Food Friday: Fishy Business


I admit it. I am no longer a vegetarian. About six months after arriving in the US, I moved into the murky world of the pescetarian, where carnivores regard me with confusion and vegetarians with disdain.

Get in ma belly! From National Geographic. Click through for original

On the one hand, I’m unhappy with this shift. I do feel some guilt, like I sold out on my values, and worse, like I’m a terrible hypocrite who only cares about land animals that I can better relate to. On the other hand, I made an informed choice to expand my diet – in many restaurants around Austin and Texas more generally, vegetarian options are limited – and in many others, they are utterly abysmal. I have held to my commitment in one sense, as I still have a very limited intake of animal flesh, and every time I do choose to eat fish, it is with additional thought and questioning. I feel like I made a choice that I am comfortable with in the circumstances. Whether or not I return to full vegetarianism when I return home, I don’t know yet.

But for now, having made the choice to eat seafood, I’m also trying to be as ethical about this as possible – partly because I do actually care about fish and the like, and partly, I’ll admit, to assuage the guilt I feel about eating it in the first place. So many species of fish are endangered and so many fishing practices are deeply unethical. Additionally, there is the question of farmed fish – it may seem like a solution to overfishing and poor marine stewardship practices, but it comes with a range of other environmental problems – chemical and antibiotic treatments are often given to farmed sea creatures, which then run off into the ocean as a whole and hormones are given to other species – again, washing into the ocean.

Here are some of the best resources I’ve come across to help me to make the best choices:

1) Seafood Watch – an app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. A handy way to reduce supermarket Googling.

2) The NRDC has some great pages with good info about things to look out for including how the fish is caught and the best overall choices to make.

3) The Marine Stewardship Council has a certification logo that you can look out for – it looks like this:

Whole Foods Market is one of the most reliable places to find certified fish.

4) In Australia, Sustainable Seafood also has an app for both Android and iPhone

5) Worldwide, the World Wildlife Fun provides a comprehensive listing of guides for 18 countries

If you know of any other good resources, please share them in the comments!

 

Advertisements

What is agroecology?


As we consider a world of 7 billion and counting, the same two questions are coming up over and over again – how will we ever have enough water? And how on earth can we feed that many people?

The issue of food is a controversial one – everyone has an opinion. They’re widely divergent opinions too – from those who believe that Big Ag and genetic modification is the solution to billions of hungry mouths, to those who promote an aggressively local and small-scale farming system as the only way to stave off global hunger.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not in that group of folk who think that GM and monoculture cropping are going to save the world. In fact, a future like that seems very bleak and dystopian to me – the idea of a handful of companies essentially owning our food and thus our bodies is abhorrent to me. Local and small-scale is wonderful, but not always realistic on its own – every city would have its challenges in producing clean and healthy food, other regions lack the fertility of soil and availability of good weather conditions to be able to fully sustain their populations. It’s a good start though, especially when it incorporates the principles of agroecology.

Image from agroecology.org

But what is agroecology? The word hasn’t yet acquired that buzz-word status, like ‘local’ or ‘organic’ (and, thankfully, hasn’t been diluted into a fuzzy meaninglessness like those words). And while agroecology can be seen as a relatively recent reaction to the shortfalls of industrial agriculture, it is based on farming techniques that are often hundreds of years old. Essentially, agroecology is a movement towards more sustainable farming methods, based on ‘time proven farming methods, new ecological science, and local farmer knowledge’ (McAfee in Cohn et al 2006). UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems describes it as the development of ‘sustainable food and agricultural systems that are environmentally sound, economically viable, socially responsible, nonexploitative, and that serve as a foundation for future generations.’

From the Union of Concerned Scientists. Click through to embiggen.

Agroecology is therefore the antithesis of Big Ag. That sounds pretty appealing, for sure. But does it work?

Yes. Plus, it kind of has to. The 2013 Trade and Environment Review from the UN Commission on Trade and Development concluded that major changes in agriculture are necessary, recommending a ‘rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.’ Our current systems are not resilient (monoculture cropping is by its nature more vulnerable than polycultures), nor are they sustainable – the extensive requirements for chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides contributes to degradation of soil, of water supplies and climate change. Business as usual will end up business-as-it-used-to-be.

Agroecology has the potential to stop this damage to our agricultural systems and ensure a lesser environmental impact in three ways:

1)  A variety of crops are usually planted on each farm, rather than monocultures.  This also reduces the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides.

