Letter to my lieveling
I’m so sorry for lying to you. However, I cannot promise I won’t ever do it again, yet I am sure you will forgive me for my transgressions. The lying started a while back now, ever since I started planning how I wanted to propose to you.
The scene I envisioned was something I could not realise without help, and this time I could not count on your council. I searched and searched for the right people to help me, which was made all the more difficult as we reside in England, and I wished to set the trap in the country of my birth.
I imagined Spring, you love Spring, I imagined fields of tulips, and how we would casually walk through them, you asking me What is that over there, not knowing I had that little picnic table set up for us, I imagined us walking towards that table, finding a picnic there, finding strawberries and cream there, your favourite, and then I would ask you to marry me.
This needed to be in the Netherlands, known for its tulip fields, the pictures you would always admire of all the colours everywhere, such splendour which I had not yet been able to give you, not for lack of trying. So a tulip farm I sought, not beforehand knowing what a challenge that would be. There were no simple listings for tulip farmers, or tulips farms, or tulips, or anything tulip related. I contacted many people, hoping for response, never expecting it. For help I turned towards my mother, and she was more than happy to oblige. Even though I did not ask her to, she contacted people with flower gardens, theme parks, even television shows. Seeing as you and I are quite private people, none of these suggestions seemed to be perfect, nevertheless, they staid on top of my mother’s little list. Eventually, she found a contact that I jumped on. It was like a little federation of tulip farmers, all linked together to promote their trade on this little platform. I reached out to them, and my plight was received by the ever so enthusiastic Marja Hoorweg. What an exceptionally fun idea, she said, Something us tulip farmers really cheer for, she said. And as such, she put me in touch with a remarkably wonderful couple of people, tulip event organisers Yvon Faber and Margot Maljaars.
And the lying continued, Who are you talking to, What are you talking about, What are you doing, all questions met with false answers for a long period of time. Sometimes, when I would talk to my mother, or my sister, or my brother, I would refrain from translating, or lie about the gist of the conversations. Because your Dutch is getting better and better, my family and I would use temperaments that did not fit the actual tone of the conversations, or use code words. I truly am sorry for all the deceit. Many a time I was talking to Yvon, claiming it was my mother, hoping you would not get suspicious, hoping you would not find out what I was up to. The lying even persisted in reacting to things you wanted. Knowing we would go to the Netherlands to help my brother move to Belgium, you kept asking if it would not be possible to visit a tulip field this year, because we may not have a chance any time after this to do that. I had to answer sternly No, and You know we are going there to help my brother not so you can ogle at flowers. If only you knew.
We had moved my brother, painted his apartment, helped him clean the place, and all the getting up early was getting to you. All work and no play makes Yas a cranky girl. And then the day arrived that ‘my brother had to take us all the way to the other side of the Netherlands to go view a discount couch in some farmer’s barn’, which meant getting up even earlier than usual, so we would have a nice morning ‘couch viewing’. Even though I had told you to dress up pretty, just in case we would be somewhere I could take pictures of you, still you chose to dress practically, in case you would have to climb over couches and tables in that barn we had told you about. Off we went, early in the morning, my mother at the wheel, my brother sleeping in the passenger seat, you looking out the window, looking at the cows, the fields and the trees we passed by. It was a long drive to that special barn, but the views alone made it more than worth it. After two hours and a bit driving — the Netherlands is relatively small — we started nearing our destination, and tulip fields were popping up besides the roads. All the colours, all the flowers, you loved it. Suddenly, I saw my tulip field, and we turned onto the grounds of the farm where we had to be. You were looking around, seeing the tulips, but also looking for the couch barn, and saw my mum turning onto a little dirt road, putting us right beside the tulip field. The little path was blocked by a car, and my mother and brother got out to talk to the drivers of that car (spoiler alert: Yvon and Margot). I pulled you out of the car as well, with the excuse, While they are sorting the road out, we can maybe go see the tulips from up close.
And so it was Spring, you love Spring, we saw fields of tulips, and how I dragged you casually through them, you wondering What is that table doing there with that little blanket, not knowing Yvon and Margot had put that there for us, we walked towards the table, finding a picnic there, finding strawberries and cream there, of which you contemplated stealing some, and then I turned you around.
You know you are the most special person in the world to me, and that I never want to imagine being without you, what we have, us, this, it is the most precious thing I have ever been in, that I have ever had, I love you very much.
While I was making my little speech, fighting back my tears, all I could see were your eyes flashing from me, to the field, to me, to behind me where no doubt you saw my mother and Margot taking pictures of us, I saw your synapses flashing and all I could hear you say was No no no no no no no and What what what what, as you were startled, and had no idea what to process.
And I was wondering
No no no no no no no no
Will you marry me?
Of course I will!
