Normally, I think that I do a relatively good job at keeping all the moving parts of life – work, family, my relationship, this blog, some semblance of a healthy lifestyle – in some sort of balance. Sure, there have been times when one or other of them has taken a backseat but these last six months, since I first come out to the US in May, has without question been the longest period in which one of them – work, in this case – has dominated to such an extent and everything else fallen by the wayside.
But, it’s beginning to feel like the end of what quickly went from gamourous to tedious is finally in sight. With any luck, today is the start of my last two week stint out here. I’m sure I’ll come out again on an ad hoc basis as my project is nowhere near done but thanksgiving week should see me back in the UK, at least until the new year (although, no doubt just by making that statement, I’ve doomed myself to a December of travel).
I flew back from New York last Friday for a short 48 hours in the UK. In a fortuitous piece of diary alignment, my boyfriend was was flying back from Ohio, via New York, on Friday too and we got to spend a precious evening together, albeit in a fairly charmless airport lounge. Although my time at home was shorter than usual (I tend to fly home on a Thursday night), knowing that I was only coming back out to New York for another 10 days or so made it feel far less transient. Often when I’m back in the UK for a weekend, I’m preoccupied by thoughts of the upcoming week and still, mentally at least, on the other side of the Atlantic – knowing that I’ll be back at Heathrow within days, if not hours, doesn’t really make me feel inclined to do anything of any particular value, short of tackling the mountain of laundry which I seem to generate when I’m away from home.
This weekend though, we bought a light for our sitting room and spent Saturday evening putting up pictures, both jobs we’ve been meaning to do for months but there hasn’t seemed much point in doing before now. I worked my way through the pile of food magazines by the side of my bed, snipping out the recipes that I want to try because I can actually start to think about having something for dinner other than a steak with a side of sauteed spinach in the hotel restaurant or the asian chicken salad on room service. All of a sudden, my life doesn’t feel like it’s on hold anymore.
Before the weekend, I was last at home in mid-October for very welcome stretch of 10 days. I had such grand plans of getting totally caught up on the blog and testing and photographing enough recipes to allow me to get back into my routine of weekly posts. In the end, life intervened and this loaf was the only thing I made all week.
The week that I was at home was the first really chilly week of Autumn and this cake, full of warming spices and mellowed by the inclusion of both carrot and parsnip, seemed very fitting. It is delicious as is, with its crackled brown surface and yielding interior, but the very lightly sweetened cream cheese frosting is also a lovely thing; I like to scatter chopped pistachios on top too, to give a little colour and texture. I’m not generally a huge fan of parsnips, particularly in savoury applications, but here they are really wonderful – sweet, like carrots but with a more complex, almost herb-like, flavour. And whilst I haven’t tried it, I’m pretty sure I could find a way to work chocolate chips into this recipe too.
Parnsips have a lot less water than carrots (something which I'd never appreciated until I grated both of them) so I'm not too fussed about squeezing the water out of the carrots when I make this cake because the parsnips seem to balance out any extra moisture. My spices lean heavily towards the ginger as I far prefer it to cinnamon but feel free to swap or use whatever combination you like best.
- 150ml (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 120ml (1/2 cup) honey
- 125g (1 cup) rice flour
- 35g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons corn flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large carrot, peeled, finely grated and patted dry
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and finely grated
- 170g (6oz) cream cheese, softened
- 55g (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 - 2 tablespoons honey, to taste
- A pinch of salt
- Chopped pistachios, to sprinkle on top
- Preheat the oven to 140C/275F (fan). Line a 2lb loaf tin with paper and grease well.
- In a large bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and honey with a wooden spoon.
- In another bowl, lightly whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and grated carrot and parsnip and lightly mix together until combined.
- Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes until the top is firm and brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla, salt and honey to taste and beat until combined. Smooth on top of the loaf cake and decorate with chopped pistachios.
Adapted from this carrot cake.