2) Crop biodiversity is preserved.  As discussed earlier, in situ conservation is vital to the preservation of the wide variety of maize landraces

3) Less land is required to produce a similar amount of food, thus posing less of a threat to the local environment

We need to make a change and agroecology has a small but positive track record – at the very least, running more trials, replicating these on a large scale and thus collecting more evidence of its efficacy is worth a shot, as it may well provide us with a solution to an eventual crisis.

Food Friday: Rosemary Farro with Roast Carrot & Creminis


Every now and then, I make a meal which is exactly right for that particular moment. Then I eat far too much of it and spend the rest of the evening watching television and groaning, incapable of moving at all.

I made one of those meals last night. It was good the first time a few months ago, and even better last night. I’d been aiming for an earthy flavour and a meal that wasn’t too heavy and this delivered perfectly – until I ate two full portions of it. Oops.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried farro before, you really should. David’s not usually a huge fan of my experimentations with various grains and seeds (he tends to turn up his nose at quinoa and just doesn’t see the point in chia seeds) but we both love the nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture of farro. It’s really quite a lot like barley, but sort of like a brown arborio rice, but not…just try it. Trust me.

20140806_191228

{Ingredients}

3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks

10 medium cremini mushrooms, rinsed and chopped into chunks

2 large leaves dinosaur kale, roughly chopped with stems removed (or equivalent of any other leafy green like baby spinach, chard, curly leafed kale)

3 small cloves garlic, crushed

1 large sprig rosemary

1 1/2 cups farro, cooked according to the packet

2 tbsp olive oil

crumbled feta to serve

{Preparation}

Lightly oil a baking pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and roast carrots at 450F until they are lightly browned around the edges and softened. Set aside.

In the meantime, cook farro to the directions on the packet. I recommend using a mix of vegetable stock and water – you want the extra flavour of the stock, but you don’t want the stock to overpower everything else.

While the farro cooks, add the other tbsp of olive oil to a fry pan. Heat the oil, then add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Once the mushrooms start to soften, add the rosemary and the kale and saute until the kale is thoroughly wilted. Add the roast carrots to the fry pan and stir through. Once the farro is cooked, add to the pan as well. Stir thoroughly, making sure that the farro is evenly distributed through the vegetables.

Serve with a liberal sprinkling of crumbled feta.

{Serves 4 (or 2 ridiculously hungry folk)}

 

Food Friday: Grow your own


It’s the most glorious day here in Austin. Our garden has been gradually progressing over the last of winter as I’ve hauled out acres of weeds and started mulching with grass clippings, but I feel confident that it’s now warm enough to start actually planting and I’m really, really excited.

We tried to grow some vegetables last summer when we first arrived. I took such good care of the tomatoes, peppers and basil for a handful of atrocious, 100-plus degree days before the plants suddenly started disappearing. One day there was a thriving tomato plant, the next day there was a thriving half of a tomato plant and the day after, there was no evidence that there had ever been a tomato plant at all. It took a while, but I eventually discovered the culprit. Squirrels. I was heartbroken. I love squirrels! I didn’t want to think ill of them! But the evidence pointed fairly and squarely at squirrels, and as a dumb Australian, I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

This is what we’ve done:

You can barely see the netting - it's really fine, which means it's not the eyesore we'd anticipated.

You can barely see the netting – it’s really fine, which means it’s not the eyesore we’d anticipated.

We’re still not 100% sure how well it will work, but it feels relatively squirrel-proof. Basically, we went down to Home Depot last weekend and bought a bunch of tall stakes and deer-proof netting. We’ve wrapped three sides in the netting, with the fourth attached to an additional stake, which we can lift out as needed, kind of like a gate. We’ve also covered over the top of the garden, because if you’re going to do a job, you may as well do it properly. Now we just need to create some tent-peg-style things to hold down the netting at the bottom – and once that’s done, we can get everything into the ground.

So, what’s everything? Well, this season we’ve got two different types of heirloom tomatoes, one hot and one mild red pepper, the tiniest wee snow pea (a gift from Ronin Cooking at Foodways), lots of sweet basil and an Italian parsley (already planted, since it’s less appealing to squirrels). We’ve still got crazy thickets of oregano and mint left from last season too – somehow they survived the intense heat of August and September, and then the severe frosts of December and January (I’m pretty sure they could handle the apocalypse at this stage). We should hopefully have everything in the garden and thriving by the end of the weekend.

