The Hungry Writer bakes for Friends.
One of the joys of baking is that cake has to be shared. In this house, if it is not with guests, then it’s with friends next door, or across the road, or who live a little further afield.
A few days ago I met up with two old friends for lunch. We’ve known each other for decades and all three of us we’ve been there for each other through deaths, divorces, house moves and emergencies with children and grandchildren.
In the early days, we lived close to each other. Our kids went to the same school and if we were not near enough to pop in, then our houses were only a quick drive away. Now it’s very different. Rosaleen is in Shrewsbury, Mary in Market Drayton, and I’m in Stoke. Geographically, Drayton is in the middle so this is where, every so many months, we meet to catch up and have lunch. Because Mary hosts us, Rosaleen and I bring the food. She does the savoury course and I bring pudding.
Over soup and crusty bread, or a quiche and salad, we talk about our kids and their kids, about our hopes and fears for the future, not just for ourselves but for the world and, in this time of flux, for the UK. We eat cake and share memories, some sad, some hilarious and gardening and household tips and when it is time to leave there is always more still to be said.
It seems to me this mixing of the intimate and practical is a very female way of having a conversation. It’s supportive and life-enhancing, as is the relationship between women in so many of my novels.
“Picking up the Pieces” in particular focuses on the support women give each other. When Elsa’s life starts to fall apart, she invites long term friends Liz and Bernie to a champagne tea at The Grand as a final gesture before as she says “your useless friend Elsa is about to slide down into the gutter… In the meantime let’s enjoy. If I’m going under, I’m doing it in style.”
Nothing quite as dramatic happened when we last met up and the yoghurt and pistachio cake was a great success.
The recipe is a really easy one. The only fiddly bits are grating the lemon, which is a job I hate, and freeing the cardamom seeds from their pods, which this time my darling husband did for me.
Yoghurt cake with pistachio, lemon and cardamom for 6-8
Unsalted butter for greasing
4 medium eggs separated
85g castor sugar
500ml plain Greek yoghurt
Zest of 1 lemon plus extra to serve
7 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground in a mortar
35g plain flour, shifted
65g shelled pistachios, lightly bashed.
Method: Heat oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Grease a 20cm spring-form cake tin and put it on a baking sheet.
Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg yolks with 50g of the sugar until thick and pale. Gently fold through the yoghurt, lemon zest and cardamom, followed by the flour, currants and 40g of the pistachios.
Clean and dry the whisk, then whisk the egg whites and remaining sugar to soft peaks. Gently fold this, a third at a time into the yok mix, then tip the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 min until firm, risen and pale bold in colour.
Leave the cake to cool (it will slightly sink back, or form great canyon split) then release from the tin and slide it from its base on to a board; use a metal palette knife to help.
Top with remaining lemon zest and pistachios. Serve at room temp or cold. Will wait happily for a day in the fridge if required.