Last week was the wedding of two of my closest friends.
We’ve been friend ten years almost to the day; we’ve been friends through engagements and bereavements, we’ve shared drunk tears and sober laughter. We’ve read the same books, we’ve held the same babies, and we’ve watched the same people get married. They are so inextricably a part of my life and who I am.
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.
Sam has, for as long as I can remember, claimed lemon posset as his favourite pudding. Whenever I asked him what he wanted after supper or Sunday lunch, that would be his answer. I, on the other hand, could never be pinned down to one: the thought of having to choose between sticky toffee pudding and trifle, creme brûlée or tiramisu is horrifying. Even asking me to choose a winner between lemon sponge and ginger sponge is asking too much. I’m a flighty pudding eater, and I refuse to rank them. But Sam remained steadfast and certain: lemon posset.
Oh how I long to be competent. A quick search of my blog throws up the word ‘competent’ no fewer than five times to date. Sam discovered early on that calling me ‘feckless’ (no matter how richly deserved, or warmly expressed) was the surest way to unjustified but unstoppable tears. I am sure that my desire to learn how to cook is at its base, simply a yearning to be competent, or at least appear competent. And for that reason I hold an abiding fondness for any dishes which are deeply practical: delightful in its simplicity, or ease, or using up leftovers that hang around the house: this no-knead bread, these vibrant braised spring onions, and, well, these friands.
For a long time, I didn’t really understand breakfast. As alien as ‘eat to live not live to eat’ is as a mantra to me, breakfast always struck me as something of a chore, a waste of a good meal. As a child, it was a non-negotiable sit-down affair, and the food as boring and repetitive to a child as the routine; porridge or weetabix, maybe toast if we were lucky.
We were away last week. We went on holiday over a long weekend, and ate gorgeous food, and coveted beautiful houses, and met brilliant people, and saw more paintings of 17th century militia than I previously thought possible. We get home late on Monday evening, and put the washing in the machine and slippers on our feet, and I move through my kitchen, touching things. Things that ground me. My chopping boards. My tea towels. My measuring cups. The little things that make our home, well, our home. And then I pick up a tin and a mixing bowl, and choose a knife. And I make cornbread.
Sometimes, especially when I’m sad, or just find myself in a bit of a cooking rut, I realise that what I need is a taste of home. And growing up in the North East, in Newcastle and South Shields, that taste of home is the stotty bread. So I have spent the last week making stotties, and it has been glorious.
This is quite a silly post about a very silly recipe. This cake is not big and it is not clever. So much so that I very nearly did not write this post. But it turned out to be really quite joyful, and a perfect cake for Easter, and so here it is.