24 November 2009

this post has no title


It is SO sunny outside. Sure, anyone can talk about the weather, but as Wellington spends 97% of its time shrouded in gale force winds and grey skies, good weather always comes with the element of surprise. This afternoon Tim and I are unfortunately going to be spending several hours of said sunshine on a train to Palmerston North to see his family (the stuck-in-a-train bit is unfortunate, not catching up with whanau which will be awesome). We're going to be away most of the rest of the week so don't be alarmed and hold candlelit vigils while singing We Shall Overcome if there's not a lot going on here or on my Twitter.

While I'm talking about obvious stuff, how about the fact that it's less than a month till Christmas!? In the words of Mike LaFontaine, "Wha' happen?"

So, there are cookbooks and then there are, you know, seminal texts that you live your life by. By this I mean any words committed to paper from the pen of (or should that be committed to pixel by the typing hands of?) Nigella Lawson. It has been a little while since I've made any specific recipe of hers and I had this real urge to reconnect with her recently. But then at the last minute I had my head turned by this recipe in last weekend's edition of the Dominion Post. A bit like that flaneur-ish painting where the wife thinks her husband is paying attention to her but doesn't realise that his eyes are focussed instead on another comely lass. (I'm only describing it in such detail because I couldn't find the actual painting after a quick Google Image search, if someone knows the name of this painting feel free to speak up.) Actually it wasn't such a degrading act as that - I just liked the sound of this cake - Nigella remains there for the reconnecting some other time. But what use was that Art History paper I did in 2006 if I can't make dubious metaphorical connections between Nigella and paintings that I can't remember the name of?)

It's a truly simple cake and doesn't seem to be in any way flouncy or exciting but its uncomplicatednicity is what drew me to it. It's ideal with a cup of tea, ages well and is a delight to eat - a cake of the old school, buttery and solid.

Sultana Cake

adapted from a recipe by David Burton, found in the Indulgence section of the Dominion Post

225g butter
450g sultanas
3 eggs
145g raw sugar
145g white sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
170g standard flour
170g wholemeal flour

Set the oven to 160 C, and line a square-ish tin of around 20cm square. The size isn't a deal breaker though so don't go weeping over your tape measure.

In a saucepan, cover the sultanas with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain off the water and while the sultanas are still hot, cut the butter into pieces over them and allow it to melt.

Whisk the eggs and sugars till thick and creamy, then fold in the baking powder and flours. Finally stir in the sultana-d butter, pour mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Slice when a little cooled.

See? It's not particularly glamourous, but still rather perfect in its own way. I added a little Boyajian orange oil to the sultanas in the saucepan, which didn't overpower the cake in any way but added a little heady fragrance to its otherwise matronly aesthetic. I also didn't use 450g sultanas because I only had about 200g but to be honest it was plenty. I'm not one of life's gaugers, but 450g does seem like a lot.

As I mentioned last time, we got ourselves tickets to see the Wailers out in Porirua last Friday. It was a brilliant night, with the journey almost as memorable as the gig itself. While heading out to the Te Rauparaha Arena we found $20 which we thought was a good sign. Not so cool was the fact that in our haste to get to the train station, I didn't bring any ID with me and the gig was strictly R18. There's something about my face that brings out the skeptic in any bouncer (plus apparently Tim and myself collectively skew very young in the looks factor) and despite pawing through my purse desperately I didn't have anything on me that identified my age. In the end one of the trawling security police came over, asked me a few questions and radio-d someone who was able to look me up on some kind of citizen database and confirm that I am in fact, 23. Despite the mellow, sunny sounds of Katchafire surrounding us once we finally got inside, it took me a while to chill out.

