When I spoke to you last, I was out there happily scratching around in my patch, and eating bowls of pasta. The sun was shinning, the weather forecast was wonderful and I believed that gardening would continue to be the order of the day for the foreseeable future. Well! “The best laid plans of mice and men….“ and all of that. Just over two weeks ago, I knocked out my back, have been in pain and immobilised ever since and now wonder when I shall ever get back to my garden. Worst of all perhaps, I have not been able to engage in much cooking, as standing in the kitchen for any length of time brings on agonising back spasms. And so I have made good use of the pasta recipes recommended to you last month. I have also been raiding the kitchen cupboards for whatever was available, as shopping was, for a time, ruled out. Fortunately, the freezer was well stocked, and how grateful I was that it was so. I have survived and slowly my life is beginning to return to normal. But I have made a fervent resolution for the future. Like that proverbial squirrel, I must always have adequate food stocks in the house to withstand life’s calamities.
Just before my back collapsed, I had the pleasure of a visit from my niece. She was attending a day course in this part of the world and just spent one night with me. While there was little difficulty deciding on the main course for the dinner we were to share – she is not a great meat eater and loves fish – I was uninspired about what was to follow. Somehow, all the usual puddings in my repertoire didn’t seem quite right. Finally, rummaging in the kitchen, I came across the recipe which follows. It was lifted from a recent Sunday newspaper.
3 eggs separated
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
30g corn flour
the zest and juice of 2 lemons
30g of soft butter
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp mead or sweet wine*
icing sugar to dust
*I did not have either of these ingredients and used sweet sherry instead.
Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the almonds and the corn flour. Stir in the zest and juice of the lemons.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold them into the lemon and egg mixture. Butter a 20cm round cake tin – use all the butter; when it cooks it will be absorbed into the cake and form a delicious crust.
Pour in the mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and feels springy when you press the surface with a finger. Remove the cake from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Put the honey in a small pan with the mead or wine and warm it, whisking until you have a thin juice. Pierce the cake all over with a skewer and then drizzle the juice over it and allow to sink in. When ready to serve, dust the cake with icing sugar.
I served the cake with crème fraîche, but you could equally well serve it on its own as a tea cake. My niece pronounced it delicious, noting in particular how moist it was and she was right. And lemons and almonds do make a wonderful combination. Enjoy.