Today I read an article proclaiming that the next trend to hit the culinary high street, is cheese tea. Tea, which I’m assured comes in an array of different flavours like jasmine and oolong and the hailed grassy powdered turd that is matcha, topped with whipped cheese to ‘detract from the natural bitterness of the tea’. Dolloping sour cream onto your chilli to partially extinguish the heat, I get. Squeezing lime into your massaman curry to offset the creaminess of the coconut, I’m onboard with. This, however, seems more like mixing your chocolate cake with a buttercream made with mushrooms. Or cheese, which I’m told is also a trend in Malaysia (cheddar, I’m told).
One thing I am gradually coming to realise, is that food trends are becoming increasingly obscure and, for the most part, best forgotten in a year’s time. Raw foods, health foods, black foods, black plates, slates as plates, shovels as plates, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, nutritional yeast (if you’re recognising these buzz words you’re doing well, pat yourself on the back as you’re on top of the 2017 food trend scene – unfortunately it’ll all be old hat by November), sour beer, ruby chocolate, ‘unicorn foods’ (i.e. multicoloured foods i.e. the most unnatural and unappetising creation to come into being – why are unicorns even synonymous with multicolour?) – all these strange consumables from Far East, West and the fiery depths of hell (rainbow bagels I am referring to you) give the impression that we still live in an odd age of discovery, except this time round we’re in search of new ferments as opposed to countries. Exciting, though not always entirely welcome.
I’ll admit that I’ve jumped on the edible trend bandwagon numerous times in the past; I bought a juicer (a hulking piece of equipment that has been banished to the garage after the mould in the filter attracted fruit flies). The jar of miso paste now sits snugly between the mustard and the vinegar in my cupboard. I ferment. Sometimes. But will any of these novel ideas actually stand the test of time? Will people still be hoarding tupperwares of gurgling sprouted sourdough starter in their fridges and insisting that putting a burger between two Krispy Kremes is a good idea in 10 years time? Despite my partiality to avocado toast, I think the answer is no to most of the above trends (for the record though I hope avocado toast stays around forever/until we eventually eat the avocado to extinction because when you got something good going why ruin it for the sake of progress).
Because, as I bring myself from my umami miso pokē antipodean breakfast induced stupor, nutritional yeast crumbed around my mouth and cold-pressed beetroot juice staining my fingers, I realise that I really just crave a chicken and leek pie, as I did the other night. Mum made me one for when I got back from work, and it was banging. I read an article the other day that professed a resurgence of the 80s classics – prawn cocktail, trifle, toad in the hole etc. The kind of things you start to think about when you’re sat on the sofa after a week of eating ‘buddha bowls’. There’s a reason the classics keep coming back into fashion, or as most of us would see it, never go out of fashion; we’re a stubborn nation. We’re Brexit at heart. The food industry attempts to introduce us to a new cuisine and we may embrace it to an extent, but Sunday is still always for roasts. Maybe with a bit of artisan sourdough and small batch mustard and gravy infused with miso on the side, but roast nonetheless.
NB food trends that can stay: zero waste restaurants (why this is even a trend and not just the standard I do not know), avocado (as previously mentioned), sharing plates (I can order more and justify it by saying I’m ‘sharing’ it – despite the fact that I’m out for dinner with a coeliac and I’ve just ordered a noodles, dim sum and a whole duck swimming in soy sauce), sourdough (I mock it above, but only because I can’t do it), high quality barbecue restaurants (thank you America).
The recipe for today is an adaptation of a Delia Smith classic from a 20 year old book we dug out from mum’s collection, in keeping with the idea that old fashioned stodge never goes out of fashion.
Sticky Prune and Date Cake with Pecans
175g prunes, chopped roughly
175g dates, chopped roughly (I used medjool for the extra stickiness)
75g pecans, roughly chopped
1 tin condensed milk (full fat, no skimping)
110g plain flour
110g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
2 tbsp chunky marmalade
- Add the prunes, dates, raisins and currants to a large, deep saucepan along with the butter, condensed milk and water. Bring to the boil under medium heat, before dropping the heat level and simmering for 3 minutes. Take the saucepan off the heat and leave to cool.
- Whilst cooling, preheat the oven to 160 degrees c, and grease and line a square baking tin (20cm).
- Sift the flours, bicarb and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Once the fruit mixture has cooled, add the flours to the mixture, mixing to combine. Add the pecans and 1 heaped tbsp of the marmalade (you could also add a few spices here – next time I might add some ginger and cloves).
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin and level off with the back of a spoon. Cut a couple of squares of baking parchment to the size of the tin and place on top of the cake mix, cutting a little hole for air in the top – this is to stop the top of the cake burning.
- Bake the cake for up to 1 hour 50 minutes on the lowest shelf in the oven (I took mine out after about 1 hour 40 and even this had singed the edges very slightly, though the inside of the cake was cooked through and seriously *moist*.
- Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Heat the remaining tbsp marmalade in the microwave and brush all over the cake to glaze. Cut yourself a wodge and enjoy with tea.