Isn't January boring? The excitement of Christmas has long gone leaving us with a few pounds more on the bathroom scales and a few (hundred) pounds less in the bank. We are overeaten and overdrawn, most pledges for the New Year already broken and we faintly dread reading the news. We are clearly in great need of cheering up. And what can cheer us up better than a cake?
Here are my suggestions and some of these are gluten-free, which is completely incidental, they just happen to be great cakes. Like this fantastic Hungarian hazelnut cake - it actually is good enough for a birthday cake base, which I might put into action soon. Just add a simple buttercream or cream cheese frosting: equal amounts of butter and icing sugar plus twice as much full fat cream cheese. Flavour with lemon or orange juice and zest.
Lemon polenta cake is another suggestion - I just love the polenta crunch. And the easiest cake in the world, island buttermilk cake, can be made in the bleak mid-winter with frozen berries - and we'll pretend that it's summer. Or go for seasonal fruit - blood oranges - and make this interesting little number: blood orange and olive oil cake.
What about cheering-up dishes for the (still long) weeknights? What's exotic to me is obviously commonplace elsewhere, but how about serving Korean bulgogi beef in a pita bread, kebab style? That's quite a fusion AND homemade fast food!
More Oriental flavours: have-wok-will-steam, or whole steamed sea bass. It never fails to amaze me how versatile a wok can be - never mind steaming, you can make a salad in a wok! A warm spicy bacon and potato salad admittedly, but still. The flavours in that salad are incredible by the way - just make sure you have a window open when the Sichuan pepper hits the wok.
And to finish - a veggie suggestion from the other side of the world: veggie bean chili. It's super-worth making, if only for the pickled red onions...