When I was overseas recently, we stayed in a secluded eco-lodge a few hours away from the capital of Jordan. We were getting ready to leave the next day after a restful night in complete stillness and darkness, the candlelight affording us the only light we had and it was a surprise to see everything in the light of day. I was talking to one of the lodge managers as people filed into the lobby after breakfast and he asked where we were from. I answered that we were from Australia and his eyes lit up and he smiled broadly.
"Oh I love Australians!" he said genuinely and enthusiastically. "Yes you are always easy going and you're always happy saying 'No worries, fking this and fking that!" he said clapping his hands delightedly. Our jaws dropped and we burst out laughing and we wondered how the usual impressions of Australia had gone from kangaroos and koalas to someone that swore a lot and that somehow, that had become our signature move or most memorable gesture.
Well of course we do swear but something that we also do well in Australia is multicultural food. And this cake could really belong to any ethnicity really although the first I think about is Greek with luscious figs and honey on top of a moist yogurt cake. I did apologise on twitter a week or so ago because every single fig that I had bought to cook with was gobbled up by yours truly (with the occasional one going to Mr NQN ;)). This year's figs have been particularly luscious and I only really buy them if I can pick the figs individually because a dry, light fig is such a different sensation from a luscious, sweet fig that tastes like syrupy jelly inside. I've even been known to eat eight in one sitting, stopping only because I had run out. And that was the cause of some light swearing ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your country or city known for? And what is the one fruit you couldn't do without? And do you swear? Fess up! ;)
P.S. I have some exciting news to share with you too! I'm so immensely privileged to be speaking at two panels at the prestigious Sydney Writer's Festival this May! If you are free then you are certainly welcome to come along-both sessions are free and require no bookings!
*May 23rd 2013 at 2:30-3:30pm "What our food says about us" with Stephanie Alexander, Pauline Nguyen and moderated by John Newton. Sydney Dance 1, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay.
*May 24th 2013 at 10-11am "Writers Who Blog" with Mark Forsyth, Tara Moss and moderated by Angela Meyer. Philharmonia Studio, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay.
Fig & Yogurt Almond Cake (Gluten Free)
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
150g/5ozs. butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
180g/6ozs. almond meal
1/2 cup rice flour (or plain flour if you aren't a gluten free eater)
1/4 cup natural yogurt
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g/5ozs. natural yogurt, strained overnight preferably
3 tablespoons honey plus extra for drizzling
3-4 fresh figs, the heavier and riper the better
Buyer's tip: choose figs that feel very heavy for their weight.
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a small baking tin with baking parchment, around 19cms/7.6inch in diameter (I used a 17cms/6.8inch cake tin so mine was a bit higher). Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add in eggs one at a time. Fold in the almond meal, rice flour, yogurt and baking powder. Scrape into prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. Rotate cake halfway through baking to brown evenly. Cool completely (it's quite delicate so don't man handle too much ;)) and don't worry if it sinks a little in the centre.
Honey yogurt frosting
Step 2 - Mix the yogurt and honey together and spoon on top of the cake. Slice figs into quarters or sixths and add to the top of the cake. Drizzle some extra honey on top and serve.