Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Cooking for a Commune

Well, measuring quantity's never a cinch--
Just what is a dash or a smidge or a pinch?
Trade ounces for gallons, swap teaspoon for cup,
And generally bulk that ol' portion size up.
...Also, doing the dishes sucks.
When I leave the increasingly familiar Sydney suburbs to work on an organic farm in the countryside, I expect many things to take me by surprise.  I expect to be stunned by the beauty of the country landscape.  I expect to be astonished by the work ethic of farmers who build their lives around taking from and giving to the land.  I expect to be amazed by the feelings I feel when I eat something out of the ground, care for a farm animal, and commune with nature for the first time.  Expectations aside, I'm still plenty surprised to find myself living in a commune of over forty other people who call themselves the Tribe of Asher.

This is neither the place nor time to get into the specifics of their spiritual foundation, suffice it to say that they're part of an international confederation called the Twelve Tribes -- not quite Christian, not quite Jewish, not quite hippie, but exhibiting serious signs of each.  The members of the community do, in fact, work on an organic farm; they build and garden, raise chickens and goats, and make their own bread and yogurt.  The bakery is their livelihood.  The bakers support the entire community by selling their organic wholemeal breads at farmers' markets, and, after a fourteen-hour day preparing mixes, forming loaves, and cleaning, I can attest to the difficulty of the job.  But just as admirable as the bakers' work is the job of the women in the community -- they're responsible for preparing meals and snacks for dozens of hungry mouths, every day, very many times a day.

On the Sabbath, they prepare an especially delectable set of meals.  A woman named Yael, whom I've come to know as a wonderful cook and conversationalist, teaches me how to make the first meal of the day -- cake for breakfast!  It's a healthy carob cake served in thick slices with homemade yogurt and lemon myrtle honey, and tastes absolutely decadent compared to the savory millet breakfast we usually eat.  The original recipe is hilariously community-sized; it calls for thirty-two eggs, and yields eight heavy trays of cake.  Here, I present a recipe of more moderate proportions.

Truly Communal Carob Cake
original recipe from Yael of Asher

  • 1/2 cup milk or yogurt
  • 170 mL oil
  • 250 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup carob powder
  • 250 g flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit).
Beat yogurt, oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla essence together.
Boil the water.  Stir into oats, and bar mix until creamy.
Combine yogurt mixture and oat mixture.
Mix carob powder, flour, and bicarbonate soda into yogurt-oat mixture.
Pour into baking pan, sprinkle with coconut flakes, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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