As part of my activities in the garden, I love propagating plants. I do this from both seeds and cuttings. However, more often than not, I end up with more plants than I need and I then give away the surplus. This gives me joy, as does the reverse. I love walking around the garden and taking note of the different plants and shrubs that have been given to me over the years. With a rush of pleasure, thoughts of the donor friends and relatives come to mind. Recipes have the same effect on me. When I try a new one and it is a success, I immediately think of who I should share it with. I also love to be given recipes by others and again I think fondly of the donor when I subsequently eat the dish, which is the subject of the recipe. And is it not the ultimate accolade for the cook to be asked by a guest for the recipe of whatever it is, he or she has just served? These days, it is principally my children who pass on recipes to me; they know what their crusty old father likes to eat. My sisters also come into the frame. This month, I have decided to pass on two recipes which have come to me from these two different sources.
However, before moving on to give you the particulars, I want to raise another matter with you.
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This recipe, obviously Italian, was passed on to me by my youngest son, who is a very enthusiastic cook. Apart from being easy to make, it has another advantage. It may be served either as a cake or a pudding.
150ml olive oil
165g light brown sugar
4 eggs beaten
200g whole almonds,
1½ tblsp honey
Juice of half lemon
1tblsp of chopped rosemary
Pre-heat the oven to 180C
Place the almonds in a blender and whizz briefly. You want to end up with a rough mixture, which still contains small pieces of almond. Grease a 10in cake tin. Mix the oil and sugar in a bowl, add the beaten eggs and fold in the flour, followed by two-thirds of the almonds. Pour into the cake tin and scatter the remaining almonds on top. Place in the heated oven for about 25 minutes.
When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. While it is cooling, prepare the syrup. Put the honey, lemon juice and chopped rosemary into a small pot and, stirring constantly, bring slowly to the boil. Then, pour the hot syrup over the top of the cake. If eating as a pudding, serve with crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt.
In another context, I have spoken of my great love of apricots. This recipe was given to by my oldest sister, who serves the most wonderful food. She is a natural cook and her dishes are always both tasty and exciting. She is also a troglodyte and a technophobe. Thus for you, I have had to convert into metric, the imperial measurements of her original recipe. Although described as a bread, this is what I would call a tea cake. Again it has the advantage of being very simple to make.
200g self-raising flour
100g dried apricots
50g chopped almonds
50g light brown sugar
4 level tbls golden syrup
1 egg beaten
5 tbls milk
Pour boiling water over the apricots and leave to soak for 1 hour. Drain and chop. Place the apricots, flour, nuts and sugar in a mixing bowel. Melt the butter and syrup together, add the beaten egg and milk and stir into the dry ingredients. Pour into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin and bake at 160C for 40-45 minutes.
Think kindly of me when you bake and eat these cakes!