Wednesday 26 November 2014

Honey and almond yoghurt cake with orange icing (no sugar)

I told you about the cake I baked for my boyfriend's and his mum's birthday, which ended up having a big hole in the middle... so the problem was that I had so little time on that day that I tried to do everything too quickly, including taking the cake out of it's mould. The heavier, still wet bit in the middle therefore stayed put. Sad times. Alas, today I made the cake again. Actually, I made it yesterday, and learning from the my previous mistake, I left it to cool overnight, then today I finished it off with the icing and the eating, while musing happily over the deeper life lesson learnt here. Which is "don't rush", if you're interested. Simple
You can probably detect the Middle-Eastern influence in this recipe - I replaced sugar with local honey, as they sometimes do in baklava, and the yoghurt is a little trick that my Greek friend Karina taught me, to keep the cake moist. The addition of ground almonds and orange blossom water completes the picture. A flying (or at least hovering) carpet to eat it on would be the ideal cherry-on-top, but clearly we're not quite there yet in terms of technology (seriously?)


250g unsalted butter
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour
150g good quality honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
150g greek yoghurt

250g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

I used my special method of cake-making whereby I melted the butter in a pan first, then added the honey and then the ground almonds. Once everything was gloopy, I turned the heat off and started to sift the flour in. Then an egg, then more flour, another egg, more flour... mixing all the time. Finally, I added the orange blossom water and honey and poured the whole lot into a greased baking tray and popped it into a pre-heated over for about 30min, 180 degrees C.

Note: This cake tastes great refridgerated

Friday 14 November 2014

An Autumn stew with beans and pumpkin

I was in Athens the other day visiting my heavily pregnant friend and wanted to make a huge pot of something that we could eat for dinner, then freeze for the busy days ahead. It's getting a bit chillier, even in Greece, so I was thinking warming and substantial dishes, and of course, the French cassoulet came to mind. The last time I made it was in the French Alps, and we ate it with great joy and relief almost (as well as fresh baguette), after a day on the slopes. But this was Greece - a different climate, different ingredients, so I reworked the recipe to include some lovely pumpkin that we found at the market, two types of dried Greek beans (black eye beans and another type I didn't recognise), Greek sausage with leek (rather than the traditional French garlic sausage). I made the recipe skinnier not for health reasons but because of the temperate climate here, so gone is the duck confit and goose fat and in come more meditterean vegetables. The French bouquet garni was also replaced, with local, wild oregano. This isn't fusion cuisine; this is using local, seasonal produce and creating a new version of a dish, based on a classic
Soak the beans overnight, then cook them slightly before you start the stew - about 15 minutes of simmering in salted water, then drain. Fry the chopped sausages first, in some of the olive oil, then remove from the pan, Add the lardons and the chopped onion next, fry for a couple of minutes, then add the grated carrots, chopped celery (which, incidently, looks completely different in Greece) and keep frying on a low heat, stirring now and again. After about 5min add the tomatoes, beans, white wine, garlic, herbs and spices. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down again and allow to simmer for about 10min or until the tomatoes start to disintergrate. Add some water and put the sausage back in the dish. Allow to simmer for about 45min, before adding the pumpkin and more wine/water if needed. After another 45min season the stew with plenty of salt pepper and taste. Perhaps it needs more paprika or oregano? I'd give it another half an hour on top of that before serving with crusty bread - so 2 hours of cooking time in total. The ingredients down there are approximate, as usual, so just experiment with the flavours and go with the flow

Ingredients - makes about 10 portions

1/4 large pupkin, roasted for 20min, peeled and chopped
6-8 leek sausages, chopped into bitesize pieces
200g lardons
1.5kg dried beans (2 types)
Bunch of celery (Greek celery is much thinner, so probably about 6 stalk of British celery)
3 red onions, chopped finely
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
10 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6-8 carrots, grated
1 tablespoon dried, wild oregano (if available)
1 teaspoon paprika
4 bay leaves
Half a bottle of white wine
Salt and pepper
Mild olive oil
Chilli flakes and crusty bread to serve

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Parsnip fries with turmeric mayo

The frothy sunsets and mild evenings of early Autumn disappeared overnight. The nip is taking over and we'll need to start wearing gloves soon. My hands are already permanently cold and turning a tinge of violent. But the multi-coloured leaves and some sunny skies make up for the slight discomfort of these days, and I still like it that I live in Europe, where we have such drastic changes in season. Come February and I'm sure that I'll have moments where I very strongly wish that I lived somewhere else,  somewhere more temperate. That's why the dream of two homes I guess, one in London, of course, and one somewhere not too far away, somewhere sunny where people smile more during Winter months. Just a daydream for now. For now I'm still enjoying the changes and wondering why I haven't cooked a pumpkin-something yet this Autumn, while eating these parsnip chips with turmeric mayo and planning next week's visits to my dear friends, Karina in Athens and Maja in Rome
Don't peel the parsnips, there's really no point, just chop them up into the size of fries, bearing in mind the thinner you get them, the crispier they shall be. Heat a mixture of sunflower and roasted sesame oil on a large pan (about half a centimeter to a centimeter of oil in total) and meanwhile, on another pan, toast your sesame seeds if using them. While the oil is heating you have the chance to make your turmeric mayo. You could make your own mayo like this (in which case you may want to start earlier than this), then add the turmeric paste or just use shop bought mayo like I did on this occasion. I am using the same turmeric paste that you use to make Golden Milk - good quality turmeric, water and black pepper (which increases the health benefits of turmeric). Use 1 tablespoon of mayo to 1/4 teaspoon of the paste. Heat the oil before frying the parsnips, and once cooked (should take 6-8min depending on the amount), place them on some newspaper for a couple of minutes to remove excess oil. Season with plenty of sea salt and add a sprinkling of sesame seeds