How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson is possibly the only baking book you’ll ever need, supposing some fascist authority figure imposed a rule of only one baking book per person (and would they really be all that fascist if they at least allowed you to bake brownies?). How To Be A Domestic Goddess is not one of those compendiums that you can buy for $10 at Borders – you know, big illustrations, no obvious author, step-by-step recipes for the same old same old banana cake and sticky date pudding and double chocolate muffins. Practical but no soul. No ma’am. HTBADG is so intensely baking-y that its pages practically come pre-glued together with buttercream.
I received How To Be A Domestic Goddess in 2006 under fairly auspicious circumstances – it was a gift from Tim. We were living in our first place together, this bloody awful flat in Kelburn which was not so much damp as ankle-deep in water, presided over by a horrible landlord who lived on the same property. It was our first year at uni. Tim was working graveyard shifts at McDonalds and I was struggling to be employed full stop. We weren’t flush, to say the least.
I had excitedly bought my first pair of skinny-leg jeans for a significant sum (remembering this was early 2006 before you could get them everywhere) only to have them promptly stolen unceremoniously off our washing line, along with a pair of vintage white and red Adidas shorts that I’d bought at Camden market in London and worn to the Greenday concert at Milton Keynes in 2005. In one fell swoop I’d lost something excitingly materialistic and something pricelessly sentimental. As if I could afford another pair of jeans – as if I could replace the shorts and everything they represented. It was a pretty miserable time (rejected by supermarkets, unable to deal with the mathmatics section of the KFC employment sheet.)
Tim gets home from work one day soon after – miraculously in the middle of the day and not 4am – and hands me How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, a present to make me feel better about the stolen clothes and life in general. If ever a book could comfort the soul, if ever a woman could make you wonder why you even care about jeans in the first place, this book is the one.
Remember, this is years before we would go out casually purchasing DVD box sets and espresso machines. This is back when the minimum wage was $10.20. Nigella Lawson is not a cheap idol. The first recipe I made from it was the Chocolate Coca Cola Cake, not for any particular reason other than we had most of the ingredients to hand and coke is cheap. It’s a complete joy of a cake, (better than it sounds) and was ideal for scaring away the last remnants of misery at the missing clothing and unemployment.
For some reason I’ve never returned to it, but the other day a thought tickled my brain, that by replacing the Coca Cola with ginger beer it could turn out really quite nifty. I was right. And then I got to thinking about how I ended up with the book in the first place. And now I realise that I’m still really annoyed about those shorts. I want them back. I don’t like the idea of wishing actual ill upon people (in a public forum like this anyway) but I hope whoever stole them…always catches every red traffic light. And get constant phone calls from telemarketers. And their CDs always skip. Lots of papercuts. I could go on.
Ginger Beer Cake
Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
200g plain flour
100g caster sugar
150g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
125mls buttermilk (or 1/4 cup plain yoghurt, 1/4 cup milk)
175mls ginger beer (I used Phoenix Organic, a light and gingery drop)
Preheat oven to 180 C.
In a good-sized pan, gently melt the butter and ginger beer together. Remove from heat, and sift in the dry ingredients, then mix in everything else. Pour into a lined 22cm springform tin, and bake for 40 minutes. This is a very liquid batter so it might pay to slide some foil under the cake tin.
Leave to stand in the tin 15 mins before turning out. If you like, you could make a buttercream by beating together soft butter, icing sugar, a little ground ginger and a tablespoon or two of the remaining ginger beer. Or I imagine a cream cheese icing would be wonderful here. We left it plain because I thought we were out of icing sugar (we weren’t but never mind). And it was absolutely excellent plain so no need to go to any great lengths to drape it in further sugary concoctions if you don’t want to.
This cake has the most beautiful texture – maybe it’s something in the bubbles? It’s both light but dense, squishy but solid, gingery but flirtatiously so. It’s not one of those cakes that needs 12 eggs or a large amount of butter to get by, making it ideal for when you don’t think you have much in the pantry. By the way to make the original version, replace the ginger beer with coca cola and the ground ginger with 2 tablespoons of cocoa.
Speaking of originals, they’re remaking Fame. WHAT. Wikipedia can’t explain why this is happening which in this day and age means there’s not much hope for it. I do love musicals – and did not Hugh Jackman claim ‘the musical is back’ at the Oscars this year? But this just seems pointedly unnecessary. No Gene Anthony Ray and his pelvic thrusts that will drive you insane! No Red Light! No Anne Meara who 20 years later went on to play Steve’s mother in Sex and The City! No I Sing The Body Electric! And I very much doubt that there will be a Garfunkel-esque ginger ‘fro as sported by Montgomery MacNeil in the original. Travesty! Travestyyy!
On a more serious note, ie this actually matters in the grand scheme of things more than shorts and movies, Tim has been staying with his family for the last week because his paternal great grandmother died, and they were travelling across the country yesterday for her funeral. While I never met this lady I hear from Tim she was pretty awesome and could farm harder than most men back in her day, and is also the line through which Tim gets his Maori heritage. It is sad news for his family indeed though I do think he’s fantastically lucky to have known his great-grandparents, not something I can lay claim to… In his absense I’ve been eating nonstop tofu and soybeans, business as usual really.
On Shuffle whilst I type:
Never Alone by the Contemporary Gospel Chorus from the Fame soundtrack. That’s the 1980 film by the way, kids. Listen to this song once and see if you don’t want to recruit your own choir just so you can get them to perform this track.
I’m Alive In The World by L.A Mitchell, from the Fly My Pretties latest release, A Story. Pretty, pretty, pretty stuff. And there is a giant portrait of Ms Mitchell on my lounge wall which gives the listening esperience an extra something.
Alone Again Or by Love from the album Forever Changes. Those mariachis! This song is hauntingly fabulous. Arthur Lee, RIP. (Also doesn’t the fact that one user review on fishpond.co.nz says “There is only really one way to describe this album – hippie crap” actually make you want it even more?)
The title of this post is brought to you by: A cheeky salute to a member of Cream. See them here performing White Room, introduced by the delightful John Peel…
Next time: Nothing specific on the cards yet, but I’ll get to it all in my own mystical time. The latest issue of Cuisine Magazine arrived in the mail though so I look forward to spending some quality time with it.