All morning the sky darkens, and at lunchtime the forecast rain begins to fall, and continues with steady purpose for the rest of the day. Leo, dizzy and achey, hasn’t gone to school. My mood bends towards making chocolate cake and chicken curry, while listening to the Smiths; and so that is what we do.
The chocolate cake I always aspire to make is the Winter Months’ birthday cake from Elizabeth Luard’s Family Life. It’s the cake I made often at University in York, on a baby belling in a shared kitchen. Unfortunately, in my ‘real’ life, I almost never have the ingredients to this cake to hand. (8!eggs. 250g ground almonds. Almost 1/2 kilo of dark bitter chocolate). Why I had these things available to me as a student, when I mainly subsisted on a diet of Yorkie bars, peanut butter toast, apples and tea, I can’t now recall; but I wasn’t terribly practical.
I look instead at Nigella Lawson’s store cupboard chocolate and orange cake, from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I love how she writes about this cake. ‘Hardly any trouble, and you’ve got a gorgeously aromatic cake either for pudding, or just to eat, as supper in its entirety, in front of the television.’
Probably only Nigella could get away with suggesting eating an entire chocolate cake to yourself while watching TV, and make it sound like a perfectly elegant and reasonable thing to do.
(An argument I once had with someone over Nigella:
Him: Nobody’s going to buy her books anymore. She’s damaged her brand – how can she call herself a domestic goddess when she can’t even keep her husband?
Me: But why would she want to keep a husband like that?
Also, I tried to explain, (but you either get this or you don’t), the domestic goddess is a concept to be played at when you choose, ironically perhaps, and not taken too seriously. There is no allure in the pursuit of Stepford Wife perfection; but the thought of filling your home with a warm and cake scented fug must always be bolstering.)
I don’t have the entire jar of ‘good, thin cut marmalade’ this recipe requires, so I look on the Internet for a recipe of Mary Berry’s that I remember being really easy, and this is the one I make. ‘Oooh! It’s nice!’ Flora coos, watching me pour a molten mix of dark chocolate, creme fraiche and apricot jam icing over the risen sponge, entirely getting the point. ‘This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had,’ says Leo; and both children have eaten every morsel of two slices each by bedtime, despite the pretty sophisticated non-sweet icing.
I make the curry very mild because I’d like Flora to eat it, but this is an unnecessary compromise as Flora rarely eats anything I make her, preferring Cheerios instead, and Leo’s palate has been educated by his Indian father; he likes spicy food. The recipe is pretty made up by me, and nice enough. I like the flavours of coriander and fennel seeds in it. But it’s probable we’re all too full of chocolate cake by this point to fully appreciate it.
The rain’s stopped. Leo and Flora sleep. I’m ending the day with a glass of the 3 € Cote du Rhone from the supermarket in Le Touquet. The forecast for tomorrow is for more rain, but I’m rich in leftovers to see us through.