A couple of years latter, with a different camera and the right almond meal… St James cake, take 2. Also, it doubles up as my birthday cake. A far cry from the formidable cakes years of the past few years, but still a sophisticated, luscious and almondy affair to put on the table with a glass of prosseco.
Almond cake (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)
- Baking spray or butter and flour as required
- 3 large eggs
- 150g of sugar
- 150g of almond meal (make sure you are using the off white mixture, made with pealed almonds)
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- Icing sugar as required
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour). It has to be a large one, like a 40 cm round one)
2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and the sugar until you have a pale yellow foamy mixture
3. Add the the ground almond and the cinnamon to the egg mixture. Fold it slowly in the same direction with a wooden spoon, until you obtain a fluffy and airy mixture.
4. Pour the mixture in the tray (it should be must be about 1.5cm deep)
5. Put in the oven for about 20min, or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of tray when you take it out of the tray.
6. Sprinkle icing sugar on top of it before serving.
To keep up with the British traditional foods motif, a mess. Whatever fruits you were using, it us all in all, a very summery dessert, perfect to serve to a crowd. If you buy the meringue, you will have it done in no time, without the need to get close to the stove, even.
Raspberry and strawberry Eton Mess (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday)
- 250g strawberries
- 35g caster sugar
- 350mL double cream lightly whipped
- 150g of meringue
Halve the strawberries, thickly slicing any whoppers. Put in a large bowl with the raspberries and sugar. Roughly crush and squeeze some of the berries with your hands so the juices start to run. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for an hour or two.
To assemble the mess, break the meringues into rough pieces, then fold into the whipped cream. Now lightly fold in the chilled fruit, so everything is rippled together rather than thoroughly blended. Pile into glasses and serve. You can make it an hours or so in advance, but not more, or the meringue will go weepy in the cream.
A dish specially dedicated to B., who passionately loves quinoa. (not). Much for his despair, quinoa invaded the summer salad world and then slowly start to creep up into brunch domains and now makes an appearance in pudding-land. Actually, this is a sort of upside down deconstructed crumble (minus butter) also ideal for a brunch menu… It is very tasty, filling and it can even be considered * gasp * super healthy.
Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Bake (adapted from a recipe found in fitsugar.com)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 apples, peeled, diced
- 1/4 cup (app 50g)raisins
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups (500mL) milk with the seeds of 1 vanilla pod
- 1/4 (50mL) cup maple syrup
- 1/3 (app 75g) cup almonds, chopped
Preheat the oven to 200oC. Lightly grease a baking dish.
In a small bowl, mix the uncooked quinoa with the spices. Pour into the greased dish. Sprinkle the apple and raisins on top of the quinoa.
In that same small bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk and maple syrup. Pour the egg-and-milk mixture over the top of the fruit and quinoa. Lightly stir to partially submerge the fruit. Sprinkle the chopped almonds on top.
Bake for 1 hour or until the casserole is mostly set with only a small amount of liquid left.
Allow to cool, and then cover and refrigerate.
I saw it on TV, I did it and I ate it… well, with a bit of help from the mobile calorie intake units. It is just the perfect dessert – it is glamorous, delicious and can be made in advance. There is not much technique to it, except, maybe, peeling the pears. And, it might be the healthiest part of dinner, even…
Poached pears with ginger, red chilli pepper and star anise (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking)
- 8-10 ripe conference pears, peeled but with the stem intact
- 200g of sugar
- 3 thumbs of ginger, cut into thick slices (about 20cm)
- 4 star anise, crushed to fine powder with a mortar and pestle
- 3 peperoncino (or red chillies peppers, to taste)
- Enough cold water to cover the pears.
Peel the pears with a potato peeler, taking care to leave the stems intact.
Put the water, the sugar and the ginger in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the pears and peperoncino and poach for about half hour until their are soft and cooked through.
Set aside and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.
When you are ready to serve, just put the pears in the plate and sprinkle them with the star anise dust.
If you want, you can bubble the syrup for a a few more minutes to thicken a bit and serve with the pears. Or, you can prepare a chocolate sauce (just melt the chocolate in bain marie, with a bit of butter, being careful not to boil it. Add some cream and mix well). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra quick.
To keep up with the spirit of seasonal cooking, a lemon pudding cake with raspberries… Only one word to describe this: yum. Too bad soon enough berries will be gone from the supermarket…
- Enough berries to cover the bottom of a tray (about 250g)
- 75g of plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 300mL buttermilk
- 125g unsalted butter (melted and cooled down)
- 3 eggs separated
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Preheat the stove to 180oC
Grease a 750mL to 1L baking dish. Make sure this dish fit fits larger tray, so you can have a bain marie. Scatter the berries over the base of the greased dish, making sure the whole surface is covered
Combine in a large bowl the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.
In another bowl, lightly whisk together the melted butter, the buttermilk, the yolks, the sugar and the lemon zest.
Stir into the flour mixtures
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks forms
With a metal spoon, fold in the batter half of the egg whites until well incorporated. Then, fold in the remaining half.
Spread the batter over the berries in the baking dish.
Put the baking dish in the large baking tray. Poor boiling water in the larger dish until it reaches halfway up the sides, creating a main marie.
Transfer to the stove for about 45m to 1h, until it starts to get fluffy and golden (it should be cakey on the top and soft in the middle).
Let it cool for a bit and serve.
