The other morning, having grumbled my way through breakfast – for the fifth day in a row – about the coffee (lavazza might be Italy’s favourite but it isn’t mine) some teaching I dread and my recent blogblock, Vincenzo, who is not a fan of too much breakfast communication which makes me a constant challenge, spoke. He suggested – rather wearily it must be said, but then it was the fifth day in a row – that we stop being martyrs, abandon the lavazza mid packet and buy some Illy. He continued by proposing I do the same with the nightmare student before pointing out – the bombshell – that if I actually got back into the habit of going to the market and cooking it might reignite my blogging passion.
The hour, the coffee and my slightly oversensitive disposition these days meant my initial response to his advice was neither good nor grown up. I deposited my disappointing coffee on the table so it made a noise, the hot drink equivalent of teenage bedroom door slamming. ‘How dare he give me so much sensible advice at 8 30 in the morning’ I thought. ‘Couldn’t he see my problems were irresolvable.’ I then proceeded to remind my boyfriend that I’d been to all five illy vendors in Testaccio and their wasn’t a single tin to be found, that my work situation was ‘very very complicated‘ and that I felt bad enough about my neglect of the market literally under our house, our kitchen, our home cooked nourishment and this space without him reminding me about it. I then got up and banged around the neglected kitchen.
I banged, growled and muttered until about 11 30. But although prone to overreacting and noisy washing up in such situations, I’m not generally one to stew for more than half a day, so by about midday I’d admitted, first begrudgingly and then with great relief, that he was right. I made myself a cup of tea, sat at the table, decided both the lazazza and student had to go and that, more importantly, I needed to get cooking.
There are various reasons for my recent cooking hiatus. Some are happy ones: the wedding, the rash of September birthdays, lots of lovely meals out, but the rest are quite tedious: illness, back backs (two), laziness, going back to school, Vinx away drumming. I won’t bore you with details because that would be, well, boring. It’s probably suffice to let you know I haven’t been writing because apart from the pasta e fagioli, two lots pasta e pomodoro and an overdose of omelettes we – actually I, as Vincenzo is excused in concert season – haven’t been cooking. Until yesterday that is. I went to the market early, I pulled on my granny apron, had a slug of cooking sherry and made pasta e ceci, aubergine parmesan and roasted a chicken. I then, quite uncharacteristically it must be said, made a cake.
I think I’ve already mentioned that apart from the occasional flight of fancy, on the rare occasions I do actually make a cake, it will be one of the five: the nice plain one, the clementine one, the chocolate one, the other chocolate one, and this one, the double ginger one.
This is a great cake, or more precisiely, ginger loaf. It’s one for the ginger lovers amongst us, a delicious dark, sticky, dense, ginger treat studded with fat sultana’s and chunks of stem ginger. It’s from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, a book which rather like my stick blender, I have mixed feelings about, but use all the time. Talking of Nigel, have I told you I used to live near him in London and would often spy him at Marylebone Farmers Market or sniffing cheese at The Fromagerie. On more than one occasion I followed him as he did his shopping, buying similar things and predicting what his next recipe in the Guardian would be. Yes, all a little odd and come to think of it, probably bordering on stalking! Fortunately I don’t think Nigel ever cottoned on.
Anyway back to the loaf. It’s a simple but dark and broody loaf, a Fillipo Timi of a loaf in a world of sickly, boring Tom Cruise cup cakes with frosting. It’s satisfying and extremely tasty, it’s warm and spicy on the back of your throat with a proper ginger kick and a touch of caramel from the gloriously unctuous llye’s golden syrup. I’ve been known to add an extra pinch of ginger and double the stem ginger – in which case it is kick-ass double ginger loaf and only for ginger devotees.
I think this is what is called a wet cake technique – although don’t quote me because I may have just made that up – in that you melt the golden syrup and butter, add the sugar, sultanas and chopped stem ginger and then warm this dark amber coloured, syrupy panful until it bubbles. Then you add wet ingredients to the dry ones; flour, ginger (obviously) cinnamon, baking soda and salt before stirring in the eggs and milk. The resulting mixture is glorious, sloppy batter that if it were a paint colour it would be labeled dark russet or sepia, rather like my hair in fact and exactly the same colour as my favourite winter coat, the one I left on the number 30 bus when I was drunk, the one I still mourn.
You should really wrap the cake in greaseproof and tin foil and leave it for a few days to mature: the textures closes, it becomes more compact – a good thing – the flavour deepens and the top gets stickier which means bits might adhere themselves to the greaseproof paper and then you have to scape them off with your teeth. I find it hard to wait an hour never mind two days, so I generally make two loaves, one for immediate consumption and the other for wrapping. I love a doorstop of double ginger loaf with cup of tea late morning or at about 4 o clock. It is also very good with thick slice of English cheddar and an apple.
Double Ginger Cake
- 250g self-raising flour
- 2 level tsp ground ginger
- 1 level tsp cinnamon
- 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
- pinch of salt
- 200g golden syrup
- 4 lumps of stem ginger in syrup diced very finely
- 2 tbsp syrup from the stemmed ginger
- 125g butter
- 50g sultanas
- 100g dark muscovado sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 200ml whole milk.
Line a deep loaf tin with baking parchment and set the oven to 180°
Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Over a low flame gently melt the golden syrup and butter in a small pan then add the stem ginger, sugar and ginger syrup and keeping stirring while you allow the mixture to bubble gently for a minute or two.
In another bowl beat the eggs and then add the milk, beat again.
Add the butter and syrup mixture to the flour and mix thoroughly with a large metal spoon, now add the milk and eggs and mix again. The mixture will look like a thick, sloppy batter.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 40 to 45mins or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then carefully remove it and gently pull away the parchment.
Ideally you should wrap the loaf in a new layer parchment and then another of foil and leave it to mature for a few days. Or you could make yourself a cup of tea and eat a nice big slice straight away.