I’m trying to make a concerted effort to eat with the seasons. Nature of course is full of beauty, and the idea that my immediate vicinity has a rhythm of its own, coasting through the seasons (quicker and quicker it seems!) and the idea that I can drift on its waves makes me feel very lucky. Different fruit and vegetables bloom and push up through the ground as others decay back into it; I want to make a concerted effort to tap into this rocking motion of our earth.
As autumn lulls into winter (hi there hour change) and aubergines, tomatoes and blackberries are soon to be out of shops (or out of my shopping basket, anyway) I decided on the eve of Halloween, to make the most out of the autumn’s fresh gifts and bake a walnut and fig cake. The well-known, well-practised combination of softly-crunching walnuts and gritty, gooey figs evokes autumn not only in the warm flavour of the walnut and sweetness of fig with the final bitter nuttiness, but in the golden-brown colour of the former and venetian red of the fig flesh.
I fell upon a recipe from Doves Farm (organic flour specialists), which offered a fresh fig and walnut cake. It was a round cake, a luxury I cannot afford, being blessed only with my trusty loaf cake tin (I’ve mentioned before, it’s pink, silicone and hella cool). I had no orange rind, nor demerara sugar, but I decided to use this recipe anyway.
Imagine my HORROR when I mosey into Tesco, only to find that figs were no longer in stock. I know it was the end of October, but that is still technically October and therefore STILL their season. Tesco, a force against nature. (If this doesn’t make you indignant, have a read of the BBC article about all the perfect wonky vegetables supermarkets are rejecting, consigning them to the rubbish heap, here.) Struggling to delay these feelings of revulsion until Saturday when I could expel them Halloween style, I found some walnuts before grudgingly picking up a bag of dried figs.
Back in the safety of my home I soaked the figs in hot water before chopping them and adding them into my cake. A pause where I decided whether or not to add baking powder, before deciding I quite liked the idea of a short-standing cake which I could cut into fingers (no blood here though).
It came out of the oven, figs gleaming on top, the oats (that I replaced some of the flour with) giving a speckled-egg appearance and making my heart beat that bit quicker. I went off the track beaten out by Doves Farm and pricked the cake with a fork, pouring a mixture of honey and hot water over it. Because of this I used less sugar than the recipe itself.
I was most happy with the texture of the cake: the oats gave a slight denseness, and teeth pulling apart sticky fig before sliding between gracefully yielding walnut pieces is quite a sensual experience, I have to say. The dried figs were sumptuous pillows of pleasure, thankfully. Fingers will be up for grabs at uni this week.
We are into our last month of autumn, which this year has been a real feast for the eyes. I like to think my fig, walnut and honey cake was a nod to this! If you have any fig/walnut recipes you’d like to share, please do!
If you want to give this a go and want to follow my path, substitute a handful of flour for a handful of oats, and mix honey and hot water to a reasonably thin consistency and drizzle over the cake after making lots of fork pricks in it.