God Save the Cream

First off, I should probably begin by apologising for the pun in the post header. I was also tempted by something like ‘God Save the Queen! / Send her Victori[a Sponge Cake]’ but I think I chose the lesser of two evils in the end.

I’m struggling to think of the best way to start this post as it has been brought on by a trio of events all centred around the common theme of our dear old Queenie, Liz II. The three events in chronological order being the Diamond Jubilee 2012 (and some homagely cooking), a play called The Audience and also the anniversary of the Coronation on 4th June 2013.

Also known unofficially on the global stage as: - Mother of all People (Canada) - Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois) - Paramount Chief of Fiji - The White Heron (New Zealand) - Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

Still got it. Also known unofficially on the global stage as:
– Mother of all People (Canada)
– Missis Queen (Jamaican Patois)
– Paramount Chief of Fiji
– The White Heron (New Zealand)
– Admiral Elizabeth (US, Nebraska)

The temptation is to start with the food (as this is supposedly masquerading as a food blog) but before that I wanted to give the play a mention. I’m not sure if this story broke abroad, but for those of us in the UK I think the most recognisible association with The Audience is when Helen Mirren went more Iron Lady than Queen Liz as she gave a band of over zealous drummers a good tongue lashing in full costume during the interval. I’d argue good on her but, whether you agree or not, it definitely boosted publicity for the show.

I’m not going to pretend to know a thing about reviewing theatre, but I thought it was incredible. Funny, insightful and also a more sombre and reverential reflection on the institution of the British Monarchy over Queen Liz’s reign. The whole play centres around a confidential weekly meeting between the current PM and Queen. Helen Mirren plays the Queen throughout the ages, interacting with 12 different PMs, each of whom confide in her their own respective crises of their term. From an aging Churchill to an insecure John Major and a charming Harold Wilson, you’re privy to the whole brilliant spectrum.

But I think what struck a chord most with me was the private struggle of the Queen herself in her total dedication and sacrifice of her life in service to her subjects and country. To become a perfect emblem from the age of 25 and never veer from that path for a nation is rightly heralded, regardless of the opulence of her surroundings. Now the obvious counter-argument to this slightly gushy sentiment is the cost to the taxpayer, again a theme explored in the play. However, as an unbreakable link of present culture to past traditions surely this is a price worth paying? If not, I fail to see the difference between tearing down the monarchy to tearing down all the expensive music venues, museums, art galleries and public spaces that we all hold dear. Or perhaps I’m just naively making sweeping statements from a comfortable middle-class existence in Clapham? Well yes that is also probably true.

Anyway, coming back to the food, the play reminded me of an awesome (both in taste and appearance) cake that Laura created for the Diamond Jubilee last year:

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

Queen Vic on the inside, Queen Liz on the outside

It was more or less done using this Victoria Sponge Recipe and then covered with white icing and decorated with a black icing pen and silver balls. Needless to say, she’s much more artistic than me! Continuing a similar vibe though, my contribution consisted of a Diamond Jubilee twist on the classic Coronation Chicken. Tasty stuff.

So to round off with the third event, come the 4th June lets all raise a glass, whether pint or flute, to HM in celebration and gratitude of her service to us. And if that sounds like another deplorable waste of tax payers money to you, then at least enjoy the excuse to drink guilt-free on a Tuesday.

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Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle / Rye and Spelt Loaf

Basking in an amateurish Instagram light on our living room table, here are my first two physical contributions to this blog in all their finery: a razzle-dazzle Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle and a juxtaposingly sombre Rye and Spelt Loaf. Let’s kick off with latter.

Rye and Spelt Loaf

This was taken from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book. Despite his recent streak of philandering he is still the ultimate yeast machine and, who knows, maybe the marriage had just gone stale (zing). I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever given bread making a try, anyone who has thought about giving it a try or even anyone who has simply lusted after the smell of freshly baked bread. Word of warning: leave your bread makers at home (or rather in the cupboard), this is hand-made only. Bring your A game.

Because its taken from a published recipe book, I won’t post the details here. What I will say though is it uses both Rye and Spelt flour (obviously) but with a side of Strong White flour to help bind and rise. The most interesting aspect though is it employs an old sponging technique that I was unfamiliar with, at least since I used to steal my mates’ baked beans in my student days (zing 2). It essentially involves pre-proofing (without kneading) an amount of dough. Similar to a Sourdough culture I imagine although I am yet to take on this challenge.

I got a bit nervy on this bake. The loaf came out like a brick and only at that stage did I notice I’d forgotten to add olive oil at the start. However, it was seriously tasty and absolutely perfect with crab pate (which I had handily been gifted by a Chilean customer only the week before). Amazing, crunchy crust.

Dulce de Leche Cake with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

This tasty little number (link to the Good Food site recipe above) was born out of a Mexican themed dinner party I went to last Saturday in Peckham. The hosts always put on a spectacular feast (despite being a veggie, my mate Oli cooks a mean bit of Chorizo). I normally just turn up, scoff my face, win at Trivial Pursuit (no biggie) and leave. This time I thought I’d bring something to pay my way. In the end it was this cake plus a fiver. But I did in turn receive a six-pack of the best sausages in London from Peckham’s Flock and Herd Butchers. They’re nestled comfortably in our fridge and I shall be chomping on them this evening along with mash, red onion gravy, broccoli and (of course) lashings of Colemans. Excited.

Back to the cake. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert cake maker by any stretch of the imagination but fortunately a friend of mine is and she was happy to dish out advice. Specifically around the unusually long bake time (1hr 20mins). However, this is it at a very low heat 140 fan assisted plus we figured (rightly or wrongly) that the Greek Yoghurt would retard the baking process. Which it (or something) did.

It was meant to serve 12 but nearly all of it got munched by about half that number in the space of an hour. Result. Plus the brittle looks dead swanky.