National school. Where to even start. Class time was class time. We learned of the adventures of Ann and Barry; Ann had quite the penchant for cakes, while Barry preferred to put away a few jars of jam a day. It was relatively boring. Although it perhaps partly explains the obsession with cakes that I have. Breaktimes were much more stressful. I spent the first few years of my schoolday lunchtimes perched on the steps at the front wall that were ‘den’. God help me I was ridiculously slow and ‘chasing’ was my kryptonite. I much preferred our froglike game where we jumped from flagstone to flagstone in a little corner around by the side of the school, imagining of course that we were hundreds of metres in the air, jumping from pillar to pillar while angry waves or swirling lava crashed/bubbled below us, where one wrong foot would lead to a wild scrabble, a grip on the edge of a flagstone that slowly faltered, and a long drawn out ‘noooooooo’ echoing into the surrounding darkness as we plunged to our death. And so on. The reality of it, of course, was that the flagstones were pretty much level with the ground and about 3 inches apart. But when you’re young, and you don’t have your head stuck in a tv or computer games all day (I’m a book nerd and proud of it thank you), your imagination tends to run wild. In later years we either played ‘witches’, or played football with some of the boys, or coached HannahBanana in how best to freak out the boys in the class – she was a bit boy crazy even in junior infants, and literally spent her time chasing boys. Ah the fun it was!
But in any case, this is a food related story. SO back to the all important luncheon time.
I have alluded to the fact that my mother was a bit of a health nut when it came to things like lunches. We didn’t have a lot of sweet treats in the presses in those days, apart from the odd bag of cheese and onion tayto and a dairy milk (Hey, don’t knock it until you try it, it’s amazing). My mother has subsequently developed a sweet tooth – I like to think I have influenced her in that way. However, my lunchboxes (blue teenage mutant hero turtles including flask, thank you very much) almost inevitably contained a petit filous – fruits of the forest, salmon sandwiches and some sliced vegetables. I rarely if ever got anything that came in a wrapper. I think I am all the better for it, but at the time it was rather hellish watching other kids gobbling down sweets and chocolate while I pushed a sandwich around in the hope it would turn into a bar of chocolate (never happened). Occasionally, mum would take it upon herself to make rock buns, in which case I would inevitably swap one (sorry mum, I liked them but they were in infinite supply at home and I had to take advantage of having something other than salmon to swap) with one of my friends for a sweeter alternative. I still remember standing outside the cloakroom, swapping a particularly curranty one for a slice of the most delicious home-made madeira cake. This madeira cake was a new concept to me. I’m not sure how popular it is in general, but it wasn’t something that was rife in my world. Until now..
I don’t have her mum’s recipe, so instead I turned to that domestic goddess that is Nigella. I found this on her website, and with only the most minor of changes, this came out the most delightful cake. This kind of cake will always remind me of lunches and teas, so, along with some other baked treats (as you can see in the photos) we had afternoon tea on Saturday, and it was completely yummy.
What you need:
240g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar (and an extra tbsp fro sprinkling pre baking)
Zest and juice of half of a lemon
300g cream flour
2tsp baking powder
What to do:
1. Line and grease a loaf tin. Preheat oven to 160 degrees (her recipe says 170, my oven runs hot!)
2. Cream the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add your lemon zest and give it another whirl until it’s mixed in.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a tbsp of flour at a time, and mix well after each addition.
4. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and stir gently into the mixture.
5. Mix in the lemon juice.
6. Pour your mix into your readied loaf tin, sprinkle your caster sugar on top, and into your preheated oven it goes
7. Bake for approximately one hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.
8. Let cool in tin, then carefully tip out and slice into wonderfully tasting slices and serve with some tea. Or for lunch. Or as a snack. Or any time really. It’s delicious. Try it and see.
Afternoon tea (more recipes on the way – you can find the treacle scones here)