… at lunchtime yesterday a few of us at the office decided to venture over to the newish street food market in Covent Garden as most of us hadn’t eaten from there yet and it always smells so delightful when passing. As you can imagine I am and will always remain dubious and sceptical about the quality of these street markets. My scepticism comes in from many angles and i’ll try and elucidate one or two for you now – bet you’re really excited about this – firstly and of course the most important is taste. Having tried food from many street markets over the years i’m more often than not disappointed when I finally chow down. Style over substance comes to mind. I think mass catering in any form is always a little lacking in something and I find that these places do ‘alluring’ very well… who wouldn’t fancy a giant slab of honeyed marble cake dripping in caramel sauce? Then there’s the who ‘queueing for food’ thing that quite frankly i’ve never quite understood. I’ve always been allergic to popular.
… and then we’re onto my main bug-bare which is that I feel we’re constantly swindled into eating ‘street food’ that’s has this dreadful homogenised ethnicity to it… I think it’s one thing when you’re on the streets of some exotic city or in a restaurant where the cook has century’s worth of heritage behind every ingredient that he puts into the dish but when your paella is made by some hipster from Sheen who saw on twitter that chorizo was trending this season then i’m sorry but that ain’t paella…
… and it’s funny because of the 8 of us who went to the street market, 7 of us went for the pulled-pork which was nice but was served with a barbecue sauce that was over generous in its dollop and so sweet it dominated the whole dish and ruined what was actually very well slow-cooked meat… we also bought a box of 12 mini cupcakes, each one with a beautiful swirl of themed icing on top and each one tasting as dull and sadly flavourless as the last…
dark brown sugar cake with apples and dried figs
since having my dark chocolate cherry cake marked down for ‘burning’ the edges i’ve been looking into different cakes and sugar and how different sugars make such an impact on the way that cakes turn out… this is one of those cakes that uses the wonderful dark brown sugar to create the flavour and richness of the sponge. The dark brown sugar adds a caramelised quality to the cake and adds a beautiful structure too. It also comments the apples so well that they taste as though i’ve pre-caramelised them. The figs were a late but welcome edition as I was clearing out the cupboard the other day and the packet, which had been open for a while, fell out onto my foot as if in some desperate cry for attention before they pass their use by date for ever…
… as ever my London oven was playing silly buggers and what should have been a 35-40 minute bake ended up taking closer to an hour, so much so that I had to foil the top of cake to stop it turning even darker… so my advice to you is to keep an eye on it after 40 mins and cover it if you have the same experience as me… either way it was a surprisingly moist cake and stayed moist for as long as it lasted…
I used a 2lb loaf tin which I greased and lined with parchment
3 large free-range eggs
110g soft dark brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
210g butter – soft
210 self raising flour
3 large apples – peeled, cored and diced
4 dried figs (these are the kind from a foil sealed pack that are not desiccated dry and still are quite moist) – chopped
1 heaped teaspoon of mixed all-spice
pre-heat the oven to 180C
place the eggs and sugars in a bowl and whisk furiously with a hand-held electric whisk for about 5 mins until the sugar has fully dissolved and the whole lot becomes thick and luscious, then add half the flour and half the butter and whisk again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then add the remaining flour and butter along with the spices and whisk until combined.
gently fold in the apples and figs and once thoroughly mixed pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for at least 40 mins, checking as per above.
once baked to your satisfaction and a skewer inserted comes out clean, remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 mins before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack
this cake is served cold from the fridge as the pieces of apple chill so delightfully
eat and of course enjoy!