Please excuse our insanely lush grass - we only mowed two weeks ago! It's crazy!

Please excuse our insanely lush grass – we only mowed two weeks ago! It’s crazy!

I really can’t wait until harvest time. Leaving behind our garden in Sydney was one of the tough parts of moving overseas. Making basil pesto is one of my favourite things, and there’s a certain special pleasure that comes from growing, harvesting, prepping and cooking things from your own garden. Not only does it usually taste a thousand-fold better, I love that sense of connection to the earth, and that sense of achievement when you’ve done something yourself, right from the start.

What are you planning to grow this spring? Those of you in the southern hemisphere, what did you grow over summer?

Foodways Texas: Rice and Water


Happy Monday everyone! I’m back from spending some time at the Foodways Texas ‘Farm to Market’ symposium on Friday and Saturday in College Station – a few days of great food, lots of learning and meeting loads of intelligent, interesting and fun people.

We heard talks about organic vs. local food, Texas wine (surprisingly delicious!), growing olives and grapefruits in Texas, the history of rice in the region and the issues rice farmers are currently facing because of drought conditions, and about the supply chain involved in feeding Houston (the paper that I’d worked on with my wonderful mentor at UT, Dr Robyn Metcalfe). We also went to explore a local farm, Ronin Cooking where we toured around at sunset with wine and saw possibly the cutest piglet ever to piglet. Seriously.

IMG_20140321_191714

 

One of the most interesting sessions for me was the one about rice growing in Texas and the difficulties that come with such a water-dependent crop in a drought-crippled state. I’m no stranger to hearing stories like this – for years, I’ve wondered about how and why a drought-prone continent like Australia would grow a crop rice. In fact, it’s something I even did a short paper on, back in the first year of my MSc.

In the case of Australia, what I found was extensive innovation and efforts towards ensuring maximum efficiency from minimum input. To make the most of the water used to flood the rice fields, other crops that can utilise subsoil moisture are planted, like barley or wheat. Additionally, water use per hectare has dropped 30% in the past decade, while rice production has increased by 60% (savewater.com.au). I’m still dubious about rice-growing being viable in Australia in the long-term, (as well as feeling that the water used could perhaps be better utilised elsewhere), but for now, improvements like these have made rice a profitable and competitive industry.

Here in Texas though, the situation seems even more dire. It’s also much more emotionally driven, with large urban populations depending on the same water supply as rice farmers, i.e. the Colorado River. The Highland Lakes (just a little way north of Austin) are currently at only 38% of their capacity, which has a huge impact on those farmers in the Lower Colorado Rive area, where most rice in Texas is farmed. Furthermore, as Neena Satija, one of the panelists for the talk pointed out, this is unlikely to ever increase to levels which will allow for water restrictions in Austin to be removed – which obviously means that the challenges for Texas rice growers aren’t going away any time soon. Complicating matters further, they are unable to supplement their income as Australian growers can, through the planting and harvesting of other crops. While nights in Australia’s Riverina region where rice is grown tend to get quite cool, they remain warm, even hot here in Texas. This means that rice grows more slowly, not allowing for that extra window to grow other things.

All of this begs the question: how on earth do we deal with this? You can’t tell someone whose family has farmed rice for generations to ‘just stop.’ And as far as I can tell, you’ll take the lush green lawns of Austinites from their cold, dead hands. I honestly saw sprinklers running outside Sam’s Club at 2pm on a 100 degree afternoon. The situation is emotive enough that at Foodways, there was even a disagreement on what should be a hard, cold fact: the price of water for farmers. Neena contended that this was $6.50 per acre foot, but this was immediately disputed by another panelist, Ted Wilson from the Agrilife Research Center in Beaumont, who provided the figure $920-$960 per acre foot. This is a difference of over $900! Where on earth does the truth lie in all this?

While all of these arguments are going on, the drought still hasn’t broken, Austinites are still living with water restrictions (albeit, not terribly strict ones IMHO) and rice farmers downstream still don’t know if they’ll be able to plant a crop this year, or for that matter, next year. I’m not sure what the solution to all this is, but drawing attention to it is important. Urban Texans need to know what the implications of their desires for green lawns and clean cars are.  Texas’ future as a rice growing state is facing a greater threat than ever before, and the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers’ are in the hands of rain clouds and water lawmakers.

