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Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Feast: New vegan cake on the block

I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.

First up for my 2021 odyssey with Guardian Feast is Meerha Sodha’s apple pudding cake from Issue No.156 on Saturday 9 January.

My eldest daughter is allergic to raw apples (bloody awkward!) but is fine with cooked ones. That’s one of the reasons why apple cake is a big ‘yes!’ at our table – particularly as allergic daughter has been lockdowning here in Berwick with us. You’d actually need more than two hands to list the raw fruit and veg she’s allergic to. So, finding interesting, tasty recipes with the ingredients that send her for the anti-allergy pills cooked rather than raw is a bit of a mission.

I have a dog-eared page torn from The Guardian Weekend January 24 2004 with our absolute favourite apple cake recipe – I don’t even know whose recipe it is, the name’s not on the page and, try as I might, I can’t find the author in the online archives. The cake itself is crammed with eggs, butter and almonds as well as apples. I can’t count how many times I’ve cooked it. We love it.

And here is that scruffy page kept for so many years for the delicious apple cake.

Nigel Slater was writing for The Observer back then and I’ve found a link to the crossword from that issue of The Guardian, but the apple cake creator remains a mystery. I’m sure somebody out there might tell me eventually. I do know it must have been an outdoorsy Weekend as it has a pull quote at the top of the page which sounds very school marm-y:

There’s pudding too. Don’t abandon decent principles just because this is a picnic.

The Guardian Weekend January 24 2004

Picnic? In January! What kind of madness is this?

Come to think of it we did have a picnic on a walk in the foothills of the Cheviots earlier this month. Watched by wild Cheviot goats, we munched cheese and pickle sarnies and slabs of pork pie slathered in Coleman’s English mustard. We didn’t hang about – it was blooming chilly – we also didn’t think to take the cake – but enjoyed it when we got home.

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January picnic with a view. No decent principles were employed in our picnic: Cheese and pickle sarnies and a slab of pork pie slathered in English mustard. We ate the cake at home!

Meera Sodha is, of course, ‘The new vegan’ in Feast and author of East. So, how will her apple pudding cake match up to our juicy treasured trusty friend from 2004? I enjoy vegan cakes but do find that they can sometimes feel a bit, shall we say ‘worthy’ or sometimes a bit dry. But, I love the look of Meera’s apple pudding cake and am desperate to try.

First off, I only have pears in the house and, you know, lockdown… pears, then, instead of the four granny smiths used in Meera’s recipe (allergic daughter can’t eat raw pears either). I chop one and a half conference pears into cubes to go in the cake mix and slice the other one and half to go on top. I don’t bother to peel any of them. We have almond milk in stock, and that’s what I use for the non-dairy, otherwise I stick to the recipe which is super-easy. It’s quite a sloppy load but I scrape it into the well-greased and lined tin and top it with my pear slices.

As the cake bakes, I message one of my Berwick vegan friends to let her know that I’ll drop off a slice for her later. She replies: ‘Ooh yes please!! I’ve actually saved that recipe to make one day’. Meera says to bake for 50-60 minutes – I go the full time and should maybe have left it a little bit more. Although perhaps it sinks a bit because pears are juicier than apples.

Who cares! The end result is absolutely delicious. A chewy almost caramelised crumb balanced with a moist, fruity interior. Delicious with a dollop of crème fraiche. Pear pudding cake’s a winner and a new favourite cake on our block – vegan or not. I mean, you could also use apples! You’ll find Meera’s original recipe here.

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Harking back to my previous post and hymn to Delia Smith, I found myself making her rich bread and butter pudding two nights ago. One of our family aims for the past few years and specifically during lockdown has been to waste as little food as possible. What better vessel for the remains of a manky white sliced loaf stuck to the freezer ceiling (sourced from fab local waste food initiative Northern Soul Kitchen for bread sauce at Christmas), a rapidly firming slab of home-baked sourdough and tail ends of jars of home-made mincemeat than a rib-sticking, lip-smacking slab of Delia’s stodge sensation?

Coronary on a plate? Delia Smith’s rich bread and butter pudding in the making. All gone now. Sorry.

Next up: I want to create everything from Feast Issue No. 157 but settle for Ravinder Bhogal’s pineapple, kale and red cabbage salad, Meerha Sodha’s vegan Hoppin’ John and Tamal Ray’s sweet spot lemon crumble cookies.

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