December 12, 2019

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  • BUTTERED UP: Raisin cake and the seed bombs

    Raisin Cake. (Photo by Sarah Khanna)

    Felix Baumgartner is on television and in about a minute he will jump from an altitude of around 39,000 meters to Earth. I am piled up on a cream couch, cool blue blanket on my thighs and a thick cut of cake in my hand, eagerly waiting as the television presenters call it a historic moment like they do with most else.

    He opens the capsule and flies as I gawk with a gaping mouth at our world which hauls its farmers into court over patented (genetically modified) GMO seeds; which now passes pizza off as a vegetable; where agricultural land is being used to build golf courses.

    In all of this, I try to find some importance in writing about shriveled grapes and the recipe that I have this week but cannot in my awe of the moment; nevertheless I attempt to focus on the now unimportant cake, letting its crumbs fall into the lines on my palm.

    It’s good cake, dense and delectable. It reminds me that I have no vintage floral curtains to match its time-honored flavor and that I am not primped and polished enough, in a puffy printed skirt and freshly curled hair perhaps, to share it, to tame its natural sweetness with a steaming pot of tea and the warm company of a friend. It reminds me, when coupled with Felix, that I should be talking about something other than raisins,  juicy as they might be, chocolate covered or baked in custard-filled pastry.

    So I’ll do my part this week and spread the word about the first Egyptian seed bombing campaign taking place on Saturday, Oct. 20. Bozoor Balady is an initiative aiming to highlight the significance of biodiversity and to accentuate the amassed apathy for native Egyptian seeds. In short, our local seeds are gradually being replaced with more resilient genetically modified organisms produced and owned by a handful of corporations. This threatens our ability to sustain our local food production.

    Are you worried yet?

    The people behind Bozoor Balady (Greenpeace Egypt, Nawaya, Nabta and have chosen to raise public awareness by inviting people to join in shaping these seed grenades comprising compost, seeds, clay and water. This Saturday, they’ll be reclaiming public spaces in our cities with these seed bombs in the hopes of reminding average Egyptians of their rich agricultural heritage that should not be left to be consumed in its entirety by agribusiness and corporate farming. Join them and educate yourself, then come home and make cake.

    Raisin Cake
    (Adapted from the Sultana Cake at
    You’ll need:
    250 grams of butter, softened
    215 grams of castor sugar
    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
    3 eggs
    450 grams of plain flour
    1 teaspoon of baking powder
    125 ml of milk
    385 grams of golden raisins
    butter, to serve

    Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease a 9 x 19cm loaf pan. Line the base and the sides with baking paper. Use an electric beater to beat the softened butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs beating well after each addition until all is combined. Sift the flour and baking powder together separately. Fold half the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir in half the milk. Repeat with the second half of the flour and milk until well combined. Use a large spoon to fold in the raisins. Spoon cake mixture into prepared pan and bang onto a hard surface to release air pockets. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Set aside in the pan for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices and serve. This cake can be wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen for up to a month. To defrost, leave to thaw overnight in the fridge.


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