We went a-wassailing this weekend at the fabulous Ethicurean Restaurant (If you haven’t heard of it, where have you been? You’d better catch up with a review or two) It’s one of my favourite places not just to eat, but to be. The restaurant’s set in the old greenhouses of a Victorian walled garden, so you look out over rows of carefully nurtured vegetables with a backdrop of sweeping views out across the Mendip Hills. It’s the kind of place that I always take my Catalan friends when I want to show off; Barcelona can’t fail on the urban-cool front but when it comes to bucolic-country, we win hands down.
Supper was fabulous- You may need your reading spec’s but I’ll let you read the menu and salivate ( too fuzzy – take a look here).
I’ve included some pictures of the food too, they’re small because I snapped them on a tiny camera with no flash but hopefully they will give you the feel. I still haven’t got to grips with taking pictures in a restaurant, it interrupts the conversation, they rarely do justice to the food and I’m usually so busy eating that I forget – So these may be my first and last. You’ll spot a “magic” black and white bean on the pudding plate, it was hidden in my toffee apple cake and so I was instantly transformed into the wassail queen.
So, after a stupendous feast we made our torch-lit trek down into the apple orchard to do our wassailing duties – to bless the trees, scare off the evil spirits and feed the robin (with cider-soaked toast) My role was to be hoisted up into the boughs by two “burly volunteers” (ahem … their words not mine) to hang the toast in the tree. At this point I was feeling that I’d made a wardrobe faux-pas with my tomato red, down jacket (not very country -rather spoiling the idyllic rustic performance) so I was relieved to see Robin, the orchard guardian, in full fluorescent lycra. The Ethicureans are thankfully not too earnest about these things.
The ceremony was followed by a “spirited” and ludicrous Mummer’s play with plenty of flames and wafting of worryingly inflammable capes . Then back to the glass house for great music and mulled cider. Quite simply a fabulous evening.
But now for a recipe as I’ve been pretty slack of late. The quickest way out would be to direct you to the wonderful Ethicurean Cookbook ( I will certainly be trying out the pear and cardamom cake very soon) but I’ll pull out the stops and give you a really simple apple and cider cake recipe of my own. So simple in fact that little Imi and her friend Freya baked this cake at the very first meeting of the Monday Baking Club.
Apple and Cider Cake
3 eating apples, peeled and sliced
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon
3 tbsp cider
170g butter, softened
170g soft brown sugar (or a mixture of dark brown sugar and caster sugar)
3 medium eggs, beaten
2 tsp baking powder
For the glaze
2 tbsp cider
4 tbsp icing sugar
Pre heat the oven to 190 C/375 F.
Grease a 23 cm/9 inch spring-form cake tin with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.
Toss the apples in a bowl with the cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon juice and cider.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg to the butter and sugar a little at a time, take care to beat thoroughly between additions, throwing in a tablespoon of flour if the mixture begins to curdle.
Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the cake mixture along with the liquid from the apple slices.
Now spread the mixture over the bottom of the tin and add the apple slices. You need not be too precious about the arrangement, as the sponge will rise up and cover most of the apple.
Place in the middle of the oven and cook for about 50 minutes until a deep, golden brown.
Spear the centre of the cake with a skewer, it should come out clean, any custardy juices and the cakes needs a few more minutes.
Leave the cake to cool a little in the tin.
Meanwhile mix together the cider and icing sugar to make a thin glaze.