It has to be said that many of the spices we now use and which are readily available in every supermarket were definitely not part of my cooking world even 20 years ago.
It's probably not very fashionable to make such statements but the passage of time and changing trends need to be marked in every country's culinary history.
Spices that were in common use when I was a child were scant: mixed spice, curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, mixed herbs, and ground and whole cloves come easily to mind.
They are, of course, still popular today but, with the globalisation of cooking and our willingness to experiment, a raft of other spices have joined them.
One of my favourites is cardamom, which I use mainly in cakes and puddings and sometimes in lamb dishes.
A member of the ginger family, cardamom comes in two forms, ground and whole (in pods), and two varieties, green and brown.
The green is used in sweet dishes and the brown mainly in savoury.
You can grind or pound the pods yourself or simply use the ready-ground version.
Both impart a warm, spicy yet subtle flavour that goes perfectly with the plums in today's recipe.
Drain the plums well.
Tinned plums are very juicy (part of their appeal) but too much juice will seep into the cake and discolour it.
This recipe is an adaptation of one a reader sent me a few years ago.
The cake is so simple to make as everything goes into the bowl together.
All you have to do is beat.
Another tip: do not line the base of the tin with baking paper as you will have the devil's own job to cut your cake cleanly.
PLUM AND CARDAMOM CAKE (serves 8)
1 850g tin black doris plums
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
150g melted butter (slightly cooled)
1 Tbsp tepid water
Method: Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Grease a 25cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
Put stoned plums in a sieve and drain thoroughly.
Put flour, sugar and cardamom into a mixing bowl.
Add butter, eggs and water.
Beat for at least a minute or until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Spread mixture evenly in the tin.
Place the plums over the mixture.
75g cold cubed butter
100g wholemeal flour
50g dark brown sugar
Method: Put all ingredients in processor bowl and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle topping over contents of tin.
Bake centre oven for 50 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch.
Serve with Greek yoghurt or cream.
- The Southland Times