Katchafire were fantastic though - delivering warm, dynamic sounds and generating an awesome energy. We were under no illusion that the band headlining wasn't the exact original Wailers but they were still more or less the real deal, featuring original members in their line up, and it was an amazing opportunity for us. Despite seeming to be a bit disjointed - not quite possessing the soul that Katchafire had -they played a fantastic set. Buffalo Soldier was my particular favourite of the night, but the Exodus that they finished with was also an amazing moment. If they'd played Trenchtown Rock or No Woman No Cry I would have also been happy (I don't know if that's a really obvious choice of favourite) but there was so much gold in there that it wasn't until the train ride home, (where a Danish tourist was deeply sick to the point that the train actually stopped and let him out for a bit to alleviate himself) and everyone started singing along together to even more Bob Marley songs that I noticed their absence.

Massive apologies for lacking in lustre (and a proper title) this time round - it has been a busy, busy time and I've been completely exhausted! My brain can't seem to come up with the goods this week. I hate the idea of blogging just for the sake of it but there is also something to be said for discipline and sticking to a schedule. Hopefully next week the blogging part of my brain will have limbered up. Total apologies if you're a first time reader. This basically happens to me every November - I get tired and panicky. Look forward to it. But be comforted by the fact that no matter how terrible my writing is in this post, the sultana cake is really, really good.


Title of this post brought to you by: I'm tired and I've got a train to catch. I haven't got time to dither around thinking up cute food-related puns. And I'm sorry. But even in my uselessness, you bet I'm referring to Elton John's song from Yellow Brick Road, This Song Has No Title. I don't care how particularly unhip Elton John may be, this album is amazingly good. Not just relatively good compared to other albums of its time, or compared to other Elton John albums - it's just singularly brilliant.

On Shuffle these days:

There was a guy at Duke Carvell's last night with a Marc Kudisch-y mustache going on which inspired me to listen to the amazing Central Park from the also amazing See What I Wanna See. (click the link to listen to it)

To counteract this Broadway fruitiness, I've also been listening to Shapeshifter's new album The System Is A Vampire - they're back with a vengeance and went to the #1 spot with blinding speed which is a bit of an achievement in this CD-eschewing day and age.

Next time: It'll be December! And I'll be planning the great traditional flat Christmas Dinner which is trucking on again this year. Just because we've moved house doesn't mean I still don't want to force Christmas food onto people. Check out here for 2008's offering. Equal madness and then some will surely ensue.


  1. I love a bit of sultana cake! It's one of those totally classic things that don't get brought out enough in this modern world.

    And enjoy getting carded. I remember the last time I was - because I knew it was the last time I would be! It was my 28th birthday and I was standing in a flattering light.

  2. I love Mike LaFontaine!!!!!!!!!!

    And I like simple cakes like that too, looks great!

    xox Sarah

  3. LAURA! All I can say is I am dribbling in anticipation for next Sunday after seeing the kai from last year! I can come as I organised to be on-call this weekend. Which means, after 12 days of non-stop medicine and babies, I will be READY TO PARTY like Santa Claus.
    Arohanui xx

  4. Foodycat: Definitely - sultana cake doesn't sound as sexy as some more modern cakes but it can hold its own. Will definitely take each time I'm carded as a compliment.

    Sarah: Me too! A Mighty Wind is basically my favourite film.

    Scotty: YAY so glad you can come along, would probably have cancelled it and locked myself in my room if you couldn't.

  5. Went to make the sultana cake but found that the fruit I'd had sitting in the cupboard for a while, had in fact been past its use by date since November 2007...

    Hope your weekend went well.

  6. I feel hungry just looking at that cake.

    I love the Domestic Goddess book - make the brownies out of it most often, although usually only half the recipe (so it'll fit in my tin), plus I've found I can cut down on the sugar with no ill effect.

  7. I don't really drink tea but that cake makes me want to have an old fashioned tea party. With the good china.

  8. Two and a half years after you posted it, I just feel the need to say I love the word "uncomplicatednicity", and the phrase "don't go weeping over your tape measure". :) You have a way with words.

    And now I shall make this cake. :)