I’ve always loved Ashley’s “Dating my Husband” series (and am eagerly awaiting the book of the same name) but I’ve always naively assumed that the concept didn’t really apply to my relationship with my boyfriend. We don’t have children or any other dependents to distract us from each other. We eat dinner together almost every night of the week. We have, after all, just come back from a week in Sardinia where we barely spoke to anyone else.
On Saturday, we went into town to do a few jobs and decided to get lunch while we were out. We sat by the open doors of a restaurant, just off Oxford Street, and ordered champagne and pâté and steak and all the sorts of things that seem totally extravagant at 2pm on a Saturday when you’ve just been to the opticians. It felt celebratory even though we weren’t really celebrating anything.
Whilst it feels like we spend a lot of time together, and we do and we’re very lucky to be able to, most of that time is taken up with work (both our actual jobs but also this blog) or our families or just the boring tasks which seem to take up so much of everyday life. I’d forgotten that there’s nothing quite like spending a Saturday afternoon drinking champagne with your favourite person in the world.
After our rather indulgent lunch, we didn’t fancy anything too heavy for dinner on Saturday evening so I threw together a simple salad. Apart from piling some leaves and left over vegetables in a bowl and grating some parmesan over the top, I didn’t think about stepping into the kitchen all day. It’s the first time in a long while that that’s happened.
I’ve had a distressingly high number of kitchen fails recently and all too many days which have seen me still in my pyjamas at 5pm, surrounded by chaos and with nothing to show for it other than a pile of dirty dishes and a slightly wild-eyed look. I’m accustomed to baking fails – they’re an occupational hazard really – but my poor boyfriend has also had to put up with a fair number of mediocre (at best) dinners in the last few weeks.
I think it’s natural to want to push yourself in the kitchen and to try new recipes and techniques but I feel like I’ve forgotten what I really like to cook and, more importantly, eat. I should know by now that my favourite recipes are simple recipes, those that come together quickly but which seem to be so much more than the sum of their parts. I’ve neglected them recently though, in favour of the kind of fancy and complicated food that I have neither the patience/skill for nor, really, the appetite. And because I’m not cooking what I actually want to eat, the results are predictably underwhelming.
This cake, made early on Sunday morning, my mind clear and my heart happy, is really the kind of cake that I like best. It sits neatly between breakfast and dessert (in other words, I will happily eat it for either. Or both). It’s not too sweet but heady with vanilla and heavy with sweet and sticky fruit. The buckwheat flour adds a nice wholesome touch but the crumb remains light and tender.
Neither of us can’t resist cutting ourselves a sliver every time we pass the kitchen.
This is one of my absolute favourite cakes. Since I first made it, I've played with the recipe a little, cutting down on the sweetness and changing the method to produce a slightly lighter crumb. It works with lots of different fruits but I'm very partial to this combination (inspired by a pie in the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook); the nectarines are fragrant and sticky and I love how some of the blueberries burst, streaking the cake with purple.
- 2 - 3 nectarines, sliced
- A generous handful of blueberries
- 150g (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened + extra for greasing the tin
- 95ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 75g (5/8 cup) buckwheat flour (whole grain for choice)
- 75g (3/4 cup) ground almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- A pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F. Line an 8-inch round cake tin with a circle of well-buttered parchment paper and then butter the sides of your tin. Place the nectarine slices in the bottom of the tin however you like and scatter the blueberries over the top, tucking a few into any of the gaps between slices of nectarine. Don't worry about making it look too pretty - the blueberries will inevitably get redistributed when you add the cake batter.
- Beat together the butter, honey and vanilla until smooth and then very very slowly, gradually add the beaten egg, mixing well between each addition (this is to prevent curdling; if the mix looks like it might split, add a little buckwheat flour to try and bring it back from the brink).
- Fold in the buckwheat flour, ground almonds, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Dollop the mixture over the fruit and smooth it out to the edges. Bake it for about 35 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack and carefully peeling back the parchment paper. Serve hot or cold; either way, vanilla ice cream does not go amiss.