Garnished with Pistachio and Honey
I can hear it, sniff it in the air, and sense it on my skin. Everywhere, little bursts of summer are beginning to emerge. It's not like Spring, which arrived in a tumultuous storm (literally) this year. This summer's gradual, slowly creeping in, daintily setting foot in the front door.
Summer brings about plenty of memories, memories of frolicking about in air conditioned rooms, memories of dancing about and shrieking in the hot sun.
It arrives perfectly with the June holidays, a month of respite from school (which somehow always arrives in my mind taking the form of a tractor, mowing one over and flattening them into pancakes thinner than prata). I used to dread the holidays, detest being all alone at home. But somehow, this dislike has morphed into a yearning, a clawing urge for the month of solitude and quiet me-time.
Already, plans are underway for the holidays, a trip here, an excursion there, as well as the demands of work to be done. There's a stack of books and magazines to be read, to satisfy the bibliophile in me. There's recipe ideas in my head, a jumble of measurements and ingredients as well as flavour combinations. There's also homework to be imposed, challenging stuff meant to rake our lazed-up brains and give up a shake from the dozy mornings I'm sure many will spend.
This semester has been one to begin with reluctance and dread, but has slowly stretched out to give way to laughter, good cheer, and new friendships. It's been one that I've learnt much in, and have fostered a wondrous relationship with photography. It's been one where I've experimented with new flavours and new techniques.
I've been to new places, discovered them, really, and ventured beyond my comfort zone in various aspects of life. I've spent many an afternoon recently in cosy corners of cafes, accompanied by a pastry and tea (or coconut), typing away fervently or voraciously flipping through books (and their pages might just tear).
I've had arguments and complaints (only to be met with the chuckling of the friend as I protest about the injustice of it all). I've had lunches and dinners out, with or without a companion, where we research on rates and I rage about the little dips and dives of the bumpy port-hole ridden road of this thing called life.
Lastly, I've developed a love for popcorn, the caramel-coated variety by 479 degrees. It's crunchy, not too melty or sticky, making for good holding, and lightly crisped. I've an even odder habit, however, which is to sprinkle on some extra sea salt, for the label reads 'sea salt caramel', but I barely detect the ocean's saltiness upon my tongue. If you haven't given it a shot, do! It's worth every penny.
But naturally, some things never change...
Such is my love for oatmeal, the porridge which has a hint of nuttiness whilst bringing warmth on chilly mornings. There's something immensely gratifying about being able to garnish a bowl of oatmeal with fruits, nuts and the occasional cookie, as I've taken to recently.
Another is my infatuation with cookies, which have escalated to ginormous proportions in recent months. Many varieties have been sampled - snackimals (all except peanut butter), gingerbread, amaretto. Some have failed disappointingly, others passing with flying colours and ensuring a spot for 3 more bags on my shelf.
What never changes, and never will, is my ardent love for cherries. Blood-red, juicy and sweetly sour, I prefer Rainier cherries, which only appear from May to July (so, fingers crosses!). Normal cherries still rank rather high on my list though; I like them bloody with juice. But what I love doing most is spitting out a clean, pale brown seed, and seeing it land in my bowl a good 30 cm away. I have skill, they say.
Cherries and Almonds meld together so well; sweet essences and a slight tinge of sourness. The honey on top lends extra sweetness to musk to sourness, which is already banished entirely through the baking process, where the juices sort of, steep, into the cherries itself, into a rich, deep flavour.
But that's just the beginning. Nuttiness (and crunchiness) of almonds are supplemented by pistachios, little bits of spike which are grated into the cake within the confines of one's mouth before vanishing into the depths of the stomach.
What emerged from the oven today was not a mere cake, but a mountain, complete with the craggy peak, crisply browned from baking. I had to remove that voluminous top for the cake to sit properly on my plate (later snagging those extra cake while drizzling on honey). Enjoy, for this is certainly a winning recipe for summer.
Cherry Almond Upside Down Cake with Pistachios and Honey
1/2 c oats, ground into a flour (or any other flour, slightly less than 1/2 c)
1/3 tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp. sweetener - sugar or honey or maple syrup (adjust to personal preference)
2 egg whites (or 1 egg)
1/4 c applesauce
2 tbsp. milk
Pinch of salt
4 cherries, halved and pitted
1 tbsp. slivered almonds
4-6 pistachios, chopped
1-2 tbsp. honey
1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grind oats and add in baking powder, sweetener, egg, applesauce,salt and milk. Blend well in a food processor (or just whisk well if you don't have one). The batter should be relatively liquidly.
2. In a greased ramekin, spread almonds out evenly, then layer on the cherries, cut side down. Pour in the batter.
3. Bake for 25 - 30 mins. Ensure that it is fully baked by inserting a toothpick/cake tester. Let it cool for 5 mins or so before inverting. If the cake rises by huge amounts, slice off uneven top.
4. Pour honey on top and sprinkle on pistachios. Serve, admire, and enjoy.