I'm thankful for a quite a few things in this world. Last night's sleep ranks right up there. In bed at 8.30, asleep in 15 minutes and waking peacefully at 6.30am is pretty tops in my world.
I'm super happy to live in Melbourne, pretty much the best city in the world. We've got creative chefs, a vibrant arts scene and not-too-bad infrastructure (though you can shove it with the East-West super-freakway. What the hell's up with that, Universe?)
I also have a fantabulous Mum. You probably know her from such movies as, "I Tolerated Emma's Teenage Years" and "Bennetto Family Umpire". My favourite of her films to date? "I Taught Emma How to Make Date Loaf".
It's an old recipe of hers, from the Big Brown Book of Burke family recipes. That book has my name written all over it, if the tattered pages actually make it through the various house moves and kitchen throwdowns. It's a treasure trove of pavlovas, curried sausages and blowaway sponges. I'm sure there's also around 35 different versions of fruit cake, each with their different nuances. Fruit cake is not fruit cake in Mum's world.
I used to think dried fruit cakes were a bit passe. Nowadays I'm throwing them down my throat like a 70 year old diabetic in denial. I think our appreciation of dried fruit is relative to our capacity to control our bladders: toddlers in nappies are chowing on sultanas til the cows come home, then we swear them off for a good 30-40 years, and come back around when we're being wheeled into a nursing home, smearing dense slices with butter.
This is potentially the easiest cake in the history of the world. Chop up dates, mix with sugar, flour, butter, water and vanilla. Pour into a pan, bake for 45 and you're done. And seriously? It needs nothing more than a quick swipe of butter. No icing, no dusting of sugar, nothing. It's seriously addictive: it's a mellow sweetness that dates bring to any recipe. Tasty, tasty date loaf.
So Universe, of all the things you've been thanked for in this world, date loaf might be the strangest. Mum's who pass along the recipe is probably a little more understandable.
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup plain flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 180º celsius.
Mix dates, sugar, butter and boiling water in a bowl until the butter melts. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix til the flour is incorporated. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Pour into a well-greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly.
Serve with a smear of butter.