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St Clement's Cake

8 June 2003

Dinner at Kate's was good last night, and the St Clement's Cake (I have decided, after long struggling with my soul, to instate the apostrophe; but when I do it seems to demand a capital on the Cake) was nice too, or at least I thought so. Here, then, is the recipe, as promised.

Line the bottom of an 8-inch cake tin, butter and flour the tin.

Take two or three slices of stale white bread (a couple of ounces, I suppose, or a little more - but use good bread, not nasty supermarket steamed pulp. I went with ciabatta here), including crusts, and blitz in a food processor to a rough crumb - nothing too fine. Add twice the weight of ground almonds, and then eight ounces of caster sugar. Mix in a heaped teaspoonful of baking powder, and then eight ounces of organic safflower or any other light oil. Beat in four whole eggs, and grate in the zest of an orange and a lemon. Pour into the tin, and bake in a low-medium oven (Gas 4, or thereabouts - you know your own oven best) for an hour or so, until slightly risen in the middle and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave it in the tin while you juice the orange and the lemon into a saucepan, add a cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and three ounces of sugar and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for a few minutes, then transfer the cake to a deep plate. Pierce it thoroughly with the skewer, spoon the syrup over and leave to cool. If any syrup oozes out, scrape it up and pour it over the cake again; it should all be absorbed. Serve with thick cream or crème fraîche.

Meanwhile, there is a rare and sensational thunderstorm going on out there, and I should probably not be using the computer at all, let alone uploading to the net, but hey, I got spike protection. And I would have phone-line protection too, if I'd only had the sense to plug it in; but I've had trouble before with boxes interposed between me and the phone company, the last one stopped me connecting to the net at all, so I'm not going there. Bring on your thunder, Thor...

And I have a hot and sensational chilli on the hob, brewing gently - lamb, onions, garlic, red peppers and split peas for substance; cumin, Greek oregano and fresh coriander from the stormy yard for flavour; a couple of scotch bonnets and a tablespoon of chilli powder for heat. Try it like that tonight, and if it ain't fiery enough I'll chuck in a handful of little cayennes from my own plants, the first harvest of the year.

And I'm revisiting Highway 61 Revisited - it's a social duty: my having stolen the road for a story a few years back, I have to go and hang out there every now and then - and it occurs to me that if you took Dylan's entire catalogue of songs and constructed an album from them, not a Greatest Hits but just the most coherent, strongest individual collection of songs that you could make from all that range, it might well come out pretty much indistinguishable from H 61. And that from a man whose favourite Dylan album is actually Blood on the Tracks... Come to think of it, this is probably a parlour game, piecing together alternative albums. For Nick Hornby, obviously, and others who find Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon altogether too easy.

Why do we call them albums, I wonder? Because of the sleeves on old LPs, the way they used to open like a book? Indeed, do people still call them albums, or is the word reserved for those of us who grew up with LPs rather than CDs?

I just looked it up, and yup, it's because of the sleeve. But I also found album Graecum, which is the dried dung of dogs, formerly used medicinally for inflammation of the throat. Yum yum, that'd make you feel better.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.