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October 6th, 2010

Quince and Almond cakes for Sara Lou


You will need quinces, white wine, plums, red wine, ground almonds, a tiny bit of lavender, sugar, honey and butter.

Don't bother peeling the quinces. There is no point unless you've got false teeth and can't chew properly. Core and roughly chop the quinces. I reckon I cooked about a pound and a half but didn't measure anything as I went. Cook them with a little honey and about one head of lavender and some white wine until they are nice and soft and the wine has all been absorbed or evaporated. Then mash with a spud masher - they should have the consistency of slightly wet mashed spud - and leave to cool.

At the same time cook some plums in some red wine. If they are small plums count them so you can retrieve all the stones. Always cook stone fruits with the stone in as you don't lose any fruit stuck to the stones and it's less faff and gives a better flavour. You need a higher wine to fruit ratio with the plums as these are for sauce/coulis. When cooked and cooled, retrieve the stones and liquidise to make a lovely plummy winey sauce.

Stick about two thirds of the quince mash in a bowl. Add about a quarter of a pound of ground almonds and a tablespoon of caster sugar and mix thoroughly and lightly with a fork, so you lift the mixture as you go and keep it light and fluffy. Then gently blend in one beaten egg followed by a teaspoon of baking powder. Put in very well-buttered (not margarined, not ever; the only point of margerine is to point out to French food snobs that their nation invented it so you can sniff haughtily at them. I like reminding them about UHT milk and golden delicious apples, too) patty/muffin tin with six spaces and bake for about twenty mins at gas mark 8 on a middle shelf.

We ate three of them straight out of the oven and they were deliciously light and fluffy and fragrant. The lavender should be just enough to enhance the perfumy quality of the quinces and not detectable as a distinct flavouring. The bottom pic shows what the cakes looked like naked. To serve them as above, I roasted some unskinned almonds in honey. I made little rings of the plum sauce and set a cake on each, covered the top with a generous dollop of the quince mash, another blob of the plum sauce and some of the almonds. This made for a very light and refreshing dessert. sara_lou thought they be enhanced by a drizzle of some sort of fruit syrup, and for a sweeter tooth that would definitely be the case, but they are good for low fat / low sugar or gluten free diets without tasting like cardboardy sinister shit as things without usually do.

Pictures courtesy of the lovely the_meanest_cat

I was prompted to write this by inbetween_girl's recent post about our digital legacy/remains/balderdash.

I arrived quite late to the digital party. My first significant non-work use of email was in the late nineties, when I used my work email address (no internet at home for me till 2001) for social, and increasingly sexual, purposes. There was a whole series of emails I always thought had the basis of a good epistolary novel; I was so convinced of this I actually printed them all off and kept them in a folder.

There were six characters involved:

1. Me, when I was working a new University in the academic registry and plotting leaving to become a full time teacher.
2. My boyfriend, Leon, who was one of only two men in long and chequered sexual history with whom I regret getting involved, and who definitely deserved his nickname amongst my friends of 'Leon the Loser'. I was his line manager. None of our colleagues knew we were seeing each other, though they knew he had left his wife and were somehow suspicious of the fact that his route to work took him past my house (where he was living at the time).
3. Leon's friend, Dean. Leon was so sure Dean was 'my perfect man' that he didn't introduce me to him for a long time and only did after Dean confided his deep dark secret to him.
4. Dean's ex, Anke, a gorgeous, pouting, utterly neurotic German girl doing a Phd (in Eng Lit). I alreday knew Dean's dark secret - the fact that he thought he might be gay - because he had confided in Anke and she had told all her girlfriends, because she made it all about his rejection of her evoking her difficult relationship with her father blah, blah, yawn, yawn.
5. Dean's flatmate Angus, a tiny, sarcastic blonde Scotsman so gloomy I nicknamed him Anguish. I had a positively violent crush on him at the time, but he was after Anke.
6. Angus's officemate, Matt (they were studying for a Phds in sociology) who was openly gay and had a secret crush on Dean (whom he initially thought was straight).

I unintentionally ended up at the centre of a web of email intrigue.

Matt confided in me. He told me he had a massive crush on Dean.
Angus confided in me. He thought Matt was in love with him. He also thought he was in with a chance with Anke, but that Dean, whom she had recently dumped, would be offended if he made a move on her.
Dean confided in me. He told me he really fancied Matt.
Leon had no confidence in me. He thought I was pursuing Dean. He also thought Dean was in love with him. We used to sit back to back at work arguing like buggery with each other over email. I'd send him out on spurious errands to other departments so I could email all the others with impunity.
Anke didn't like me and didn't confide in me, but I was in close enough email contact with two of her closest friends to send out cunning little ripples that totally put her off Angus.

So my intensive emailing over a two week period was all based on:

Getting Dean and Matt together.
Keeping Anke and Anguish apart.
Convincing Leon I was pursuing Dean so he couldn't tell I was pursuing Angus.
Seducing Angus with my keen and savage wit.
Doing just enough work so that no one in the registry noticed I was devoting about a third of my time to this and the other third to arguing with Leon.

It all worked out in the end. Dean and Matt went out for about two years, Angus and I got it on once and once only, I eventually split up with Leon the Loser by the simple expedient of getting him a job in another country. But putting some of the emails parallel to one another makes for very funny reading. If I had them stored digitally I'd put them up here.

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