09 May 2007

A Taste of Yellow: Cornish Saffron Cake and Happiness Soup

Thanks to Barbara of Winos and Foodies, a good portion the foodblogging world is painted yellow for a very special event: A Taste of Yellow.

This event is one of many that supports Livestrong Day (16 May) , an awareness event for cancer issues and cancer survivors. Thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society, information about cancer in Canada is available with just a few keystrokes: here's their 2007 statistics report (116p PDF), information from a comprehensive cancer study in young adults (aged 20-44) (120p PDF), and, of course, general stats at a glance.

Yellow is a significant colour for me.

Yellow was the colour of the house when I was little. It was home...it was warm...it was comfort. It is also my mum's lucky colour (she literally painted every room a lemony-gold colour...very 1970s), so it is also, by familial extension, my lucky colour.

Yellow is also the colour of the Canadian Cancer Society's signature daffodil.

My personal interest is cancer in young adults, and it's for purely selfish reasons. Before I turned 33 I had two breast lumps removed (one when I was about 28 and the other when I was 32). Both were plum-sized and shaped*, appeared in a relatively short, and found through early detection.

I was lucky--my GP moved mountains both times to get me scanned and off to a surgeon in relatively short time. I was lucky: I had family and very good friends' support. I was lucky: the companies I worked for believed my well-being should be put above corporate profits. I was very lucky: both lumps were benign.

The first time no one was worried (really), but the second time wasn't nearly as easy.

The external signs pointed to cancer and the mass itself was so bizarre that my well-versed surgeon and local lab were perplexed. The sample was sent to Toronto for a decision by a world-renowned expert...weeks later my surgeon had a report and phoned in the happy results (for those of you in Ontario, you know how rare it is to get test results delivered by the physician over the phone).

So, when it came to this event, I knew I wanted to do something...but what? Lemons came to mind, but I was certain there would be a lot of lemony goodness out there. Then two things hit me...at pretty much the same time...

Cornish Saffron Cake

One of my in-progress works is an article about saffron. In my research I found out about Cornish saffron cakes. After some perusing, I found and used a recipe posted by Anna at Baking for Britain. The kitchen spirits weren't in a baking mood, so the dough didn't rise as nicely as Anna's but it still tasted lovely. To keep the golden theme going, I used dried mangoes as the dried fruit. The cake was wonderfully simple to make and tasty. The saffron imparted both a golden hue and a honeyed flavour. Very yummy.

(photos from L-R: saffron-infused milk, the baked Cornish Saffron Cake, a slice of cake)

Happiness Soup...and Happiness Rice

My second contribution is a soup I've pondered for a while. If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love Nigella Lawson. Forever Summer has a recipe for "Happiness Soup" -- simple, bright yellow and spirit-lifting.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this colour has such powers: the accompanying text declares "And not surprisingly in some Middle-Eastern cultures, it is believed, in Claudia Roden's words that 'eating yellow foods will result in laughter and happiness.'"

I made three minor alterations, but still kept with the happy-yellow theme: I added both onions and garlic, and increased the quantity of rice. The end result was absolutely wonderful-lemony and sharp and Middle Eastern-Indian in flare. As the soup sat in the pot while we ate our bowlfuls, the rice kept drinking up the broth and now I have a wondrous pot of Happiness Rice.

(photos from L-R: yellow courgettes, Happiness Soup, Happiness Rice)

Happiness Soup,
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer

1 onion, sliced into half lunettes
1 minced garlic clove
500g yellow courgettes, diced into 1/2-cm pieces (skin on)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one lemon
olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1125ml chicken stock (cubes, canned or homemade)
150g rice (Nigella recommends basmati, you can use whatever type you have on hand)
salt and pepper

Soften the onions in the olive oil until golden and slithery. Add the garlic and courgettes and zest. Stir around in the oil until everything glistens. Over cook until just softened--about 5ish minutes. Add the turmeric, stock and rice. Stir and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the rice and courgettes are tender. Season to taste. Serve warm (not piping hot).


*hence certain funny-but-true comments from my gal friends (you need to email me to get them). Yes, we all kept our senses of humour through it all...well...all of us except for my parents...they worried...it's their job...

edit: Almost 150 bloggers supported Barbara's event. Please take a moment to visit her round-up and visit some of the other participants.


add this page to del.icio.us


Lis said...

Awww I'm so happy that everything worked out the way it did! My mother was prone to develop benign tumors in her breasts around the same age as you did. I remember as a little girl going to visit her in the hospital when she had them removed..

We (my friends & family) deal with these kinds of situations with humor as well.. I truly believe if you can't laugh during something as stressful as the C word, you'd simply go insane.

The bread sounds wonderful and that soup! Oh how I want to try that soup.. terrific submissions, J!


s said...

for a minute there, i thought that first set of pictures were of your biopsy. what an odd biopsy. whew! so glad you're well. love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Happiness soup indeed, my friend! I have been continuously amazed at how this disease affects every single one of us.

Thanks for sharing such a personal experience and such beautiful food.

Unknown said...

Well done on the early detection Jasmine. Thank you for your support. Both dishes look yummy.

Freya said...

Early detection is the key so thanks for sharing your personal experience with us.
I have wanted to make Nigellas soup since I saw here prepare it on Forever Summer but it's hard to get yellow courgettes here, ironically enough! It looks beautiful though!

Anonymous said...

well, I'm glad you came out of your experiences all right. Sadly, it seems like people in the 20's/30's set end up "on the back burner" in terms of cancer screening/treatment.

and I completely agree about yellow-- the living room in every house I've lived in has been happy, golden yellow!

Peabody said...

I love the happiness soup. Though yellow usually makes me happy they tell you not to paint your baby's room yellow because they claim it causes them to cry more. Always found that interesting.

jasmine said...

Hello all --

Lis -- It's kind of like "he who must not be named" a la Harry Potter--calling cancer anything but, and not being able to laugh, gives it more power...

S - Sorry -- I edited the post when I saw your comment. Welcome, btw.

Ivonne, Barbara, Sarah - Thanks! I think it's important to talk about things like this...

F&P - Yellow courgettes can be difficult to find here as well...I just lucked out. The week after I made it, the specimens in the bigscarymegamart were absolutely revolting.

Peabody -- well...my nursery was yellow as well and Mum says I always slept through the night (except when I was sick).