We are spending August in the UK because we needed a new garden.
You may remember that last year we re-upsized our UK home (having downsized in 2014) and bought a 1960’s bungalow that needed a lot of work to bring it up to date. We spent most of the winter having new doors and windows, a new kitchen, a new drive, new plumbing, new staircase, carpets and decorating. Then we anguished over what to do with the back garden.
It was a mess of worn out patio tiles, hugely overgrown shrubs, little paths, low crumbling walls and a leaking pond. We came to the conclusion that it would take us months of work if we tried to sort it out ourselves and in fact hardly any of it was worth saving. What we needed was a very low maintenance garden so that we could spend our summers in France not worrying about it.
The company that did the front drive do that kind of work so we hired them to start at the beginning of August, that being the best chance of a dry month to get it done. By the end of day one they had turned what was a mess into a wasteland, much to the disgust of our cat Daisy, who was wondering where her adventure playground had gone.
Gradually all the garden features were demolished, scooped up and removed but this process is extremely time consuming, messy, noisy and disruptive. After three days I could stand it no longer and had to get away from the house. We opted for a trip to Waitrose. (We needed some shopping anyway.)
Our nearest Waitrose is an hour away so we only make pilgrimages a few times a year. Compared to our local Tesco it’s such a peaceful, calm and civilised environment with nice staff and nice customers. A visit there usually restores my faith in human nature and we come away refreshed and with something a bit different.
It was there that I spotted and fell in love with this cake stand to add to my collection. The collection is now so huge that we are having to operate a one in, one out, policy. Nobody in their right mind needs as many cake stands as I have but I found that if I owned up to my obsession and called it a “collection” it didn’t seem so weird. The problem is that we are, frankly, running out of space to display them. Even I realise that there is not much point in having them if they’re simply hidden away in a cupboard. This one, however, matches the colour of my new kitchen just perfectly……
The garden is taking shape. When the contractor proposed the design I couldn’t really visualise what it would look like but as each painful day passes and a little more is done, I can see what the end result will be.
We will have a nice, modern, easy to look after garden that will not go rampant when we are not around to look after it all summer.
Daisy and Hugo are still mystified and I suspect they liked the old garden better. At the end of each day’s work they inspect the progress.
A new cake stand deserves a nice cake to go on it and as I have mentioned before, Nick is not that fond of cake. Ginger cake is on the very short list of cakes that he likes.
The recipe comes from a little book published by Delicious magazine, simply called “Baking”. As per usual, I didn’t have all the required ingredients in stock so improvised a bit, the major difference being to put apricots in it instead of prunes, although I think prunes would have been really nice (if I had had any). It was moist with a close and even texture and just the right amount of spice, enhanced by the crystallised ginger pieces on top. The little morsels of chopped dried apricots added a nice chewy element. Delicious it was.
100g dark soft brown sugar
75g golden syrup
1 egg, beaten
150g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
75g ready to eat dried apricots, chopped
2 heaped tblsp icing sugar
juice of ½ lemon
a few pieces of crystallised ginger, chopped small, to decorate
Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a small saucepan and heat gently to melt together, stirring all the time. Stir in the milk and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 150° C / 130 °fan / gas mk 2. Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform tin.
Sift the flour, bicarb and spices into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
Stir the beaten egg into the sugar and butter mixture then pour into the flour. Add the chopped apricots and mix well to combine.
Pour into the tin and bake for 50 minutes or until done. Cool in the tin.
When the cake is cool, remove from the tin and place on a board. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and mix with enough lemon juice to make a runny icing. Drizzle over the cake in any pattern you like, scatter the crystallised ginger pieces over the top and transfer to your favourite cake stand.
Cuts into 10 – 12 slices and, like most ginger cakes, keeps well for several days in an airtight tin.