I was rooting through the fridge on Monday trying to find a tiny thumb sized piece of fresh ginger that had gone astray when I found three wrinkly apples sitting sadly in the veg draw. I’m quite fussy with fruit and I can’t bear the eat bananas once they’re completely ripe and I loathe eating an apple unless it’s perfectly crisp. But I also can’t stand food waste. The whole food waste outcry seems to be a recent thing for some, but I was brought up with parents who had experienced post war rationing and the effect it had on households even when it came to an end, so it’s far from a new idea to me. I remember watching the Delia Smith cookery shows as a kid and my mum would be aghast when Delia would fail to scrape every last morsel out of a bowl. ‘What a waste!’ my mum would cry, followed up with ‘Well, she can afford it.’ from my dad. Poor Delia carried on regardless with her dishes for dinner parties that would never be cooked in our house. I doubt my mum knew of anywhere to even buy a pheasant, even if she ever had the inclination to buy one.
I’d spotted a recipe in last month’s BBC Good Food magazine for Dorset Apple and Almond cake and thought this the perfect recipe to use up the apples and some other odds and ends hanging around in the cupboards, namely what turned out to be 10g of ground almonds (I had to make up the missing 90g with flour) and I used some blanched almonds instead of the required flaked, which were bought in flash of optimism before Christmas in the hope I’d get around to making a Dundee, cherry Genoa, or stollen (as it turned out, nothing other than the traditional Christmas cake got made). As an aside, I feel I must extol the virtues of having well stocked cupboards (I’d give my right arm to have a genuine, bona fide pantry). Having various pulses, grains, tins of tomatoes, tinned fish, flour, stock cubes, spices and good oil stocked means that even when the fridge is empty (as mine is want to be at the end of the month) there’s always something cheap and nutritious to eat. One of my favourite meals from childhood that persists to this day is tinned plum tomatoes, warmed and served on toast with plenty of white pepper.
Even with my haphazard alterations, the cake turned out beautifully and the flavours seemed especially apt for the relatively cold late spring bank holiday, being autumnal with the apples and almonds that I always associate with Christmas. I’m most definitely an autumn/winter person and I do tend to dread the summer which makes me something of a pariah in England. The demerara sugar top was a particularly lovely addition in the recipe, giving a beautiful toffee hint to each bite.
Rightly or wrongly, I always feel myself to be a more accomplished cook when I don’t need to go out a specifically buy ingredients and I can use what I have to hand. As I write, I have the same feeling because I’ve got a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart in the making.