After a slow, smooth, Christmas hibernation, we emerged jewely and bright, New Year butterflies - stopping only long enough to let our fresh wings dry before fluttering all about town drinking vodka charged nectar. Fin sensibly remained with his grandparents in Devon whilst we made believe in Bridport into the wee small hours.
As Christmas ambled by all cinnamon and cloves, I had a low tune playing softly in the background whilst I mulled over this month's Go Ahead Honey. Lucky food, delicious mouthfuls of good fortune, auspicious dishes to slice and carve - handing out a succulent helping of health, prosperity and contentment with each plate. What would I find to bring that extra piece of good luck into 2009?
I read that the Spanish eat twelve grapes at midnight, sometimes reciting the months of the year as they go. A sweet grape marks that month as a good one. People eat greens and beans, coin shaped cookies and round cakes, hopefully summoning up a little good luck to see them through the coming year. This year, when prospects look bleak for so many, it felt especially right to welcome in all the good luck and prosperity we could. I thought about auspicious recipes often as I wondered what to make for New Year. Each round clementine peeled and coin shaped banana chip was munched with awareness of the potential contained in those innocent foods.
When New Year's eve came and we returned from Devon all flushed with freedom, I sort of forgot about the eating. I put on bright red tights, a pink net petticoat and fastened my rustling black taffeta prom skirt. In front of a glitter spangled bouffant adorned with silk roses, nestled a small black top hat, shimmering with dark cockerel feathers. I slicked on a final coat of fire engine red whilst pouting in the hall mirror and tumbled into the icy evening with Nick at my side. Who needs to eat when you feel fabulous?
The next day I nursed a restorative cup of ginger tea and noticed that Nick seemed to have glitter in his eye brows - giving him a rather auspicious look. Hmmm. My thoughts turned back to the dawning of a new year and my part in bringing some food based currency to our luck quota. It occurred to me then that all my musings on round foods had somehow imbued the entire holiday with fortunate significance. Whilst there had been no table groaning with round cakes, coin shaped cookies and lucky greens, I had sipped and peeled my way through any number of round things, thinking each time I did, 'Ah! my glass has a perfect circle' or, 'these beet slices are just like coins!'.
Easing curls of zest from a clementine, I noticed both its roundness and twelve perfect segments forming a whole. Fin peeled the red wax from a babybel with the utmost care, bit into the round cheese within and closed up the shell again to make it new. Birth and death, whole and half, sweet and salt, twelve months yielding to the frost of January, stripping back the land to its bones.
Mornings standing at the four ring stove, warming a round cast iron pan, I looked down at those cadmium yolk globes and felt lucky. A bush outside the window groaned with the weight of ruby beads that kept our blackbird family plump - what abundance, thought I with a skip in my heart.
Freshly sharp from the steel, my knife sliced through chorizo, courgette, carrots, bananas. As the coins fell away to the chopping board I thought about the sort that come wrapped in foil in a little string bag. Yet here was prosperity, woven through every meal. We simply had to notice how it was woven, to know that life is full of possibility and opportunity - rich with potential.
A couple of days after New Year a friend had his birthday. We know all about early January birthdays because Nick's was only a few days ago. It can feel as though everyone is partied out and the special day drifts away unmarked by fuss and frivolity. Just that tax bill looming at the end of a whole month of thermals. So even though it was very cold we went to the beach and walked. Fin moaned and got covered in clay. My rosy cheeks stung. Our feet ceased to register touch. After a while I felt a great need for cake come over me. So as soon as we had braved enough weather and peeled off our layers, I got out my mixing bowls and baked.
Our little kitchen was filled with friends and conversation. The children ate eggs for supper and before too long I was slicing into a round cake, placing it on my favourite round plates and passing them about with birthday wishes to the rosy round faces assembled there.
To take part in this month's edition of 'Go Ahead Honey! its Gluten Free', head over to Life Gluten Free and check out the theme for yourself. Heather will post the round up near the end of the month.
Lucky Birthday Cake (8 slices)
3 large eggs separated pinch of sea salt 2 tbs yogurt zest of 2 lemons juice of half a lemon 6 heaped tsp honey 1 oz melted butter 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 8oz ground almonds (almond flour)
Preheat the oven to 160C fan assisted (170C if not) and line the bases of two 8inch round sandwich tins with baking parchment.
In a clean mixing bowl beat the egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form - set aside.
In another mixing bowl combine egg yolks, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, honey and bicarb, beating until amalgamated. Drizzle in the melted butter and beat again until slightly thickened and moussey.
Fold in the ground almonds.
Fold in beaten egg whites gently until just amalgamated and spoon evenly into the waiting tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch and a golden brown colour.
Wait for 5 minutes after taking cakes out of oven and then unmold and cool on a rack.
* This cake could also be baked in a bundt tin for that auspicious ring shape and spread with icing rather than sandwiched with it.
Lemon drizzle heat the juice of half a lemon with a teaspoon of honey. pierce the top of one of the cakes with a skewer and drizzle it over.