16 March 2010

shiksa goddess i've been waiting for someone like you

More cake! That's just what it's like living with me. There will be cake.

Last weekend was a small miracle in that Tim and I had time together. I don't mean to sound useless. I have friends to spend time with. I also like being alone. I welcome being alone. When I'm alone I can sing hideously to showtunes, eat more cake mixture, do impromptu soft-shoe dancing, and entertain fantasies of winning rap battles with my deft flow and astounding vocabulary. But for once Tim wasn't making coffee for people on the weekend and so we were able to do all sorts of leisurely things, including finally seeing what's on the second floor at Moore Wilson's. Turns out that while there's groceries and alcohol on the ground floor, upstairs they sell basically everything else in the world. It felt like we spent 7 hours up there browsing, each aisle bringing the fresh wonder that comes when you realise how many different kinds of bowls there are specifically for ice cream.

My favourite bit was the cookbook room, where I found myself instinctively drawn somehow to a book entitled The Jewish Princess Cookbook, by Georgie Tarn and Tracey Fine. I didn't realise that a Jewish Princess was an established thing, but the book entirely dispells that ignorance on my behalf. Some Jewish food I love (Challah at me!) some is a little more challenging, but I definitely see eye-to-eye with the way that food seems so central to everything.

The first recipe I tried from this charming book was a Honey Cake, which rather delightfully contains four different types of sugar. Not in major quantities, but it's still fun to say it out loud to shock passers-by. The cake filled the house with the warm fragrance of spices and honey, in fact for the duration of its time in the oven it was rather like living inside a giant scented candle. I managed to wait till the evening to enjoy this cake with a large mug of scalding but astringent green tea; it was a perfect combination. This cake is quick to make, dairy-free, and flipping delicious.

Honey Cake

From The Jewish Princess Cookbook

225g plain flour
115g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
50g clear honey
115mls golden syrup (a slightly difficult measurement to come to, roughly 1/3 of a cup plus 2 tablespoons)
50mls oil - I used rice bran
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
80 mls smooth orange juice

Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F. Grease and flour a 20cm cake tin (I used 21cm, the cake batter didn't notice) In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and spices. Pour in the honey, syrup, oil and eggs and beat well to a thick, smooth mixture. In another bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice, stirring well (it will fizz). Quickly add to the cake mixture, spread the mixture into the cake tin, and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. I ended up baking it for 50 minutes (with tinfoil covering for the last 15 minutes).

It tastes so good - almost chewy on top with moist, dense cake underneath. The honey and golden syrup gently add complexity of sweetness and the spices make it smell incredible. It's one of those fantastic cakes that gets better after a day or two although naturally it's a losing battle to make it last that long. This book is awesome for any food lover, especially as it's an American book which has a UK edition using metric measurements - genius! Don't doubt for a second that you'll be seeing it more in this blog.

Fittingly, two of the public figures I most admire in this world - Nigella Lawson and Idina Menzel - are Jewish. Though, Idina famously documents her lack of Bar Mitzvah in haunting song while touring and Nigella, well look at all her pork recipes. She is not a lady who shies away from a cloven hoofed animal.

Amanda Palmer on Friday night at Bodega was wonderful - I initially got stuck behind some tall people but managed to find a good patch for myself to watch her show unfold. She began with a cover, on ukulele, of Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees and from then it was a mix of her solo material, Dresden Dolls songs, question-and-answer sessions and stories. She has a powerful voice and is incredible on her keyboard, seemingly flinging herself at the instrument while playing technically difficult songs. A few of my favourites weren't sung but many were - with the bonus of her recently penned ode to Vegemite. It was an amazing night.

