'I can't believe it's cake for breakfast,' I said, through mouthfuls.
'I can't believe you're really here,' said Marika.
Food is an important part of The Book of Summers. Through bullet-holed cheese and bleeding tomatoes, paprika chicken and ragged twists of homemade noodles, Hungary reveals its exoticness to Erzsi, puts fire in her belly and in her heart. Meals on the Villa Serena terrace are always memorable and food is entwined with gestures; the homely taste of Wiener Schnitzel and big fat chips when Erzsi's laid low; Marika's rambunctious promise of a lunch made entirely of ice-cream; Zoltán's quieting of fractious spirits with a red-hot fish soup. I thought it'd be fun to bring the flavour of Villa Serena to my blog throughout the summer, writing recipes for a few of the dishes that appear in the book. In the spirit of Marika, mine is a freestyle kitchen so don't expect things to exactly follow Hungarian conventions. But no recipe will appear here unless it's passed the taste test. Bon appétit - or as they say in Hungary - Jó Étvágyat!
Where better to start than on Erzsi's very first morning in Hungary? When Erzsi wakes up at Villa Serena she sees that Marika has baked her a cake, with her name spelt out in raspberries. It's a wonky, imperfect heap, but made with real heart and Erzsi tucks in with relish. I'm with Marika on this one, cake for breakfast is a brilliant indulgence. The balance works here because of the sober nature of the cake itself (a fat-free Hungarian sponge that has a sweet though slightly bready texture), the zestiness of the lemon icing and the fresh taste of the fruit. And the quick spread of apricot jam through the middle calls to mind the toast you might have had if you'd settled for a more boring breakfast.
For the cake:
120g self-raising flour
150g castor sugar
Separate your eggs, then cream the egg yolks with half of the sugar. Beat the egg whites until stiff, gradually adding in the rest of the sugar. Gently fold the sugared egg whites into the yolks, and blend in the sieved flour. Lightly grease two sandwich tins (approx 8 inches across) and divide the mixture between them. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until golden.
For the filling & topping:
150g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
Juice & zest of one lemon
A good dollop of apricot jam
Lots of fresh raspberries
Cream the butter, then beat in the sieved icing sugar. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and mix through. Once the two halves of the cake have cooled, spread one with the jam, and cover entirely with raspberries. Then take just under half of your icing and spread over the underside of the other cake. Put the two together, and spread the top with the remainder of the icing. Take what's left of your raspberries and write the name of your cake's intended. Or - if you run out of space like I did - settle for an initial. This one's E for Erzsi.
Brew a pot of good, strong coffee, cut a generous slice, and find a patch of morning sunlight. That's breakfast,Villa Serena style.