Working from home is a funny old way of life. I’ve gone from school to university to 9-5 jobs to getting my culinary diploma. Now I’ve washed up teaching and running the administration for a cookery school, alongside freelance catering work and making the odd birthday or wedding cake. This means that my hours are mostly my own to organise, for the first time, really, in my life. Apart from actually showing up to teach classes and attending the odd meeting, I don’t generally have to be anywhere in particular for work, and can get stuff done as and when I like.
Mostly, it suits me. I never liked having to be in an office at fixed times, regardless of how much work I had on, and I’m a terrible employee in that I hate being told what to do (yes, this was often a problem). I am bossy, obsessive, and controlling (but quite a nice person generally, honest), so sorting out my own time instead of adhering to someone else’s schedule is usually advantageous.
It’s tricky, too, though. This morning, for instance, I answered three emails, raised two invoices, dealt with some website maintenance, updated a voucher spreadsheet, and researched a recipe before 9am. However, I did all this on the sofa, in my pyjamas, whilst eating toast and cuddling the cat. So it’s easy for me to feel like I am being lazy, especially as my husband is dressed and out the door to go to the office by 8.15am.
I do as much work now as I did when I had a ‘proper job’, but not all of it feels like work (recipe testing and ingredients shopping, I’m looking at you), and lots of it is done at funny times. I work best early in the morning, so I will get a lot done first thing, but then I will often be out doing something at some point during the day when everyone else is stuck in the office. Then again, I am usually doing work late into the night and always on weekends – I once received a surprised and delighted reply from a customer when I answered her email at midnight on Christmas Eve. Plus on most Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights, you can usually find me teaching and not getting home until 11pm.
I don’t know. I am sure (read: I hope) most people who have an unconventional job and/or work from home suffer from this slight guilt and nervousness. I always feel like I am somehow getting away with something when I have a long lunch with a friend on a weekday, or spend an hour bobbing up and down the Cowley Road to find obscure Asian ingredients on a Wednesday afternoon.
Anyway, as I said, one of the pre-9am things I did this morning was researching a recipe, and that recipe is for this Pistachio, Blackberry, and Lemon Loaf Cake.
I love pistachios. Love love love them to a disturbing degree. They’re so versatile, playing excellent roles in both sweet and savoury dishes, and completely beautiful in their enticing shades of soft purple and vivid green. I have been wanting to make a pistachio cake for a while, and then I thought of the juicy purple of blackberries against a soft nutty green, with the kick of brightening lemon, and this cake was born.
Source: The base loaf cake recipe is adapted from this one at Smitten Kitchen.
Notes: I love blackberries here but I am sure this would work well with blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. You could also leave out the lemon if you don’t fancy it, and skip all the decoration on the top.
150g roasted pistachio kernels
200 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
zest of 1 lemon
145g butter, cut into rough cubes (from the fridge is fine)
60ml cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant tsp baking powder
120g plain flour
for the icing and finishing
100g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon (roughly)
handful of pistachios
handful of blackberries
- Preheat your oven to 170C/150C fan/ gas 3. Roast your pistachios in the oven for 5-10 minutes until they are slightly darkened and smelling lovely. While that’s happening, grease and line your loaf tin (you can maybe get away without doing this if you have a non-stick tin, but I am always too scared to risk it).
- Pop your pistachios in a food processor with the sugar and salt blitz it all until it’s a rough powder – you want it as well blended as possible but you don’t want to go too far and make the pistachios release their oil and become wet. Chuck in your lemon zest and cubed butter and blitz again – it will look weird and clumpy for a while but eventually smooth out, so just keep running the mixer. With the mixer running, add your eggs one by one, and pour in your milk and vanilla.
- You should now have a rather thin, green, fairly smooth mixture. Take it out of the processor and pop it in a bowl, then add your baking powder, plain flour, and blackberries, then fold to just combine but don’t mix further. If your blackberries are huge you might want to cut them in half for more even distribution.
- Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and pop in your preheated oven to bake. This is a slow, gentle bake – my cake took 60 minutes in my quite fierce oven, but as with any cake with a long baking time it will vary quite a bit depending on your oven. Check at 45 minutes and then keep checking every ten minutes until the cake is risen and firm and passes the skewer test.
- You can absolutely keep it as it is, but if you want to gild the lily, sieve your icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add lemon juice, whisking it into an icing that is fairly thick and falls off a spoon in a slow drizzle. Let your cake cool in the tin, then turn it out and finish it with a flair of lemon icing and some artfully arranged blackberries and pistachios.