‘It’s not a salad, Liv’ says Sam for what must be the fifth time this morning. ‘Stop calling it a salad’. Sam has very clear views on what constitutes a salad, and this, he insists on saying grandly and repeatedly, is not it. It is a salad, for what it’s worth, it just uses herbs rather than leaves (although that argument didn’t fly with Sam).
Until last Sunday, I had never been blackberry picking. It was inevitable, then, perhaps that I managed to get caught on brambles no fewer than four times during our excursion. But I emerged physically and figuratively victorious, with stained fingers, and overflowing tupperware. After two large boxes, crammed tight with blackberries were wedged into the freezer, for dark crumble-filled days, there was still a surplus of berries. So I made this vinegar.
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.
This is my ultimate everything-will-be-ok supper. Something I make when I’m feeling sad or scared or just a bit hopeless. It revives, it reassures. It’s aromatic, and sweet and sour from the tamarind, and it is comforting without being heavy and stodgy. It’s everything you need on a dreary almost-summer Tuesday evening.
There is a time and a place for slow food, and Tuesday evening is neither the time nor the place.
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.
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.
At my 21st birthday party, I had a perspex tower of cupcakes, with huge swirls of icing – ivory and duck egg blue, to match my invitations. I was so desperately proud of them. I was 21 and energetic and brave and stupid. Stupid because cupcakes are simply dreadful.
In Alice Through The Looking Glass, the White Queen offers Alice ‘jam tomorrow’:
‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
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.