If I sound a bit all over the place it's only because we're heading up to Auckland to see the Dead Weather tomorrow night. I've got a whole lot of meetings tomorrow and Thursday but am finding it a little hard to concentrate...I said over dinner tonight that while I love the Dead Weather's music, what's really making my heart do a soft-shoe dance of its own is the fact that Jack White is in this band and we're going to be seeing him. Tim agreed. No offense to the other deeply talented band members, Jack White is just pretty special. We watched White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights last night, it's a beautiful and thrilling documentary which tracks their journey performing across Canada in 2007. By the end I was even more fascinated by Jack and Meg White and was wishing that they'd spend some time in the studio again. I guess releasing this DVD and their first live album is a step in the right direction.

Title comes to you via: That man with a vatful of talent Jason Robert Brown, and his song Shiksa Goddess from his musical Last 5 Years. It was originally sung by the truly loveable Norbert Leo Butz who here seriously resembles Dexter's Michael C Hall, yes? Who also spent time as a hoofer on Broadway? Notice you never see them in a room together? Anyway, I don't elevate myself to the lofty ideals of the song's title but love it all the same. This musical is pretty heftily emotional and this song is nothing but welcome humour. And I like saying the word "shiksa". Satisfying.

Music lately:

White Stripes, everything really, but for the sake of neatness let's pin down one song: Let's Shake Hands, from their tenth anniversary concert in 2007 in Novia Scotia...I love the way Jack says "let's be friends, Meg".

Stylo, the new Gorillaz song, featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def. I've always loved this creation right from the start and this meditative, shuffling song is as engaging as anything they've ever done. From their new album Plastic Beach.

Megumi The Milky Way Above, from local Connan Mockasin's album Please Turn Me Into The Snat. I've never ever been a real fan of the undoubtedly creative and talented Mockasin - his music almost makes me feel a bit queasy, like I'm spinning round too fast or like the sound is too floaty...or something. But what do you know, I really, really like this song. It's a bit difficult to describe but it's pretty lovely.

Next time: Tuna! In a fit of extravagance, coupled with a fear of having no omega-bla-bla-bla in our diet, I bought a juicy, crimson tuna steak and cooked it respectfully. Also you may expect a run-down of how the Dead Weather concert went...


  1. Followed the link to the vegemite song - haha. Was that live at the concert you went yo? Was that you I heard woohooing?

    Like the look of that cake. It looks very achievable.

    HAve a safe trip and hope you enjoy the concert tomorrow night.

  2. Mum: Yes! Glad you liked it. The cake is indeed achievable! Will let you know how we get on tomorrow - really looking forward to it but would be nice to have a bit more time away!

  3. Oooh, the other week in Antwerp I ate an entire loaf of pain d'epice in the space of half an hour, and this looks remarkably similar! There shall be getting-in-my-belly when I return to my kitchen, I think.

    Also, could you please find me a man too with whom I could spend 7 hours browsing grocery stores? Ta.

  4. Oh my - the upstairs at Moore's. I walked past it EVERY day (twice, really) for years, and for years had no idea what was right under my nose. When I discovered it my friends thought I'd gone awol. Disappeared for days. Mental note, visit Moores over Easter...

  5. Hey Laura
    Have joined the employed -at another franchaise fast food creation and so far having fun (two nights of training, lol). Last night fries, tonight beverages, sundaes and deserts, woohoo. Cannot get a copy of NZ Cleo over here so have not seen your article yet, am waiting for nana to screen it and email. Am doing no cooking otherwise apart from a barbeque where my penchant for totally cooked lamb chops and sausages is sought after.

  6. I love honey cake and one of my favorite cookbooks is a traditional Jewish cookbook! This looks fantastic.

  7. Another great post making me super hungry!

  8. Hannah: There is no shame in eating an entire pain d'epice! Also for what it's worth, Tim hates mushrooms and eggplant so he's not THAT great ;)

    Alana: dooo it!

    Lynn: Nice one :)

    Aimee: Thanks!

    Sadako: Ahh, thank you :D

  9. Great looking cake! I love Amanda Palmer so much more now she is dating Neil Gaiman. She was cool before, but now she is a goddess.