I rather like this time of year. Rowan and heather glow upon golden hills, the bracken begins to turn and every breath of wind rocks and lifts the willow herb, which flies about in clouds. The mornings are crisp, but the days are warm and the sky is always varied and amazing. Formerly for me, the turn into September always had something of dread about it: that gloomy sensation of summer ending, the new term beginning, courses to prepare, students to greet, and the sinking feeling of never having made quite enough of one’s precious research time. But now September just means a continuation of the work I dearly love – and definitely more knitting! I really enjoy perusing the Autumn catalogues, musing on garment shapes and colour palettes, turning my wardrobe around, planning some wearable essentials, and being gripped with the familiar seasonal desire to Just Knit All The Things. This is absolutely fine by me: a few non-knitting weeks seems to have solved my thumb / tendon issue, and I am back happily working away on a new design! So I’ve spent this past weekend busily knitting while Tom has been preoccupied with two things: perfecting a recipe for a cake that makes great use of our current glut of courgettes (zucchini) and photographing the night sky (which seems particularly bright and lovely at the moment). He has combined these two activities into a recipe which, having gained the enthusiastic approval of our neighbours, he now can share with you. I too have eaten quite a bit of this cake over the past few weeks, and love it – I think the courgettes add a pleasant moistness rather than a particularly vegetable-y flavour, and you can’t argue with the combination of lemon, nuts and poppy seeds. One of our neighbours has a decided aversion to courgettes, but she also declared it delicious – so I’d even recommend this recipe to those for whom the idea of squash in a cake arouses deep suspicion.
The star trail photo was taken from the top of our garden last night.
Carbeth star trail cake
(makes cake 22cm square)
85g / 3oz whole roasted shelled pistachios
60g / 2oz whole blanched almonds
200g / 7oz caster sugar
30g / 1oz poppy seeds
160g / 5 1/2oz butter (softened)
225g / 8oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 medium eggs
115g / 4oz 120bio-live greek style yoghurt
120g / 4 1/4oz courgettes (aka zuchini. We have used several different varieties, all of which have given good results)
140g / 5oz icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon curd
20g / 3/4oz whole roasted shelled pistachios
1)Lightly grease a 22x22cm square cake tin, then line with baking parchment.
2)Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
3)Put the pistachios, almonds and caster sugar in a food processor and whizz for 30-40 seconds, until the nuts are finely ground.
4)Zest and juice two lemons.
5)Coarsely grate the courgettes.
6)Empty the nuts and sugar into a large mixing bowl and add the poppy seeds, soft butter, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, eggs, yoghurt and the zest and juice from the two lemons. Mix with an electric beater until smooth.
7)Stir in the courgette and mix gently by hand. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The cake is ready when the top is golden and well-risen. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
8)Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.
9)Coarsely chop the remaining pistachios.
10) Sieve the icing sugar into a small bowl then add the juice from the remaining lemon. Keep mixing until you have a smooth and runny consistency.
11)Drizzle or pipe the icing over the cake in trails, followed by the lemon curd. Finally sprinkle the chopped nuts over the icing and curd.
12)Leave for at least 15 minutes to set, cut into squares and enjoy!