Sycamore Smyth: Week 1
In which autumn arrives, I extol the virtues of lasagne and celebrate with a cake...
Well, Sycamore Smyth officially launched a week ago and what a week it’s been! I’ve been cooking up a storm (fun), dealing with a few packaging issues that came to light (less so) and learning the rudiments of bookkeeping (gah!).
But the first orders went out and were well received which made me very happy. One client even called to say how emotional she felt after sitting down to lunch with her two-year-old son, an opportunity for quality time made possible by having pre-prepared meals on hand. I felt a bit emotional myself after speaking to her! This is why I started Sycamore Smyth in the first place - to try and make these sort of small but tangible differences to busy people’s days.
The other thing that happened this week is that autumn bustled in, all efficient, and got straight on with the business of throwing leaves all over the floor. Is it just me or was that a slightly abrupt end to summer? Finsbury Park is covered in conkers and there’s a distinct chill in the air. I wore opaque tights for the first time since March and I had to escalate the Coat Level from 'Light Jacket' to 'Trench'.
It’s clearly time to turn our minds away from barbecues and towards cosier things. How about lasagne? To my mind, the ultimate comfort food. I love the contrast between deeply flavoured ragù and soothing, creamy béchamel. And of course the layers of pasta make it carb heaven - perfect for when the cold starts to bite (although of course the lighter, courgette noodle version is still delicious). There are four sorts available on my Freezer Filling menu. Have a look and see what you fancy.
There are still traces of summer around though, specifically in the plentiful array of fruit available. My neighbours gave me a couple of bags of greengages which was an unexpected treat. Most ended up as jam, jade-green and subtly flavoured with vanilla and lemon zest. But I was in celebratory mood so saved the last few handfuls for a cake.
Yoghurt Pot Cake is one of the simplest baking recipes there is and works every time. You don’t even need to weigh anything - it can all be measured using the eponymous pot. I remember learning it during the first term at Leiths where it was recommended for anyone going to cater in ski chalets as it rises perfectly, even at high altitude. But I’ve since learned that it’s a family favourite in both France and Italy where it’s considered perfectly acceptable to eat cake for breakfast. It comes out with a lovely moist crumb, is endlessly versatile and easily thrown together in minutes.
I added some vanilla essence to the greengage version and fancied it up with a fennel crumble topping. Then did another one with the bananas that were going brown in the fruit bowl and some chocolate chips that have been sitting around looking a bit bloomy since Christmas. Both were delicious.
Yoghurt Pot Cake
- 1 (120g) pot yoghurt
- 1 pot oil
- 2 pots sugar
- 3 pots self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- pinch of salt
Heat the oven to 170°C. Lightly oil the inside of a loaf tin and line it with baking paper. Empty the yoghurt into a mixing bowl and rinse the pot. Measure each of the other ingredients using the pot and add them to the bowl. Mix well then pour into the tin and bake for 45-55 mins. Cover the top with foil if it’s getting a bit too brown. The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.
If Ifs And Ands Were Pots And Pans
- If you’re adding fruit, about 200g works well. Two bananas (mashed), a couple of handfuls of berries etc. Halve or chop anything bigger than bitesize. About 100g will do for dried fruit, chocolate chips etc. The zest of a lemon or orange works beautifully too.
- I used Greek yoghurt and olive oil for the greengage version, added 1tsp of vanilla essence and, before baking, sprinkled over a crumble topping made with 30g each of plain flour, caster sugar and ground almonds, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp lightly crushed fennel seeds and a pinch of salt. It came out really nicely, adding a little bit of texture and an interesting flavour contrast to the fruit, but is by no means essential. The yoghurt was from one of those big pots of Total so I actually used a small water glass to measure everything out. The exact measurements aren't terribly important. As the proportions are right everything will be fine.
- Plain or even fruity yoghurt will work well too. Any sort of oil is fine too.
- I put 1tsp of cinnamon in the banana cake and used one potsworth of golden caster sugar and one of dark brown for a ore caramelised flavour.
- If you use plain flour instead of self-raising, don't forget to add 1tbsp baking powder too.
- Experiment and have fun!