This week Natasha Oakley is tempting you to put aside all thoughts of being good .... Forget you ever heard about the Pink Heart Society Diet Club and prepare to be indulged!
Since all good things need a little planning, I'm here to give you warning Mothering Sunday is imminent.
This is particularly important if you live (or your mother lives) in the UK because this has become our Mothers' Day equivalent.
Like driving on the left we're clinging to old traditions with a tenacity you should all admire. :) This one goes back to the 16th century and I see no reason why the rest of the world can't play as well!
Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Historically this day was also known as Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed. Additionally, it was considered important for people to re-visit the main church or Cathedral of their area - the 'mother' church.
Since it was common for children to leave home at about the age of ten, it became a day of family reunions as young apprentices and domestic servants were given the day off. Girls in service were also given the ingredients to bake their mother a cake, traditionally a Simnel Cake. Nowadays this is increasingly kept for Easter Sunday.
The eleven balls of marzipan represent the eleven disciples - Judas not being included. (And, if you're of a traditional bent, you should also add sugar violets.)
Here's one of many recipes for a Simnel Cake:
110g/4oz butter or margarine
110g/4oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g/5oz plain flour
pinch of salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice (optional)
350g/12oz mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
55g/2oz chopped mixed peel
½ lemon, grated rind only
1-2 tbsp apricot jam
1 egg, beaten for glazing
For the almond paste: (Marzipan)
125g/4oz caster sugar
125g/4oz ground almonds
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp almond essence
1. To make the almond paste: place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg to give a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond essence and knead for a minute until the paste is smooth and pliable. Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for topping of the cake.
2. Preheat oven to 140C/275F/ Gas 1. To make the cake:cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and spice (if using) a little at a time. Finally, add the dried fruit, peel and grated lemon rind and mix into the mixture well.
3. Put half the mixture in a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1½ hours. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
4. When you are ready to decorate the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 3. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste into two; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.
5. Place the circle of paste on the jam and set the balls round the edge. Brush all the top with a little beaten egg.
6. Return the cake to the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or long enough for the almond paste to brown.
Cake in hand, they walked along the country lanes back to their homes and picked wild flowers (no longer allowed!). So it is that Mothering Sunday, in the UK, became the day we honour our mums.
For me, this year, it's going to be particularly poignant because my mum has so recently died - but it's also going to be fun because I'll be showered with home-made cards, flowers, books and chocolates from my own brood.
If your family is better trained than mine you might even try for breakfast in bed. When I lived at 'home' I used to do that for my mum (picture a rapidly cooling cup of tea with much of it slopped in the saucer) and organised my younger brother to present the violets my dad took us to the garden centre to buy.
My children tend towards bunches of daffodils and leave the tea to their dad.
Since he's reading this blog over my shoulder as I type, can I take the opportunity to mention I would also enjoy chocolates from Thorntons, the contents of my Amazon 'basket' not yet purchased and an afternoon sleep???
A girl can hope! :)
However you spend Mothering Sunday, children or no, I hope it's truly indulgent!
Currently on sale in the UK is Mothers-To-Be. It contains three novellas - all written with Mothers' Day in mind.
Julia James, who writes for Presents/Modern, has contributed 'The Greek and the Single Mum', Amy Andrews, who writes for Medicals, 'Their Baby Bond' and our Natasha 'Adopted: One Baby'.
It's available on the Mills & Boon site by clicking here.