Sisters in the kitchen

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The day-to-day culinary adventures of Maudie, Bella and Clem

1 Boiled orange cake

We first met Paul on a beach on Andros. He was cooking a fish on a fire in the dark. It was an exciting meal as it was hard to know whether you were going to get a mouthful of sand or a mouthful of fish. There was lots of wine too, which added to the general sense of danger and well-being. Before the fish was demolished, we’d collected quite a crowd, including a small boy with a rubber dinghy who became my son’s inseparable companion for the rest of the holiday. No one ever knew his name, my son maintaining that after spending a week in his company, it was now too late to ask.
The holiday ended, as holidays do, and the next time I saw Paul was in our kitchen. He had made the intrepid journey from Bow to Dulwich and arrived on the doorstep clutching an orange.
‘I must boil this orange’, he stated firmly
‘Why?’ we said.
‘It’s absolutely vital’ said Paul. ‘In fact, I have to boil it twice. It’s to go in the cake.’

In a house not known for its puddings, cake sounded good. It transpired, however, this was a cake not destined for this evening’s entertainment but for the next day when Paul’s ‘other friends’ would be benefiting from the boiled orange.
It’s hard while eating dinner in a kitchen not to notice the presence of a boiling orange, especially the twice boiled kind, and especially if it’s an orange that you’re not going to eat.

The orange boiling took on the character of some pagan ritual, designed to propitiate the gods. It bubbled and hissed in the background and when it was time to catch his train back to Bow, Paul turned off the orange and took it away with him. I wondered whether it had been some kind of timing device, more tactful than setting an alarm clock.

Later he sent a recipe for the cake which he had stolen from his friend Dom. We make it all the time, but the mysterious thing is,  Paul and the cake have never been seen together in our house…

Cake recipe, which I stole from my friend Dom:

Boil orange (you have probably never seen this done before; many haven’t). Change water after first minute of it boiling, then let it simmer away in new water for a couple of hours. Remove. When cool, cut off tiny ends, then quarter. If there are any surviving pips, remove them. Otherwise blend the bejesus out of said orange.

Beat three eggs with 250g sugar until pale and thick. (We’ve all dated such people)

Fold in 275g ground almonds and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Add orange pulp. Mix gently

Cook for an hour at 180 degrees

Serve with some marscapone mixed with caster sugar, and the juice and zest of one lime to taste

You can cook cake with poppy seeds if you like

Take it to someone else’s house