I can clearly remember the first time my brain registered the juiciness of a nectarine and its heavenly scent. It was summer and unusually hot. I was about 3 or 4 years old and me and my mother, the lady next door and her son Sam who had the same age, had walked quite a distance to a park where we could play. After we had played a while, Sam and I were each given an unusually large nectarine – mostly because our hands were very small. They came out of a brown paper bag, and I can still recall the sound of the bag, and the scent that came next when it was presented to me to pick my fruit. I remember that I smelled the skin of the fruit, looked at it, turned it around and was then handed a piece of white kitchen paper to catch the juice that was about to drip from my chin and hands. I investigated the skin between my fingers, the texture of the fruit. I recall the bitterness of the magenta red stone as I was trying to get the last of the flesh from it….
Archives for June 2016
It is not a coincidence that I chose to write about Queen cakes today. If you’ve read the papers and watched the news, or if you are a royalist, then you know today the Queen of England celebrates her 90th birthday. This makes her the world’s oldest-reigning monarch and the longest reigning monarch in English history. Queen Victoria was the previous record holder with her 63 years and seven months. So Queenie has every reason to be smug and have a big party – which is a giant street picnic on the Mall (the strap of wide street in front of Buckingham palace) in june. Getting a ticket for it was near impossible to my regret, because this was a celebration I would have been happy to buy a new hat for, bunting I already have aplenty. So if you’re reading this Your Majesty… is there room for one more? I’ll throw in a book!
But let’s talk about these Queen cakes. They are little cakes, and they started popping up in English cookery books in the 18th century. When reading the several recipes from the 18th to the 20th century I have in original cookery books, they remind me of a little cake I grew up with in Belgium. However, the recipe was slightly different as the Belgian cakes were flavoured with a little vanilla or almond essence, while Queen cakes are flavoured with mace, orange flower water, rose water and lemon depending on the date of the recipe. The Belgian cakes also look more like Madeleines, but they both have currants in them and the use of vanilla or almond essence is of course a slightly more ‘modern’ way to flavour bakes.
As with many English dishes, the Queen cakes come with their own dedicated cake pans. These were produced in the 19th century and depictions of them can be found in at least two books that I know of, one I own. 18th century recipes remain silent about the tins they should be baked in, but it is very possible that the then fashionable mince pie tins would have been used, leaving them without a need to create new tins….
A little personal post from me, but then again, it is a personal blog so it is alright.
Five years ago to this day, Bruno and I got married in our home away from home in Sussex, UK. When thinking about how we wanted to get married, it was important for us that we did it our way, or not at all. We are not religious, so we are not bound to a mother church. We are not emotionally bound to the country or town that we live in, so that was not an option either. So this little quintessentially English town that had been our favourite place in the world for years, and for me in my teens, was the only place we really could see us getting married.
The day came and so did the rain, it felt like it was march, the time when we had our fixed date in the calendar to visit this little town. The week before on our visit to sort the last paperwork kerfuffle it had been a heat wave here, but on our wedding day it was windy and cold. Although my dress was made for summer, the cold didn’t bother me that day, the wind did mess up my hair, but the torrential rain waited until we had to go for our dinner at the towns oldest and most haunted Inn.
We got married in town hall, where I arrived late making everyone there nervous as hell. The town crier was there to be a witness to the occasion and to loudly accompany us to the nearby historic public house for a toast. The whole town came out to see us and followed us to the pub, over the cobbles and in the light drizzle of rain. When we arrived at the pub, the blessed town crier threw open the heavy 17th century door and cried that the bride and groom had arrived. The unsuspecting punters at the bar nearly choked in their pints. We toasted with Stout and Cider and after my fresh husband and I got two hours to be together and walk around our beloved town while our friends Sassy and Frank took photo’s for our album and a little video….