About eight years ago I quit my job in a blurry downward spiral of misery and heaving sobs. It was a bit more than a job actually, it was a serious bona fide career, for which I had spent six long university years studying like a fiend. I had lasted less than a year at the coal face and I felt dreadful.
I went to stay at my boyfriend’s flat in the city and tried to do useful things that would bolster my narrow and uniquely vocational cv. I bought manuals on Word, Excel and Access and spent hours at his tiny laptop while he went to work, trying not to get in the way of his flatmate.
To kill time during that Summer I made my first (grown up) personal recipe book; a plastic folder, plastic inserts and lots of coloured paper. I think it was probably a self-prescribed form of therapy.
Though it's now an overstuffed monster, it has served us well, being easily wipe-down-able and add-to-able. Naturally all the favourite pages are so floury and splotchy that they’re barely decipherable.
Time to re-do it. Time to chuck out the newspaper clippings from the early noughties that have never been tried and make space for some new ones. Time to type everything up on a standard page template so it’s coherent and easy to read. Time to blow the budget on a delicious file from kikki.K that is actually designed for the job. Time to… oh hang on, that recipe looks nice… oh now when was the last time I made that? I’ll just sit down with a cup of tea and read some of these…
So, unsurprisingly, the new recipe book isn’t done yet. But I’ve wallowed in the warmth of all the old pages. Despite having created the plastic monster at a very low point in my life, it doesn't hold any bitterness. Over eight years, it’s evolved with us, through new jobs, new cities, marriage and parenthood, and the recipes are full of memories. I still love it, but I hope to love the next one even more.
Part of the editing process included fondly falling across an old carrot cake recipe. I think it originally came from my Granny. So I decided to show my daughter the magical alchemy of making a cake from vegetables. It’s the exact same recipe my Mum used to show me about 25 years ago, and The Boss was just as sceptical as I was then.
It’s so good it doesn’t even need icing. We’ve made two more since.
Including some imperial measures. Suck it up, it’s vintage, and it didn’t come from a carefully edited book.
6 oz wholemeal flour
3 oz white flour
6 oz muscavado sugar
6 oz soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
6 floz sunflower oil
55ml sour cream
2 tspn vanilla essence
1 tspn grated nutmeg
2 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn bicarbonated soda
½ tspn salt
11 oz grated carrot
3 oz dessicated coconut
If using plain flour, which I normally do, I chuck in a few tspn of baking powder too. Accuracy is everything.
Bowl 1: Eggs, oil, vanilla, sour cream. Mix the wet ingredients together (by hand is fine, no need to whip it into a frenzy) and then sieve in sugars.
Bowl 2: Sieve the flours, nutmeg, cinnamon, soda, baking powder and salt together.
Fold the dry mix into the wet mix.
Fold in the carrot and coconut.
Bake in a large tin at 150C for 90-120 minutes.