Monday 10 February 2014

Dear Luisa, plum and cardamon cake

'Are they Luisa plums?', a woman at Raglan's creative market enthusiastically asked me as the yummy, sticky sweet juice of a summer ripe plum ran down my arm, a kilo bag already in my bag. I'd already eaten about a kilo of them in the last week so may as well get stuck in as I meant to continue.  I gave her one for free and insisted she try it. This is the feeling this town brings out in me.  I was introduced to an amazing fruit picker and local extraordinaire of a woman, Sylvia about 10 minutes earlier by my lovely friend and wwoof host Anna. This woman had, literally, boxes of Luisa plums and since a box was going to waste she just gave them to us. It's this brilliant idea of gifting rather than hoarding something simply because it belongs to you that I love about how this town works. Unless you're an architect or high earning professional, most people don't have a whole lot of money here but they do have helpful, knowledgeable,  friendly people they know to exchange with, share and borrow from.

It's great to be back in this country and this town. Talking to an Irish friend Gill, an amazing teacher and all round special person, she pointed out something that I'd never been able to formulate into words about how I feel when I'm here. Ireland is beautiful but people there are predisposed to being negative. It starts with the weather and continues on to housing, taxes, politicians, the state of the roads and work. If you stop and take time to be positive or thankful or appreciative of a great day or a beautiful sunset, things that make me happy and energize me day to day, you're looked at strangely at home. Kiwis have their priorities right, we agreed. They appreciate down time, sunsets,  good surf, spending time with friends, sharing great food. Status is not financed based and in this town especially, success isn't measured by targets or bank accounts. It's measured by how good a friend you are, how much fun you had in the surf and what yummy food you can cook up for a potluck. I don't have to prove or battle out my priorities here because they are in line with everyone else's.  And it feels awesome.

Which brings me back to the Luisa plums. Like I said, I'm wwoofing at my friends Niall and Anna's for a while and today's task was using all that bounty of plums. I made two batches of cinnamon and star anise jam, that are now glowing and ready as gifts, winter warmness in a few months (it's not winter for another few months down here) and on toast in the morning, cause, you know, you have to test these things. The second use was to  bake a plum topped cake for a potluck tomorrow. Scented with cardamon and almond essence  it's a gluten, egg, butter filled cake that's for those who can handle all those and is inspired by the gluten free genius that is Emma Galloway  over at mydarlinglemonthyme. Emma is truly a genius but with so much fruit, I was looking for a slightly unhealthier yet equally tastier version of her recipe, substituting the rice flour and almond meal for self raising flour. I would have loved almond meal but didn't have it but the self raising flour allowed for the mix to absorb the cardamon, almond essence, cinnamon and lime zest. Yummo!

4 eggs
165 grams butter, very soft
145 grams sugar, I used soft brown but coconut or caster sugar would work too
1 tsp almond essence
350 grams self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cardamon pods, ground in pestle and mortar
4/5 Luisa plums, halved, stoned then sliced lengthways
Zest of 1 lime, orange or lemon are also good, lime makes it fresh

Preheat oven to 180° C. Beat butter and sugar together and add one egg at a time until you have a lovely gooey mix. (Don't worry if there are a few lumps of butter, they'll beat out later). Add almond essence and kime zest. Sieve flour and add cardamon, cinnamon and  baking powder through it. Add to butter and sugar mix and mix well. Dollop out into greased tin, or even  better a silicon loaf tin, spread the mixture evenly. Add the plum lengths on top. Bake for 30-40 mins until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool with a tea towel over. Serve luke warm with fresh yogurt or cream. Yum! 

Jam recipe follows in the next few days. If you have any fruit lying about, share it around, don't let it go to waste. You could get some jam or chutney or a cake in return. Better than that, you could make someone really happy. That's a noble priority to have. Fingers crossed the potluckers like the cake tomorrow! 

(Great hint from Anna, make a few little cakes in a muffin tin as a tester before you bring the cake over to a potluck.  This also got me thinking that as mini cakes, these are ideal for presents and as a snack for work, friends or picnics, same heat in the oven for 15 mins) 

Enjoy your week folks and try and gift something this week, your time, advice, a coffee, a dinner or a smile. It really makes your world a happier place.

Big hug from Raglan x


  1. Happy with the photos and the story, not so much with the spelling mistakes. After over a week here, can I still blame the jetlag and get away with it? I'm normally pretty good so forgive me this once, ok? ;)

  2. This looks delicious! I love the idea of making some muffins as tasters too! Sadly we're coming to the end of stone fruit here, but we did manage to pick a butt load of peaches.

  3. The food looks so beautiful and delicious, this post is really amazing. very informative and great post from you. I really appreciate your work, keep working like this.
    Must try this Impossible Moto