Pristine..

The last piece of a lovely moist gluten free strawberry cake.

The last piece of a lovely moist gluten free strawberry cake.

The first day of Summer came and went and I spent it mostly nursing a pseudo-hangover. Albeit, it had genuine beginnings of a skewed ratio of alcohol to food from the previous day but largely, it was simply an easy excuse to simply chill, relax and not worry about doing things. So, I lounged on the sofa and flicked to gorgeous photos of other people's gastronomic salutations to the occasion, found an nice little nook in the 'hood for an awesome Sunday brunch replete with spicy creole shrimp and grits (recovery food, yes!), back to back episodes of Orange is the New Black (a tad boring and weird this season....!) and having more breakfast for dinner, well, because, why not?! It also happened to be an awesome one - eggs scrambled tons of herbs, leftover roast local fish with a side of sautéed asparagus. Finished with a fight for the last slice of the above...

I think, it was just perfect and my way of celebrating the Solstice in my own karmic sense. It reflected a inner need and what more is the occasion, and Summer itself, about than listening to yourself and staying with that feeling. It is also an active goal for me; to let go and live more in the present and taking joy in things that I would generally deem 'unproductive'. The attempt to curb my restlessness and constant chasing of the next best thing and simply give in to the pleasure of where I am now.

Gluten free oat, almond and coconut sponge with honeyed strained yogurt topped with rhubarb-strawberry compote and fresh strawberries from the market.

Gluten free oat, almond and coconut sponge with honeyed strained yogurt topped with rhubarb-strawberry compote and fresh strawberries from the market.

PERHAPS, WHERE WE ALL ARE RIGHT NOW IS EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AND WE WILL ALL BE JUST FINE BEING THERE AND LIVING IT.

Let me tell you, it is really, really hard to hold on to that. In fact, it possibly is the greatest struggle in life! To know the balance between ambition and contentment and be able to control the forces within that constantly tussle. Yet, know when to let the forces free rein, so life can teach you something, about you.... It really is bloody hard! But, I still believe worth a try.

That brings me to the title of this post, about Pristine. Nothing is. Yet, why do we try to box life into it? Homes are never spotless if they have been lived in. Yet, we see so many stunning photos of perfectly styled and photographed homes that set our hearts racing. Kitchens, are rarely clean if someone who loves to eat resides there. Yet, most photos that you see, styled rustic or contemporary, are so flawless. I ponder about it and wonder why. Is it a quest for something that is not really achievable in reality that makes us obsessed with it in smaller frames where we have more control? Like through the lens of a camera for a short period of exemplified purity? Like a mummified moment....

Recently, I ate for the first time in a museum cafe. I had not done it before because of the typical exorbitant prices for average food. Yet, I see scores of people who do so less for convenience and more for the experience. So, I plunged. It was silly priced. But, you know, it was an interesting experience. A museum represents everything preserved as best can be, times and spaces mummified and held still, not a speck of dust anywhere, not a piece amiss, every catalogued, chronicled and pristinely maintained. Imagine amidst that the chaos and clutter of kitchen, diners, plates, conversation and with it spills, crumbs, spots and messes! The relief of normalcy amidst the hush of the past looking upon from around. It was supremely liberating, really.

I have at times yearned for that carefree impeccability that has taken the styling world by a rage under the name of Scandinavian aesthetic that paints a sunny, pleasing picture of everything. I have tried to get it that look, live that life, be that person.

The truth is my kitchen always looks like a war zone, my fridge always has something that has been there too long, my pantry has jams and preserves that I forgot I had made, or packets of lentils and spices stashed in the recesses and completely forgotten until I go looking for something and find something else. The truth is this is my reality. I am not perfect. I am not pristine.

And, I am happy I am not. Phew!

I suppose this cake is kind of my way of acknowledging that. It is a strawberry cake of sorts with a cake using a borrowed recipe. My rhubarb strawberry compote was a tad overcooked because I left it on the stove and got immersed in a book I was reading. But, it tastes awesome and makes for an lovely sweet-tang note on this frosting. 

The real glory of this composition is the light cake made moist with strained yogurt frosting and the pile of berries and mint on top. The cake is inspired by Alice Medrich's oat flour cake recipe and for one that uses four eggs to a cup of flour is surprisingly light and fluffy. Perhaps, the ten minutes of egg whipping played in a part in it or perhaps, it was how modular the recipe is using up literally every mixing bowl I own! The sink as you have guessed was piled by the end of this and my backdrops with little flakes of coconut that kept escaping the crust.

I think this is my perfect offering for Summer; airy, fresh and unapologetic for the flaws. Beach body not; heart happy, yes!


RHUBARB STRAWBERRY CAKE

Gluten Free Oat, Almond, Coconut Sponge

For the cake:

1/2 cup oat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup  + 1 T dark muscovado sugar

4 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 T butter, softened

4 T shredded unsweetened coconut flakes (dry)

For the frosting:

2/3 cup strained yogurt (I strained mine from about 1-1/4 cup of thick regular homemade yogurt. You can also use Greek yogurt, slightly thinned with water)

2 T raw floral honey

4 T rhubarb-strawberry compote

As much fruit and mint as you want

toasted almond slivers for garnish {optional}

Preheat oven to 350F.

Rub two tablespoons of butter with the tablespoon of sugar and along the sides and bottom of a 8 inch cake pan and press the dry shredded coconut evenly around. This will be your base over which you will pour the batter.

In a small butter pan, melt three tablespoons of butter and heat until the milk solids separates and the butter darkens slightly. Strain the butter into a medium sized bowl. Keep it hot.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt and eggs until light in color and tripled in volume or when you lift the whisk, the batter falls back in dissolving ribbons. {This took me about 7 minutes in a single whisk blender, possibly 5 minutes in stand mixer.}

Sift together the flours and sprinkle a third on to the whisked eggs. Fold to incorporate fully. Add the remaining in two equal parts and fold fully.

Pour about a quarter of the batter into the hot brown butter and mix. Mix that back with the remaining batter and pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for 30 or so minutes until golden on top and springy to touch. Remove and cool on rack until completely cooled to room temperature. 

While the cake rests, whip the strained yogurt with honey and refrigerate until cake is ready. Spread the yogurt on top. Top with rhubarb-strawberry compote, fresh fruit and mint as well as the toasted almonds.