TEDx Manhattan: Food, Race, Class


Once again, I’ve been terrible at getting to blogging lately. Life can be so distracting, especially when the chaos of SXSW is on all around you and it’s your first time with your entire city turned inside out and upside down by music and people and then more music.

About two weeks ago though, I went to a viewing of the TEDx Manhattan conference at the Sustainable Food Center. It was a really relaxed afternoon, but it was also an opportunity for me to really stretch my own understanding of food systems and food justice in America in particular. Hearing about day to day life as a Black woman living in New York and the food challenges associated with race and class in that area that was something entirely new to me, and really thought-provoking. The talk I’m mainly referring to here was by Dr. Regina Bernard-Carreno (although another really noteworthy and fantastic talk on race and food was by Nikki Silvestri who did one of my favourite talks of the day).

You can watch Dr Bernard-Carreno’s talk here (NB: It seems to be incorrectly named, but this is definitely the talk!):

Part of what I found so fascinating about Dr Bernard-Carreno’s talk was the divide that also exists, not just in food access, but between those working to ensure food access.

‘Everyone here too, was young [and] white’

Dr Bernard-Carreno describes her journey around New York with her students, trying to find a good, local, city-gardening model that they could replicate on their own small plot in Queens. The first three or so gardens that they visited sound as though they were run by young-white-hipster types with absolutely zero idea of how to engage with and understand their local community. To be honest, some sounded like they weren’t even that interested in working with their neighbours either, charging exorbitant fees for tours and/or setting visitors to work hard in their garden while sitting down to enjoy their own lunch. There was a social gulf between the farmers and the visitors that should not have been there. Hearing this story really bothered me. On the one level, it bothered me because to me, urban gardening is about community and sharing and engagement and equality.  On another level, it bothered me because food access isn’t just about food on shelves, it’s about sharing the knowledge and skills to grow and provide food. None of these things were provided by these young urban farmers and this concerns me. Changing our food system to ensure equitable food access cannot be an exclusive venture. It can’t be the privileged handing out food to the underprivileged. It needs to be an inclusive action, a sharing of ideas, a development of the strengths of the whole community, whatever their circumstances.

The good thing is, there are groups who recognise this. Eventually, Dr Bernard-Carreno and her students found an urban farm that operated on those principles. This article on NPR’s website about JuJu Harris was absolutely inspirational – a real joy to read. It also shows what is so, so important: that sharing of knowledge and skill with everyone, no matter their race or socioeconomic status.

We can change the food system for the better, but not if we’re letting our social circumstances divide us.

Food Friday: Cinnamon Fruit Bread with Seeds


It has been the most stunningly gorgeous day in Central Texas. Inspired by the sunshine, I  reverted to my domestic goddess type – opening all the windows, stewing apples and being chased around the kitchen by an inquisitive bee (or five) that found its way inside. I also decided to make bread.

I’ve made bread before, following an excellent recipe in my favourite Stephanie Alexander cookbook, which, due to weighing in at about 5kg, is safely stowed in a storage unit in Sydney. I managed to find a similar recipe online though, and adapted it today to create a delicious, hearty fruit loaf full of cinnamon, apricots, sultanas and sunflower seeds.

Adapted from this basic bread recipe. IMPORTANT NOTE: Far be it from me to argue with Stephanie Alexander. The woman is a kitchen queen and deservedly so. That said, I found that the amount of flour and water she’d recommended did not work for me and I had to add in around another 150g or so of flour to achieve the recommended consistency. This might have been a problem at my end, but I’d recommend having more flour than you need on hand, just in case. If your mix isn’t thickening as it should, shake in additional flour gradually, mixing very thoroughly until you get the desired “sticky ball” consistency (if you can avoid this though, do – it will weigh down the bread a little).

{Ingredients} 

500g white whole wheat flour

7g sachet of dry yeast

1 tsp salt

500 mL warm water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup sultanas

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

The basics

The basics

{Preparation}

Tip all the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast. Stir once or twice with the wooden spoon. In a measuring cup, mix together the honey and warm water. 

