- Food & Drink
No, I haven't just helped myself to a slice. How dare you even make such a suggestion. *guilty crumb face*
An iron grey June sky is sitting low over the park and the air smells of hot pavement, dry lawns and rains to come. I’m on a picnic and it’s the best time of year.
Summer, for me, is nothing but a patch of grass, a blanket and a portmanteau meal pulled from packets, tupperware and rolls of foil. Childhood picnics were ice cream tubs filled with ham sandwiches, roast chicken, doughnuts, honeydew melon and big bottles of orange squash.
My first independent picnics as a grown-up ranged from shaky stabs at sophistication – think hard-boiled eggs with little pots of salt, wedges of Brie that had puddled in the heat long before we opened them, and shards of baguette – to bags of dips, crisps and ready-made falafel rooted from chiller cabinets on the way to the park.
I rarely plan what to take on a picnic, preferring to shake the fridge empty of everything that can be carried and packing it pell-mell into a basket. Picnics aren’t the place for proper meals, with carefully measured portions of protein, veg and carbs. Being able to pick at little piles of cured meats, move on to jam tarts and then spoon away at some potato salad is part of the chaotic glee of eating outdoors.
But I can’t resist planning a cake. There were peaches, ripe and sticky in the fruit bowl. If I left them any longer the skin would pucker and the fruit flies descend. So I got up at dawn and made a cake out of them. It cooled into a solid sponge that could be cut into squares and carried with us as we walked up the hill to sit and eat while the sun went down.
Peach & Cardamom Traybake
3-4 ripe peaches
9 green cardamom pods
250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tbsp rosewater
250g self raising flour
1 Pop the peaches in a heatproof bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover them. Leave them for 10-15 minutes to loosen the skins – this will only work on ripe peaches so make sure they are soft with a little give when you squeeze them before you start or you’ll be left picking tiny bits of fuzz off peaches for hours.
2 While the peaches are soaking, crush the cardamom pods. Pick out the papery seeds and grind them. Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin with a little of the butter and line it with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4/350°F.
3 Drain the peaches. Gently pull the skin off the peaches. Slice them round the equator and carefully pull them apart. Scoop out the stones. Slice the peaches.
4 Beat the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till they’re pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the rosewater and beat that in.
5 Sift in the flour. Tip in the cardamom. Use a spoon or spatula to fold in the flour, cutting and turning the mixture till it’s all combined. Arrange the peach slices in rows along the top of the traybake. Bake for 35-40 minutes till the cake is cooked all the way through and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean – sticky peach juices are fine, clumps of cake batter not so much.
6 Let the traybake cool in the tin. It’s lovely warm with crème fraîche or let it cool completely and slice it into squares. It will keep for a few days in an airtight tin.