Cake!

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There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perry’s being seen with a slice of Mrs Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr Woodhouse would never believe it. – “Emma”, Jane Austen

Not at all like Mr Woodhouse as I go to celebrate a friend’s wedding today, partly with a lot of cake.

The top picture is the wonderfully-titled “The Tempting Cake” by Albert Roosenboom.

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Lemonade

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Having just learned how to make iced tea (not sure it’s something that should need to be learned, but it is a bit more complicated than it sounds), I’m keen to try a jug of lemonade now. This Cup of Jo post on canteloupe melon lemonade came at the right time, and now I’m quite intrigued by the cookbook it comes from too.

Time for cake

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I don’t care if it’s January and we’re all meant to be eating mild broth and celery – if it’s cold and dark also, we still need cake. I like the look of this banana bread by Jasmine Helmsley, and can vouch for the cranberry and marzipan recipe by Magda’s Cauldron, after it provided comfort with mulled wine after a very icy, wet walk the afternoon before New Year’s Eve.

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Spice, coconut and sour cherries

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I went on a massive reading browse in Waterstones about a month ago, driven by the need to console myself after a brutal exercise class that had nearly reduced me to tears.

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First up in the restoration, The Grammar of Spice, which gives you the history of the spice, some foods it goes well with and a high level hint at a recipe. More of a thought factory and wonderful illustrations.

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Next up, a street food book that looks good but isn’t terribly useful, and at the far more tempting end of things. Stirring Slowly from a Jamie Oliver protege, and lots of tasty recipes, pretty light and healthy too. I went for this courgette and coconut cake that weekend and it went down a treat.

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Finally, an armful of cookbooks from the east of Europe: exploding pomegranates and sour cherries in Kazakhstan and watermelons and dill in Azerbaijan, both reminding me how we’re no longer an agricultural country, and making my mouth water for the summer produce.

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Berlin nights

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After hours of strolling in the heat, the cold glass of sour buttermilk was just the thing we both craved to quench our thirst. The clean, pure flavour and its thickness cooling my throat lingered with me long after we pushed back from the table, said goodbye, and walked home, sandals slapping gently against the sidewalk.

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Muck had told us to bring dessert, so I sifted through my recipes cookbooks searching for something to make, both relishing the task and feeling indecisive as I always did…

I could bake a cake, something simple and rustic, topped with fruit. But in Germany, cake was eaten mainly in the afternoon served with a cup of coffee or tea. And although I used to bake cakes for dinner parties in New York, the idea of a slice of cake after dinner no longer appealed to me…

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I thought about slicing peaches and slipping the wedges into wine, but the truth is that good peaches were not so easy to come by in Berlin….A pavlova sounded pretty good too: marshmallowy mereingues topped with whipped cream and berries.

But pavlova felt too fussy for this languid afternoon. I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes, hearing the faint hum of traffic from the outdoors and thinking about our day. I remembered the buttermilk we’d shared, creamy and sour. It occurred to me that buttermilk and berries would make a perfect summer dessert…

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The panna cotta was simple to make, but when the time came to unmold the set cream from its ceramic mold, I struggled to loosen it from the sides. Max came into the kitchen just as I was starting to lose my cool and ended up helping me, the two of us giggling at the panna cotta’s luxuriant wobble as it settled into its serving plate. Then I spooned the juicy berries and their syrup all round the panna cotta, almost obscuring the creamy mound. As Max drove us to Muck and Jurgen’s house, I held the serving plate gingerly in my lap as the fruit slid precariously back and forth.

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Out on their deck at dusk, we ate pink-fleshed lake trout poached gently in fennel broth, small boiled potatoes, waxy and sunflower yellow and dusted with chopped parsley, and a little salad of soft greens studded with toasted sunflower seeds. There was a cold bottle of Riesling and a sharp and creamy horseradish sauce mixed with grated apple for a bit of sweetness to dollop on the fish…

The table soon fell quiet and as our spoons scraped against the china and I saw the light draining from the sky, my life suddenly felt so complete, so rich and full and just as it should be, that I almost lost my breath.

Luisa Weiss, My Berlin Kitchen

Gourmands

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Sadly the Victor Hugo market was undergoing a huge renovation when I visited Toulouse and was both locked up and being drilled to the ground, so I didn’t get the full gastronomic experience that the city can offer, but the shops in the local streets more than did their best; chocolatier, glacier, several wine and cheese shops, a bakery, an emporium of Spanish hams… I couldn’t take photos of it all, but here’s a snippet.

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August 2017.