Using the wooden spoon, push the flour away from the centre of the large bowl to make a well in the middle. Pour in the warm water and honey mixture. Mix in the flour gradually. Once combined, add the sultanas, apricots, sunflower seeds and cinnamon. Stir the mixture vigorously until you end up with a sticky ball of dough. If your ‘sticky ball’ seems determined to stay more of a ‘runny mess’, add a little more flour, bit by bit and stirring constantly.

Sprinkle your work surface liberally with flour. Sprinkle a little extra flour on your hands and the dough mix too. Tip the dough onto the floured surface and pat all the pieces into a pile. Squash it all into one lump. Knead constantly for about 3 minutes.

Lightly grease a bowl. Place dough ball into bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. The dough should roughly double in size.

After 30 minutes, re-flour your re-cleaned work surface. Take the dough ball and knock out all of the air (trust me, this is the most satisfying part of all). Knead the dough again, this time for 1-2 minutes. Return to the greased bowl, cover with the tea towel and leave for another 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is sitting, preheat the oven to 200°C or about 390-400°F and lightly grease a baking tray. When the 20 minutes has passed, transfer the dough to the baking tray and bake for around 4 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow.

20140214_143154

 

The bread should be fragrant and slightly chewy. It’s even better toasted with a little butter.

Why we can’t ignore food in health


374480_10152624885890445_595918477_n

Today in Slate, Heather Tirado Gilligan argues that food deserts are not really a problem. She also argues, using data from three studies, that introducing healthful food to low-income  communities makes no difference to health outcomes. I don’t entirely disagree. Parachuting a bunch of bananas into a low-income grocery store isn’t going to change the way people eat, or have a real impact on health outcomes. Making fresh, healthy food more physically accessible is just the first step. She overlooks the other steps involved in de-food-desertification; ensuring that the food is affordable, providing nutrition education and (as she touches on and thereafter ignores) teaching people with little time and little money how to cook quick, cheap and healthy meals. As Pearson et al argue, policies need to be developed to change cultural attitudes to food, rather than just food accessibility (1).

The way Gilligan writes about it seems as though she expects to just stick a few bulbs of fennel in a community that’s previously only had access to Doritos and Taco Bell and hope that it makes a difference. Of course it doesn’t! Fixing nutrition is a much more complex issue than I think Gilligan is acknowledging and it’s going to take a lot of time. For example, she notes that ‘Since 2004 there’s been a sharp spike in the number of programs like Soul Food that are aimed at reducing such health disparities by making fresh food more accessible to low-income people’ and that ‘Study after study has shown that the fresh-food push does nothing to improve the health of poor people, who continue to live markedly shorter and sicker lives than better-off Americans.’ It’s hard to argue against that – poorer people definitely do still have poorer health outcomes. But the data that she’s referring to is for only ten years in a nation of 314 million people, where the number of programs and locations where they have been available have been limited. It’s long enough to start getting some idea of outcomes, but I would argue, not long enough for concrete conclusions, especially when the aims of these programs are overwhelmingly long-term – it’s not possible to change a lifetime of eating habits overnight. Finally, I would also argue that if you look at what’s happened since 2010 when the Health Food Financing Initiative was introduced, it will give a much clearer idea of the impact of an increased number of programs. The same data problem persists though –  that at this stage, there are only three years of data to work with. It’s really too early to make the call that the Initiative is failing, especially when new and innovative programs are being developed every day.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that just as some food programs are not working so well, others are making a difference in the lives of those who have access to them. And while it’s hard to dispute Gilligan’s claim that the stress of poverty has a likely significant affect on health outcomes, it seems far too soon and very short sighted to disregard the importance of providing the means to improve the diets of low-income communities when aiming to reduce the burden of disease.

(1) Pearson T, Russell J, Campbell M J, Barker M E 2005, Do ‘food deserts’ influence fruit and vegetable consumption?—a cross-sectional study, Appetite 45(2): 195-197.

 

Food Friday: Local restaurants # 1 – Hopdoddy


This Friday, I decided not to share a recipe. Much as I love doing that, I just wasn’t super inspired by the meals I made this week (lentil pasta bake and fried rice). They made enormous quantities though, which meant I only needed to cook twice and then we had acres of leftovers – score!

