All over the interwebs, and indeed all over this town, there are hints that spring has well and truly sprung. The light is that little bit brighter, and around for a little bit longer, the thermostat creeps down as the temperatures outside slowly (oh so slowly) creeps up, and today we got some showers. Not the torrential downpours of January, but the gentle pattering of raindrops on the roof.
On Tuesday evening it was light enough when I got home to riffle through the greenhouse and rescue the propagator trays and begin the first round of this years planting. I have high hopes for Our Lovely Garden this year. I feel like every year so far I've learnt lots, but harvested little, I'm hoping (with all my not-so-green fingers crossed) that this year it might be the other way around.
When the sunshine finally does rear its pretty little head my baking suddenly takes on a lighter note. I want cakes rather than pies and crumbles, and soon the tart season will begin. Oddly I am not someone who turns to citrus to get me through the winter. Aside from the dark bitter tang of seville marmalade (yes, there has been plenty of that made behind the scenes here this winter!), I shy away from the bright fresh fruit in the colder months. Frankly, I like an excuse to eat stodge!
But the minute the green shoots start to appear, and the winter coat goes tentatively back into the wardrobe I start thinking about lemons, and fresh clean flavours. This year I branched out and discovered how glorious passion fruit are. Okay, I know, not native and so I can't pretend I didn't have to buy imported, but sometimes I think that's alright, and it's not as if my sevilles and lemons aren't brought to me across the sea.
I begin thinking of herbs at this time of year too, and I have to admit that I might have a slight problem. I've become obsessed with rosemary. I've always liked it, but recently I haven't been able to leave it alone, savoury or sweet my dishes have lashings of this tough fragrant herb running throughout them.
And so today I bring you the perfect cake to kick off spring with. It's moist and dense, but with a great crumb and a lightness and delicacy of flavour that hints to the weather and moods that are hopefully smiling away.
Glazed Lemon and Rosemary Loaf - makes one large loaf.
250g soft butter
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (or more if you love it like I do!)
4 tbsp milk
juice of another lemon, and then and equal quantity of sugar (I eyeball this), and a large rosemary sprig
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a long loaf tin (mine is 10" by 4") with parchment (it will be much easier to turn the cake out if you line rather than just greasing).
Cream the butter, adding the sugar when it is really soft, and then cream until pale. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a large spoonful of flour after each one. Then add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Fold in the rest of the flour, and then the rosemary. Thin the batter with the milk.
Pour into the lined tin and smooth the top. Bake for aprox. 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean - mine needed a little longer, probably an extra ten minutes, so don't worry if it's not done at a hour. Do keep an eye on it while it bakes, and cover the top with foil if it's getting too brown.
Meanwhile in a small saucepan stir together the lemon juice and sugar and then add the rosemary sprig. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat immediately.
When the cake is done, remove from the oven and gently prick all over the top with a toothpick, or fork. With a pastry brush, brush the cake with the lemon syrup. This will keep the cake moist and produce a slight glaze and a nice tangy crunch to the top of the cake.
Cool completely, and then slice and enjoy.
This cake lasts really well, and is often better a day after making if wrapped well as the flavours deepen slightly.