When I began writing about food, I couldn’t conceive of a time where I would be able to, let alone want to, create my own recipes. I clung to cookbooks and columns: the recipes of others were more than support to me, they were the be all and end all of cooking. This shows in my first blog posts, retellings of Nigel Slater’s lemon curd and banana cake, Nigella’s clementine cake, Justin Gellatly’s biscuits. My stories framed by their food.
This recipe was borne out of necessity, which sounds implausible when I’m talking about excess hot cross buns, but bear with me.
Sam tells me authoritatively that ‘everyone’ at this time of year has spare hot cross buns. I don’t buy that. I could eat toasted hot cross buns until the cows come home, thick with cold butter (the buns, not the cows).
When I was little and went out shopping with my Mum – not supermarket shopping, but proper driving-to-Newcastle shopping – we would go to the John Lewis cafe. To eight year old me, this was the height of sophistication, sitting up at the tall stools and slim bars. We tended to go there for tea and cake, and the lemon drizzle cake remains in my memory the best cake I have ever tasted, I’m sure more for its air of glamour than its baking merits. But there was one item that always called to me from the hot food counter: The Welsh rarebit. Even the name sounded exotic.
I have a little electronic diffuser in the room I write in. It is a small white cylinder, that sits in the corner of the room, far away enough from my desk so that I have to actually get up to fiddle with it, but close enough that as it pipes out its scented steam, glowing and vibrating ever so gently, it feels comforting, as if it’s quietly breathing alongside me.
I have eaten an awful lot of crumpets over the last month. It’s been a selfless endeavour, needless to say, not at all motivated by a love of anything leavened that will support a slab of butter.
I made my first wedding cake this week. It was, without doubt, the most nerve-wracking bake I have ever done, and could probably even compete with some of my scarier criminal cases in the nail-biting stakes.
When Sam and I first started dating, I would occasionally make him neat, thoughtful packed lunches as an act of love. They invariably involved expensive ingredients, or time consuming preparation: smoked salmon, or proper homemade chutneys. I composed salads that would make a grown man cry, with mackerel and beetroot and horseradish, or tiny potatoes, with dill and creme fraiche and gherkins. He would probably have been as happy with a haphazard cheese and salad sandwich as anything else, but for me it was a way to send him off to work with affection. Fast forward four years and he now survives on a combination of leftovers and sandwiches he hastily makes himself. Until now.
It must have been twenty years ago that I first tried mussels on holiday, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to shake off the sophistication I felt when eating moules mariniére for the first time.
Almost six years ago to the day, I completed my graduate diploma in law. A month later, I secured pupillage at a fantastic set of chambers, and prepared myself for a lifetime of criminal law. I was absolutely certain that I wanted to be a criminal barrister for the rest of my working life. But, four months ago, I handed in my notice. And yesterday, I left the bar.
It’s been an unusual week. A busy week. A week mostly of faltering but also of jubilation. A hot, damp, sticky week. And the last thing I thought I’d be doing would be celebrating with a damp, sticky cake. But here I am, with malt loaf in my sticky paw, celebrating.