30 Apr 2011

Ada's Lot (for 'The Last Warner Woman')

"I ask God for something better than Spanish Town, Jamaica, and he give me this country where I have tilled a hard ground." (p.150)
"Just as every fruit don't name mango, and just as every animal don't name dog, so too the Warner Woman's mouth is not only full of thunder and lightning." (p.116)

This dessert is my interpretation of how Ada sees her lot in life. Initially, I thought I could encapsulate different episodes of her life into layers: Growing up in the leper colony, life with the Revivalists, emigrating to England, time spent on a psychiatric ward. But I soon discovered it was impossible to mould this story told 'crossways' into something so linear. For example, I had intended the base to be the 'hard ground' of Adamine's life in the UK but the ingredients symbolising England (cocoa and tea biscuits) get mixed together with the ones representing her life in Jamaica (almonds and coconut). Since Adamine never had an easy life in either place and her time in England was always overshadowed by the beliefs and traditions she carried with her from Jamacia, I let the combination stand. The cream cheese icing in the middle was inspired by the quote, "I don't eat cheese as a rule, and I never frighten for sugar." (p.167). I chose to use both ingredients even though the character wouldn't to highlight how her wishes are blatantly ignored. The nutmeg infused mango and swirls of chocolate represent the reunion of two very different Warners at the end of the book.

How would you interpret The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller? All cakes and comments welcome.

Ada's Lot (Nanaimo Bars with Cream Cheese & Mango)
Makes 16-20 squares

For the base:
113g (1/2 cup) butter
5 tbsp cocoa powder
50g (1/4 cup) white sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
170g (2 cups) rich tea biscuits (or arrowroot cookies), crushed
71g (1 cup) unsweetened coconut
61g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds

For the icing:
125g (4oz) cream cheese
57g (1/4 cup) butter
128g (1 cup) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For decorating:
8-10 slices dried mango
1 tsp nutmeg
42g (1.5oz) baking chocolate
1 tbsp butter

Cut mango slices in half, place in a small bowl and toss in the nutmeg. Add 1 tbsp boiling water and give it a stir so all the slices get wet. Set aside.

Lightly grease a 9 x 9 inch pan. To make the base, combine butter, cocoa, sugar, slightly beaten eggs and vanilla in a double boiler and cook for 8-10min stirring occasionally. Remove from double boiler and add crushed buscuits, coconut and almonds. Stir until well combined (If it's a little dry, add 1tbsp vegetable oil) and press into the bottom of your pan. Place in fridge until cool.

Mix together cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and vanilla and spread over the cooled base. Put back in fridge for at least half an hour to set.

Cut the base into 16-20 into squares and top each one with a slice of mango. Melt butter and chocolate either in a double boiler or in the microwave and drizzle over the top in random swirls.

19 Apr 2011

Nutmeg, Almond and Coconut Swirls with Cream Soda Glaze (for 'The Last Warner Woman')

"The cry of the Warner Woman carries with it a scent, and if you are close by when she prophesies you will smell it too. It is the smell of nutmeg, of earth, of rocks, of rain coming in from a distance, of salt, of ocean, of egrets, of oil, of cream soda, of coconut, of dust." (p. 114)
"Revival was pain and joy mix up together like flour and water." (p.81)
Between the two above quotes this recipe practically wrote itself. I chose to shape them into swirls because when Adamine is taken with a prophesy she spins wildly, as though caught in the gale of a storm.

How would you interpret The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller? All cakes and comments welcome.

Nutmeg, Almond and Coconut Swirls
Makes 12 buns

For the filling:
220g brown sugar (I used dark but I'm sure golden is fine too)
70g almonds (I used slivered but chopped would also work)
20g dessicated coconut
1tbsp nutmeg
57g butter, softened

For the dough:
575g all purpose flour
1tbsp baking powder
76g butter, softened
2 eggs
250ml warm milk

Cream Soda Glaze
150g icing sugar
enough cream soda to make a runny paste (about 3tbsp 2tbsp)
2tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 200*C. Have a bun pan or cookie sheet at the ready.

Put all ingredients for the filling into a medium sized bowl and mix with a fork until well combined. (You may need to zap it in the microwave for 10sec to help the butter along). Set aside.

Warm the milk either on the stove or in the microwave making sure not to let it boil and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder until well combined. Add the butter, cut into small chunks, and massage with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork before pouring into the flour mixture. Add the warm milk and bring together with a wooden spoon before turning out onto a lightly floured surface.

Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky. You may want to re-flour your surface before rolling out the dough into a large rectangle approx.1cm thick. Sprinkle all the filling evenly over the dough and then roll into a log shape starting at the narrow side of the rectangle. Cut the log into 12 slices and place each swirl onto your bun pan or cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15min.

To make the glaze combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour a teaspoon of glaze over each swirl while they are still warm and wait until completely cooled before drizzling over the rest. Garnish with more almonds and coconut if desired.

Modified from Sugarlaws

Recipe, Dessert , Cinnamon Bun, Coconut, Almonds

10 Apr 2011

Rainbow Blues (for 'The Last Warner Woman')

"Pearline girl, look on what you is doing nuh! It is just ugly." ( p.5)

Awww, poor thing. It may be a beautiful mix of colours but it is a sorry little cake. I'll have to try again.

It was meant to be a tropical rainbow wrapped in strips of royal icing to symbolise Pearline's love of knitting in vibrant colours and the 'onlgy that's' (white bandages) she came to make for the leper colony. Except it wasn't nearly as impressive looking as I'd imagined and the royal icing overpowered the delicate flavours in the cake. Like Monsignor Dennis, I removed the offending bandages "like how a pickney would tear shine-paper off of a present" (p.63). Thinking I could still salvage things, I made a drizzle frosting instead with icing sugar, melted butter and lime juice but, in a moment of creative insanity, threw in a handful of dessicated coconut. Now the poor cake looked like it had been coated in a helping of porridge. So I scraped that off too. The cake, in spite of the cruel treatment it's received, still tastes delicious.

How would you interpret The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller? All cakes and comments welcome.

Tropical Rainbow Cake
Serves 8-10

180g butter
250g sugar
4 eggs
200ml coconut yogurt
1 tin or container (aprox 400g) tropical fruits, well drained and patted dry
300g self raising flour
food colouring, 4-6 colours (I used pink, blue, green and yellow)

Pre-heat oven to 160*C. Grease & flour a 10.5 inch bunt pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined. Fold in the yogurt and fruit with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add flour in two parts, stirring well after each addition.

Split the batter into small bowls and mix a different colour into each one (this does not need to be an exact measurement - just eyeball it).

Randomly spoon the different colours into the tin about a tablespoon at a time until all your batter has been used up - there is no need to stir the colours up once they've been layered in the tin.

Bake in the oven for aprox. 40min or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. I'll let you decide how best to ice this one.

Modified from a recipe by Bill Granger, posted on good to know recipes
Inspired by Omnomicon

Recipe, Dessert , Cake, Coconut, Mango

9 Apr 2011

Idea Munching: The Last Warner Woman

It's been published early! And it seems summer has come early as well (20*C this afternoon, not bad for England in April). I'm all set to bake my first cake tonight, the one I'm attributing to the colourful re-imagining of Mr Writer Man, but I've run into a problem with the second cake. After careful re-reading of certain chapters today, I realise the elements I was using for inspiration are also the words of Mr Writer Man, not those of Adamine herself.

However, the line between fact and fiction is a little blurred here. Mr Writer Man's novel is based on snippits of fact he has gathered, filled in by details told to him by Adamine. He may take creative licence with certain events but they are based in the 'truth' as Ada sees it. I think I can still make it work, but only because of this quote from Ada herself:
"This man don't tell the story straight. He put in all kinds of lies. But every lie open the door to a truth." (p.170)
So I will still make both cakes as planned, only the second will have to be attributed to Mr Writer Man as well. The inspiration for the first cake comes from his imagining of the life of Adamine's mother, Pearline Portious, while the second cake is his imagining of Adamine's life as a member of the Revivalist church. 


Now I'm having reservations about my original idea for the third cake. I was going to make it using elements taken from the stories told by the nurses at the psychiatric ward but I think I would rather make Adamine a cake based on how she sees herself. Though, if she didn't entirely approve of Mr Writer Man's version of her life story, I'm certain she would strongly disaprove of having that version interpreted into a cake. (Sorry, Ada).

6 Apr 2011

The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller

This month I will be creating three cakes to reflect three different points of view in this book:
The colourful, re-imagining of Mr. Writer Man
The 'truth', as spoken to the wind, by Adamine Bustamante
The version seen by the psychiatric nurses.

Read, Bake, Eat along with me!

The Last Warner Woman (out in B format paperback on April 14th!) is published in the UK by Orion
Read an interview with Kei Miller as published in Iota Magazine
Read a review of this book on the Caribbean culture blog Repeating Islands

Update 9/4/11: 
Changes have been made to these initial ideas, see my next post