Engagement Toast w. Spiced Teacake & Champagne Poached Pears
To begin, I hope you can excuse my absence of late. Although it may seem that I went dark rather abruptly from my side it felt more like time simply crept up and stole away my attention. I got gloriously lost in the wilderness of late mornings that bled into leisurely days and rendered time indistinct. Blissful in my escape from routine I all but excused myself from commitments relishing instead in dear company and welcome slowness. I must admit that it got away from me though; such a stoic thing time is; we greet it like a warm relation but it still relents in the harshest of ways. I've woken zealously from the fog though so I hope you can forgive my misgivings on the promise of coming inspiration. I've much to share about our gaunt down south.
Tasmania was a dream and with time spent between gardens, kitchens and vast landscapes there's plenty I intend to recount. For now, though it's on the mainland that I'll start in the beautiful seaside town of Port Elliot. Although it’s where we ended our adventure, a few whispered words also made it the beginning of another. Nestled in pine gardens with pastel waters stretched out before us and afternoon sun creeping in overhead my better half took to one knee and asked if I would become his wife.
To be honest the idea of marriage didn't come as complete surprise; we've long talked of our future together. In that moment though as its prospect became tangible I silently thanked for the beautiful occasion he had made and told him I gladly would. Flush with excitement, the sweet coastal air and wayward nettles, settled upon our ignorant attention of them. The gardens were a poignant choice; entwined with old childhood memories, they were no longer mine but now ours and as we sat there in sentimentality, between the threshold of our past and prospects of the future, I was struck at how magically time and place can sometimes coincide.
In a world with so little that's steadfast, with who and where we give our company are sometimes all that endure. Although the officialty of it all seems very matter-of-fact the prospect of marking a new chapter with our marriage stirs far more emotion now that it's here. It's an odd reality something so familiar that you take for granted how it might feel; like heartbreak, opportunity and new life, it's one those things we know that are out there but are yet to understand for ourselves. No matter whether your a tradtionalist, sentimentalist or indeed feminist, acknowledging a part of yourself in someone else is soul stirring. For the record, I consider myself all of these things in part, however I feel it's such complexity which gives us our humanity and thankfully I've found someone who is willing to live with my contradictions.
We returned that afternoon to my grandmother, with whom we'd been staying. She of course was beside herself with joy and I touched by the recount of her own youth. In further revelation she also announced that she'd been harbouring my mother, who had couriered the ring across country in secret. Such devious whispers that had been made to hide an elaborate ruse; I had truly been showered in love. We toasted the celebration before alone retreating to a hillside cottage for the night.
Built in the mid 1800s by early settlers Brooklands is nestled high in the wideswept hills that overlook Port Elliot. Itself heritage listed, the clean furnishing and weathered texture are all but made for escape and with rambling lavender gardens that encircle the cottage you'd be forgiven for thinking that time may be standing still. Finding a fire ablaze and soft jazz on our arrival I felt heady with nostalgia for its simplicity; it was a place where we could savoured the solitude of one another's company as though alone in the world.
I hope you'll now understand at least some of my absence and forgive all this headiness. I normally tend towards subtle romance but alas while it's now my reality I'm uninhibited and so in the spirit of celebration I have a decadent recipe to share. It can mark your own occasion or indeed be relished for no reason at all; does cake even require reasoning, I think perhaps not. This beauty is a spiced gluten free tea cake topped with honey spiked labneh, champagne poached pears and rich date caramel. All the elements may seem daunting but alone they are each simple to prepare. As someone who almost never drinks the poached pears are also a wonderful way to celebrate with a bottle of champagne and honestly who couldn't love the sound of a popping cork to start their time in the kitchen.
Spiced Teacake w/ Champagne Poached Pears, Honey Labneh and Date Caramel / Serves 8
1/4 cup of milk of your choice (cow, goat, soy, almond, rice etc)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
6 tbsp honey
6 tbsp macadamia or coconut oil
3/4 cup of oat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup pecan or almond meal
2 tbsp arrowroot flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
Preheat your oven to 160°C and line a 20cm cake tin with baking parchment. Meanwhile add the milk, apple sauce, honey and oil to a blender and pulse until well combined. In a separate mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and spices before adding your wet mix and gently folding it through. Pour the cake batter into your earlier prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown with a skewer tested cleanly. Stand the cake for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack and allowing it to cool entirely before decorating.
Champagne Poached Pears
8-10 miniature beurre bosc pears, you could use other varieties thought these suit cooking
1 bottle of champagne
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of honey
1 stick of cinnamon
Optional: 1/2 lemon, juiced
Combine the champagne, water, honey and cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium heat and gently bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile carefully peel the pears, keeping the stems intact (I rub each pear with a little lemon juice to keep it from browning while continuing to peel). Once your poaching liquid has come to a boil add the pears are reduce to low heat. Simmer for 40 - 50 minutes, depending on the size of your pears. Once tender lift the pears from your saucepan and allow to cool on a wire rack. If you have leftovers or wanted to make extra the pears can be stored in the refrigerator covered in their poaching liquid for up to three days.
2 cups/ 500ml/ 17 fl oz natural yoghurt
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place a large sieve or colander over a bowl and line it with a cheese cloth, muslin or any thin cloth. Scoop the yoghurt into the middle of the cloth and gather the edges so that it is entirely covered. Tie a string around the cloth and leave to strain for 24 hours or up to 3 days depending on how firm you want the labneh. For the purpose of this recipe I aim for around 36 hours to reduce the liquid enough that it doesn't become too soft when combined with the other ingredients. After draining, gently squeeze out any excess liquid and transfer the labneh to a bowl with the honey, lemon and vanilla. Fold together and set in the fridge for an hour before decorating the cake.
6 medjool dates, pitted
Approximately 3/4 cup/ 180ml/ 6 fl oz of coconut cream
2 tbsp coconut oil
Combine the dates, coconut cream and oil in a high speed blender and pulse until thick and creamy. Adding more coconut cream a tablespoon at a time if you desire a thinner caramel. Store at room temperature until ready to use or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Note however that the caramel will harden slightly in the fridge and pale in colour so it's best brought back to room temperature to serve.
To assemble the cake
Set the spiced teacake on a large serving plate and spread over the honey labneh until well covered. Assemble the poached pears on top, pressing down slightly to secure them in place. Drizzle over the date caramel or serve it as a side to dress individual pieces. Serve immediately.
Seasonal guide / temperate climate
Beurre bosc pears, early autumn to early summer.
Pears become quite perishable once ripe so those at the market often require a few days maturing at room temperature. Select fruit that have smooth skin and are free from bruising or punctures. To determine whether a pear is ripe gently press at the base of the seam, if it has give then it is most likely ripe for eating. Store ripe pears in a cool, dark place or in warmer climates the refrigerator for up to a week.
Poached apples, toasted pecans, hazelnuts or almonds, dark chocolate, candied orange.