going to cut mine in three, wrap two in greaseproof paper then foil and freeze them. I won’t lie, you’re going to use a lot of pans.

Ingredients:


  • 225g butter
  • 225g black treacle
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 340g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ pint milk
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:


  1. Grease and line a roasting tin with greaseproof paper. If it’s a manky old pan then your cake will taste of manky old pan. Be warned.
  2. Melt butter, treacle and sugar together in a large saucepan.
  3. Mix flour and spices in a big bowl.
  4. Heat milk to blood temperature and stir in bicarbonate of soda. Blood temperature is just body temperature but sounds far more gothic and it’s nice to counterbalance the vintage baking with a bit vampiric pondering.
  5. Add treacle mix to the flour and stir really well, scraping from the bottom. It takes a while but don’t use a mixer.*
  6. Once you have a nice homogenous mix, beat in the eggs. Actually I sometimes do this to help it along. I certainly don’t beat them beforehand. Another bowl would be the death of me.**
  7. Add the milk gradually. If you’re like me you’ll start slowly, get bored then make it hard on yourself. Persevere, it will come together. Do not consider using an electric whisk!
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake at 150°C for 45 minutes. Check and perhaps add a piece of greaseproof paper on top if it’s browning but not cooked. It’s done when a skewer comes out clean.
  9. It keeps really well. I’m simply freezing it because the husband and I lack will power and this is going to last three weekends. 
Picture
The beautiful lining was done by the husband. I am rubbish at it (too impatient) and usually get crinkled cake edges.
* It stretches the gluton or something. I used to know this stuff as I did a course with the Leith School of Cookery but I’ve been bunging stuff together for over a decade and just know what works without remembering the theory.

** Joke! I obviously mean dishwasher.




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