For the last 10 or so months, I've managed an extremely stressful, political, and high profile project at my workplace. Stressful in that it involves real lives - communities who depend on and look to my organisation to provide information at crucial times. Political in that it's a government organisation and it's an election year. High profile in that our work regularly appears in the media; discussed and dissected over talkback radio, critiqued every day and covered in the evening's news. I've lost count of the number of times I've been bailed up at a party, subjected to general ignorance, misguided opinions or "why don't you just ...?" I won't bore you with the details but it involved long days, back to back meetings, repeated trips between multiple workplaces, and the goalposts changing day by day, hour by hour.
Working in such an environment under such testing conditions can expose the very best and worst in human behaviour. And so while I've experienced some fairly shoddy treatment from members of the public and even colleagues; I have also had the honour to work with some pretty amazing people too. People who put ego and personal agendas aside, who geniunely care about the communities they serve, dedicated to making a difference and helping to keep others safe - often at great personal expense, sacrificing time with loved ones, putting on hold plans for holidays or families, or taking care of their own backyards. One person in particular - T, who worked closely with me on the project - showed amazing dedication and worked absolutely above and beyond the call of duty.
Now on the eve of wrapping up the project, we may not be working in such close confines anymore, but the friendship lives on. Our shared passion for good food will surely endure as well. Today as I experimented in my kitchen with some sparkling wine, I created a birthday cake for T my fellow Taurean: the "Sparkling Citrus" - bubbly, zesty, sweet but with substance.
1 cup plain flour, sifted
5 large eggs, separated
80g caster sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
150ml sparkling sweet wine (I used Omni citrus)
Grated zest of two navel oranges; plus juice of 1
1 tsp baking powder
Prehead oven to 180C, grease a round springform cake pan and dust with flour. Whisk egg yolks and sugar with electric beaters until pale and creamy, then stir in oil, wine, zest and juice with a spoon, then add flour and baking powder and combine.
Beat egg whites until stiff, fold into mixture then pour the lot into prepared pan. Bake 25 mins, then turn oven down to 150C and bake another 20 mins. Turn off oven and open door slightly, cool cake in the oven. It will sink down in the middle but it's meant to - the texture will be fluffy and airy inside but with a nice brown crust on the outside.