This website is an odd mix of my interests as a writer, entomologist, naturalist, gardener, and educator. You’ll find blog posts about rural New Zealand life, links to my books, and some of my favourite recipes. Feel free to explore, drop me a line, and sign up for my e-mail list.
This year, however, my cake baking abilities were limited. I made a chocolate blackcurrant upside down cake in the microwave, of course, since we’re still living in the shed.
It was, perhaps, the ugliest cake I’ve ever made—rivalled only by the red currant upside down cake I made a couple of weeks ago. Something about the currants makes the cake slump in a truly unattractive fashion when flipped.
Good thing Her Majesty was busy this evening and couldn’t make it. We slathered the cake in generous helpings of whipped cream to hide its ugliness.
But there was no hiding the amazing flavour. I’m quite fond of blackcurrant and chocolate together, and the cake featured both flavours perfectly.
Below is the recipe. I’ve made this with frozen red currants as well, and it’s equally good.
60 g (1/4 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar
approx. 1 cup frozen (thawed) black currants
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Make the topping: Melt butter in a 23 cm (9-in) square microwave-safe baking pan. Sprinkle sugar over the butter and then spread the currants evenly over the butter-sugar mix. Set aside.
Cake: Combine flours, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk the sugar, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla in another bowl until well mixed. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just moistened. Pour batter over the topping in the baking pan and bake in the microwave on high for about 7 minutes (the top should still look quite sticky and wet). Turn the cake out onto a plate immediately and leave the pan over top for a few minutes to let all the sticky goodness drip onto the cake. Serve warm with whipped cream.
I started my pandemic poems—written with a Sharpie on scraps of building wrap and posted on the fence out front—to keep myself sane and connect with the new neighbours I’ve never met while we were in lockdown. Forty-nine days, forty-nine poems.
I wanted all the poems to be positive—a more difficult challenge than I’d hoped. Some days I wrote half a dozen poems, only to reject every one because they were grim and dark reflections of my mood. I would write until I found the light of good thoughts … sometimes I thought the positive poems would never come.
But they did. And by forcing myself to focus on the positive, I began to feel it.
And the neighbours must have felt it too. They stopped and read them silently to themselves. They read them aloud to their children. They laughed. They came by every day specifically to read the next instalment.
And I listened to them from the shed and smiled.
On Saturday I took them all down—symbolically freeing us from lockdown.
On Sunday I found this lovely note pinned to the gate. I’m still smiling.
They say you reap what you sow. Well, I’ve harvested two months of smiles from those silly poems. Almost makes me want to go back into lockdown and do it all again …
Or maybe not …
The last two.
Tomorrow, we will shift to Level 2, in which most of us will go back to work and school. We’ll be able to meet with friends (in small numbers and with appropriate social distancing), and buy things in shops rather than online. Our classrooms and workplaces will look different, feel different. We will be nervous, excited, relieved, frightened …
But right now I have to say I’m damned proud of this nation and the heroic team effort that has gotten us to this point. There’s a long way to go before the virus is beaten, but the amazing leadership (and followers-ship) we’ve seen in New Zealand has saved lives and jobs–we only have to look abroad to see what we might have experienced without the swift and dramatic response we took.
Ka pai, Aotearoa! Go out there tomorrow and enjoy yourselves. Be safe, keep your distance, and wash your hands! Kia kaha!
Today, we’ll learn whether we’re moving to Level 2, in which most everyone will go back to work and school. It will be a big, and somewhat nerve-wracking move if we do. But it’s been amazing what Kiwis have done the past six weeks–the amount of teamwork, dedication and aroha they’ve shown has been inspiring. Ka pai!