Never before had you seen a real tulip field, and then you were having an early morning breakfast in one, with a blanket saying Love around your shoulders, a diamond ring around your finger, and the tulips were as red as the cream covered strawberry at your lips. It was exactly what I had envisioned; it could not have gone more perfectly. Finally I was allowed to tell you all about everything, no more lies. As I was yapping about everything, you still looked shocked, as if you still could not believe what had happened. Then you asked me So we are not going to see any furniture today, No today is your day, I don’t know how I feel about that. I hope you will never forget the 7th April 2017, and that the end justifies the means, but like I said, I cannot promise never to lie to you again, one day, I may just have to.
You are my sunshine.
Golden Chamomile and Salted Honey Milk Cake with a Wild Fennel Buttercream
Cooking time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 layers (4.5inch cake tin)
On our way back to Eindhoven, Djamo and his family surprised me once again by detouring and visited the Keukenhof, a botanical garden only open for a few weeks of the year, decorated extensively with tulips. Whilst we were there, we also visited the indoor orchid exhibition, which was absolutely incredible and was something I wanted to incorporate into this cake. The cake itself is dusted in gold, a nod to my beautiful engagement ring and incorporates a salt + pepper feel of my asymmetrical diamond with the addition of the spice of angels sprinkled in the buttercream. The sweet spicy flavour of liquorice is something I associate with the Netherlands, along with dairy produce (thanks to the lovely Frisian cows dotted across the country) and, along with the chamomile, rhubarb and wild fennel pollen, really brings out a delightfully light and hauntingly floral cake.
Aniseed and Chamomile Milk Sponge
4tbsp dried chamomile
1/2tsp anise seeds, ground (can be substituted with fennel seeds)
2/3cup whole milk
2tbsp heavy cream
2tbsp ground almonds
1cup plain flour, minus 2 tbsp
3 egg whites
1 egg yolk
1cup granulated sugar
1 1/4tbsp baking powder
3/4cup butter, room temperature
white muisjes (optional) (to decorate)
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan-assisted) 350f. In a saucepan over a medium heat, add the milk and the dried chamomile and stir until the milk comes to a boil. Take off the heat and place a lid over the pan. Allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, grind the anise seeds in a mortar and add to the granulated sugar. Sieve the flour, ground almonds, salt, cornstarch and baking powder together and set aside. In a bowl, add the butter and the sugar together and whisk together until light and fluffy. Add the 3 egg whites and the egg yolk and continue to whisk for a further 5 minutes.
Now that the milk has had time to infuse and cool slightly. Pour through a sieve to catch the solids (don’t worry if smaller solids are in your batter, they are edible) and into a bowl, discarding the solids. Pour the milk into the wet ingredients along with the heavy cream and with a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients together before adding the dry ingredients. Stir until combined.
Pour 1/4th of the batter into 4 cake tins (I only have two 4.5inch cake tins, so I baked two at a time) and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the cake tin and set on a cooling rack.
When all the layers are baked and cooled, begin to build the cake. Place the first layer on a plate (or stand) and spread with 1/4th of the rhubarb jam and 1/4th of the salted honey cream filling. Add the next layer and repeat. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes (this helps to ensure that each layer doesn’t fall off when spreading the buttercream). Take out of the freezer and spread the white buttercream over the entire cake before applying the golden buttercream in clumps to different sections of the cake and smoothing out (I wanted a rustic feel, so I was fairly restrained with my smoothing of the frosting and ensured that the golden buttercream did not cover the entire cake as I wanted bits of the white frosting to stand out). Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
Take out of the cake and using a pastry brush, generously brush the golden buttercream with gold dust (do not brush the white buttercream). Decorate with white muisjes (sugared aniseed) and serve. Store in clingfilm and eat within 3 days.
Salted Honey Cream Filling
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: approximately 1 1/2cups
2tbsp local honey
250ml heavy cream
Mix the honey and salt together and set aside. Whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks are formed. Pour in the salted honey and whisk for 1 minute before setting aside in the refrigerator until needed.
Cooking time: 15 minutes, plus overnight
Makes: 1 small jar
1tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1/2 lemon
Chop the rhubarb and place in a saucepan with the sugar and the lemon juice. Over a medium heat, cook the rhubarb, stirring continuously, until the rhubarb has disintegrated in a sauce and all the sugar has melted completely. When the jam has thickened and reduced slightly (tip: the jam is ready when it wrinkles to the touch when cooled on a plate). Take off the heat and pour in a heat-proof jar or bowl and allow to cool completely. Cover with clingfilm till needed.
Wild Fennel Buttercream
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: approximately 2 1/4cups
1 tbsp wild fennel pollen (spice of angels)
1 cup butter
1 1/2cup confectionary sugar
2-3tbsp whole milk
1/2tsp gold dust plus extra for brushing
Whisk the butter and confectionary sugar together until combined and creamy. Add the pollen and the milk and mix together. Take 1/4 of the buttercream and place in a separate bowl. Add 1/2tsp gold dust to smaller portion of buttercream and combine until evenly coloured. Cover both bowls and set aside until needed.
Thank you for reading.