What I’ve decided to do instead is to intersperse my own recipes with reviews of restaurants and cafes here in Austin that are doing great things while using local produce as much as possible. For the first week, I want to talk about Hopdoddy. Why Hopdoddy? Why not a smaller, single-venue restaurant? Well, I’ve chosen to start with Hopdoddy precisely because it’s big. Bigger organisations by their very nature, can affect more change than smaller ones. They serve more people, they can share their modus operandi with more people and thus can hopefully have a real impact on more people. That’s not at all to say that small operations aren’t doing great things and letting as many people as possible know about it. But when you see the queue winding around the South Congress Hopdoddy every evening and every weekend, it’s hard to dismiss the impact that they’re having on the local food scene.

So, what do they do that makes them in any way better than any other burger bar? Well, for starters I do think that their La Bandita black bean veggie burger is up there as one of my favourites. Their tuna burger is pretty phenomenal too, and I’ve been told by my more carnivorous friends that their meatier burgers are all that and a bag of chips (puns!). But more than that, very little of their produce is from outside Texas, excepting their potatoes (and in fairness, we’re not really in potato country around here), their cheddar (from Tillamook, an Oregon cooperative farm) and their bacon. Much of it comes from very local farmers and producers. So, for example, their beets are from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, a fantastic local and organic farm, which helps to keep money in Austin’s vibrant and thriving urban farming community. Similarly, their eggs are from a local egg farmer just half an hour’s drive away in Lockhart and their goat cheese is from just two hours away in Houston.

This is all admirable in and of itself, but Hopdoddy also broadcasts it. Loudly. There is a fairly comprehensive listing of where their food is sourced from on their website. The table dividers in their restaurants are rectangles of information about respecting the environment and eating local. There are signs up around the walls telling you where their ingredients are from.  As I say, at least some of those crazy folks queuing for hours must be getting the message. And that’s why I feel like Hopdoddy is worth getting excited about, even if there are some other restaurants in town that are doing things a little more locally and maybe even a little bit better.

Also, you should really try their veggie burger. It’s something special.

Image from Hopdoddy’s Facebook page.

Food Friday: Lemon Cake


I don’t bake often. I do love a good cake, but I find that baking can be frustratingly precise. My style of cooking is much more stream-of-consciousness than how-to manual – I get ideas for colours and flavours and add a dash of this, a pinch of that and voila! It’s like a very tasty kind of abstract art. Baking though, takes a lot more precision. Too much of one thing, too little of another and you suddenly have one giant wonky cookie instead of the twelve neat ones that had gone into the oven (I still don’t know what went wrong. It tasted good, but it was a long way from pretty).

So far though, this cake has been pretty-much failsafe. I was taught it almost 10 years ago now, by a lovely ex-boyfriend who was an absolute kitchen wizard. Luckily, it was a very amicable break-up and we’re still occasionally in touch, so I can still eat this cake without any feelings of resentment.

For this recipe, you will definitely need a set of kitchen scales. You’ll also need a love of lemony, sweet-tart goodness and very rich cake.

20140131_155213

{Ingredients}

3 eggs (room temperature)

The exact same weight of the eggs in:

  • plain flour
  • butter (room temperature)
  • sugar

2 medium sized lemons (zest and juice)

Pinch of baking soda

Icing sugar

{Preparation}

Weigh the eggs and note down their weight. Measure out exactly the same weight of sugar, flour and butter. Gently grate the zest of both lemons, either with one of those lovely lemon zesting tools or a standard grater.

In a bowl, beat together butter, sugar and lemon zest until well combined. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix until combined and slightly fluffy.

In another bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda.

Add the flour and baking soda to the butter/sugar/eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Pour mixture into a well-greased cake tin and bake at 350F for 30 minutes (due to oven problems I had to cook mine for 45 minutes, with the last 15 covered by foil. It really didn’t do the cake any favours and I got a bit of sinkage in the middle). At this point, you can also lick the spoon, if that’s your thing.

Test whether cake is cooked with a knife or fork. Once this comes out clean, the cake is cooked and you can remove it from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

{For the Icing}

Squeeze the juice of 1 1/2 of the lemons into a bowl, saving the remaining half for emergencies. Gradually add icing sugar to the lemon juice, stirring steadily. Once the icing is becoming difficult to stir, but is still slightly runny (depending how juicy your lemons are, probably this will take 1-1 1/2 cups icing sugar), you’re ready to ice!

Spread icing thickly onto the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.

Slice and enjoy!

NB: I only had whole wheat flour on hand and I would not recommend this. I’d really suggest you use the plainest, whitest flour you can find. Your cake should look much more yellow and much less orange as a result.

20140131_173641