Tuesday, 25 August 2015

'Hippy dinners' and a lemon drizzle cake

Abbie Ross, the author of Hippy Dinners, is a couple of years younger than me, but our memories of the 1970s couldn't be more different. I grew up in the Soviet Union, under the Communist regime.
Abbie's parents moved to rural North Wales from London, swapping a town house in Islington for a farmhouse on a hill. Our childhood realities and backgrounds were completely different.
What we share perhaps is the sense of powerlessness of being a child and a wish to conform, to be like the others.
It was in my pre-teens and teen years that I strived to be different. But when I was in primary school, I liked to be like everyone else. We were also quite brainwashed with this notion, in the nursery and school. Individuality was not encouraged.
I was a big city girl, and detested my parents taking us away for a month to stay at our grandparents' houses in the middle of nowhere, in the Russian steppes. There were fun times of course, like trips to the river, but mostly I resented being away from the "civilization". The geese who started honking at the ungodly early hours annoyed me, I didn't like the smells etc. I'm afraid I was not a countryside girl. To escape it all, I'd spend hours in the hammock in the garden with a book.
So, while Abbie's memoirs have not much in common with my life in the 1970s, I could relate to her in many ways. When we are children, we are completely dependent on the decisions our parents take. We have to follow their choices, whether we agree with them or not.
Abbie's parents chose to live in a rural environment, escaping all the chaos of the city life. Abbie's disapproval of her mother's taste in food and clothes is palpable years later. And then there is a constant dread that her near-hippy parents would abandon their house altogether and move in with the hippy commune. It didn't help that the hippy commune dwellers were all bonkers, and quite irresponsible.
The narrative is a set of stories or novellas, which are inter-laced and share the characters, but tell a new story in each chapter.
There are wonderfully conventional Liverpudlian grandparents who disapprove of the life their children and grandchildren live.
There are delightfully bizarre friends of Abbie, some touchingly vulnerable, some alarmingly bossy bordering on horribly unpleasant.
The book is very warm and a great pleasure to read.

There were quite a few contenders for #ReadCookEat recipe recreation in this book. I didn't quite fancy "hippy dinners", and decided to cook a lemon drizzle cake. It is Abbie's Nana who baked this cake in the book.
I don't know the exact recipe which Nana used for her lemon drizzle cake, and I guess it might have been baked in a loaf tin rather then round-shaped, but I hope little Abbie would have approved of my version too.

Lemon drizzle cake
2 lemons, zest and juice
120g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
150g self-raising flour
50g cornflour
4tbsp milk
for icing:
6 heaped tbsp icing sugar
lemon juice (about 2/3 of a lemon)
Dr Oetker lemon meringue sprinkles.

In a medium bowl beat together the zest of 2 lemons with the softened butter and caster sugar. Add the eggs, and mix together. Then add the flour and cornflour, a bit of milk and juice of 1 lemon. Mix well.
Pour the cake batter in the round spring form tin. Put the tin in the oven preheated to 180C.
Bake for 40+ minutes, until the top is set and is golden brown in colour. Check readiness with a wooden toothpick. Take the tin out, and carefully remove the cake while still warm.
Make the icing and pour over the still warm cake. Decorate with Dr Oetker lemon meringue sprinkles.

This is such a simple yet moreish cake. My husband ate three pieces in one evening.
Eddie and he said that this was my best cake ever. As much as I appreciate the compliment, I was a tad peeved, as I think in my life time I have baked prettier and tastier cakes. Though I agree, it was lovely, very moist and zingy.

Disclosure: I received a free book as part of BritMums Book Club.


  1. Ooh I do love a nice lemon drizzle cake ! I'll be reading this shortly too so I'll look out for the foodie mentions :)

    1. There is also a chopped liver dish, which I knew my DH wouldn't eat, as he dislikes liver in all recipes. :)

  2. IT's a really tasty looking cake. I've never made a lemon drizzle cake but I love to eat them!

  3. how interesting to read about the differences and similarities of your childhood compared to the authors. I love lemon drizzle cake! x

    1. Thank you Rebecca! I enjoyed the book a lot, it was a good choice for a Book Club