It’s that time of the year. Christmas trees, New Years paraphernalia and Aussie flags have been cleared from the stores, and whilst hot cross buns are slowly creeping into supermarket bakeries, it’s just that little bit too early for most of us to start buying them. So of course Valentines Day is needed to keep tills flowing during this in between period.
Single, taken, it’s complicated or swinging- whichever category you fall into, each has there own share of devotees to the day and those who burn roses and boxes of chocolates. Me personally? Well, as someone who will bawl through the Notebook whilst Taylor Swift plays in the background, I’m quite partial to the day. Life is short, love is precious, so let’s use any opportunity to embrace it in all it’s forms.
For an Italian, nothing says “I love you” more than being presented with a plate of food made from the heart. Sure, flowers may last slightly longer, but whilst they only smell nice, food also has the taste factor. My favourite way of showing someone love is by baking for them, yet this Valentine’s Day my love is in the next state, so instead I will bake for for you (serves him right for not following me here). And what better way to celebrate love, than with a Love Cake? Fortunately, at least two cultures have their own version, which saves me from resorting to a love cake inspired by my love’s loves, which would therefore involved copious amounts of chocolate, caramel, and bacon.
A workmate introduced me to Persian Love Cake recently, and, quite appropriately, I fell in love. You could imagine the heartbreak when I discovered it has no actual roots from Persia. Though it does use Persian flavours such as rosewater, saffron and pistachios, which I figured was enough reason to share the dish. It has a delicious combination of aromatic flavours, a rich density from the almond meal, a tang from the yoghurt, and a lovely crunchy crust.
As a side note, this dish is also gluten free, perfect for the 1% of Australians with Coeliac Disease (yet of these, only 0.25% have been diagnosed with the disease- the other 3/4 don’t yet know they have it). For this population, their immune system reacts abnormally to even a minute amount of gluten (found in wheat, rye, oat and barley), damaging the small intestine. For the rest of us, gluten is no less dangerous than any other component of the grain. In fact, processed gluten free products can often be less healthy than their gluten containing counterparts- gluten is responsible for much of the texture in products so when the gluten is removed, other ingredients- often sugar and fats- are added to improve the palatability. This hasn’t stopped the gluten free options in supermarkets and cafes increasing exponentially, and many people confused that they should be going gluten free unnecessarily.
Persian desserts often bear a great deal of resemblance to Indian and Sri Lankan desserts; the Sri Lankan Love Cake provides a wonderful comparison with a beautiful story so apt for this annual holiday. The honey, sugar and spices preserve the cake so that you can send it across the country and it will still arrive fresh and tasty. Hmm, may have just worked out my love’s Valentine’s present this year. Though personally, I think it's because chopping all those cashews is a true labour of love. Like most traditional dishes, there is a wide variety in recipes and ingredients, though this one is particularly lovely. The addition of so many eggs, in particular the egg whites that have been whisked, almost separate during cooking, leaving a crunchy meringue top and moist, texture dense filling with the cashews and array of flavours. So Valentines Day or not, if it's about love, and it's about cake, it's gotta be good.