Believe it or not, this was a last minute dessert. It looks spectacular, it tastes scrumptious and is a fool proof recipe. Home cooking doesn’t get much better than this…
- 6 egg whites
- 220g golden caster sugar
- 200g dark chocolate roughly chopped
- 100g pistachio nuts,roughly chopped plus extra to decorate
- 3oo mL double cream (or whipped cream)
Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
In a sheet large enough to cover a baking tray draw a circle with 26cm diameter
Turn the paper around and put it on the tray
Whist the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, one spoon of a time, whisking between every addition until all the sugar is well incorporated.
Fold in the chocolate and the sugar.
Transfer to the baking tray and spread out, keeping the mixture roughly inside the circle.
Put in the oven for about 1h or until cooked through.
Beat the cream to soft peaks, spread over the meringue once it is evenly cool. Scatter with extra pistachios.
I can remember those cooking marathons my Mother used to endure around Christmas time, when all the cooking would be put to an halt to produce countless pots of marmelada. Do not confuse with marmalada... Marmelada is a very sugary quincy purée, which is a staple in every Portuguese kitchen. It seems to be something the Romans learnt from the Greeks, and which staid with us until today,wikipedia dixit.
In any case, I would have thought to use the actual fruits for a dessert until I saw this recipe. And, I am glad I have tried it. Once you start with it, you just want to come back for more.
Quince poached in pomegranate juice (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)
- 2 large quinces, peeled and quartered
- 800ml pomegranate juice
- 70g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
- The shaved peel of 1 large orange, plus 50ml juice
- 2 whole star anise
- 65g pomegranate seeds
- 120g clotted cream
- 2 tsp fresh mint leaves (optional)
Core the eight quince quarters. Discard four cores and tie the others into a bundle with an old tea towel or muslin. Put the cored quince quarters into a heavy-based pan and add the wrapped-up cores, pomegranate juice, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds, orange peel and juice, and star anise. Bring to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15-25 minutes, until the quince is soft.
Remove the quince quarters with a slotted spoon and set aside. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes or so, until it’s thick, syrupy and reduced to about 75ml. Just before serving, squeeze all the thick juices out of the core bundle into the sauce, then discard along with the orange peel, star anise and vanilla. Return the quince to the syrup and gently warm through. Place two quarters of quince on each plate, pour over some syrup and serve with clotted cream and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and shredded mint (if using)
Pain perdu literally means “lost bread” in French. As in the bread which you cannot eat while french and becomes stale. Probably during Roman times, a resourceful cook realized that if the bread was softened by dipping it in milk and/or eggs and then fried, it could be converted it into a delicious dish apt for all tastes. I grew up in Portugal eating it, as fatias douradas [golden slices] over Christmas, generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When I moved to Spain, I learnt their name was in fact torrijas and it would make its appearance later down the year during Lent. I am pretty sure if I bring this topic up in the office, Swiss and the Germans would claim to have their own variety of the dish. But, that belongs to another post… To close the debate, it might be worthwhile mentioning there is a considerable difference between fatias douradas, torrijas and pain perdu. The iberian varieties are deep fried, while the French opt for browning them with butter.
In any case, when I found an ancient panettone in the back of the cupboard, I remembered this recipe I had seen ages ago in a Gordon Ramsay’s book. It also had been a while ever since I used this book, and in fact, I even had a perfect group of [s]suffering guests[/s] testers coming home for brunch. Perfect occasion, perfect ingredients, perfect guests… As every Gordon’s recipe, if you follow the instructions to the letter, you will get exactly what you are supposed to get. Probably due to the differences in the ingredients, the raspberry mix got a bit messy, but nothing a pair of experienced hands couldn’t fix to the right consistency and taste. All in all, in almost less time than it took to cook it, not only I managed to get rid of old panettone but also had a very happy and satisfied crowd. Definitely calories worthwhile taking.
Pain perdu with raspberries and ricotta (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food: Recipes from The F Word)
- 125g ricotta cheese drained
- 125g mascarpone
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 200g raspberries
- 25g butter
- 4 slices of panettone
- 3 large eggs beaten
1. Put the ricotta, mascarpone, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until it is smooth. Fold half the raspberries and mix softly.
2. Put 1 slice of panettone in the egg mix and let it soak for a couple of minutes.
3. Fry the slice on both sides until golden brown (about a couple of minutes). Take it out of the pan and put it in a serving plate.
4. Repeat (2-4).
5. Put a generous spoon of the raspberry mix on top of the warm slices of fried panettone, and finish with the remaining raspberries.
2. Melt the butter in a non stick pan until it begins to foam.
You have read it correctly – there are no typos in this sentence nor it is poorly constructed. While the vast majority of cakes have frosting on top or in the middle, the batter of this sponge cake was indeed made using a vanilla buttercream frosting. If there is an Annals of Improbable Culinary Research in this world, this dish would be worthwhile a cover. Or, at least a featured article. In fact, the vanilla buttercream frosting cake is so unlikely to be reproduced, that I will not even try to write down the recipe. If anything, because I cannot remember what ingredient was used when, or the proportions.
Even wannabe-food-bloggers have a less-inspired days in the kitchen. Sometimes, things just don’t go the way you expect – and as we say in Portugal, o que torto nasce, tarde ou nunca se endireita [what is born crooked, late or never gets straightened]. It looked like an semi-easy cake when I read the recipe. But a few hours latter, with the cake still half done and a totaled kitchen, it seemed that I had made a colossal strategic mistake.
Everything went sort of OK, until I tried to whisk the egg whites to soft glossy peaks. I must have done this thousands of times and at this point in my life, I don’t even consider the possibility of failure. But, not today. The white egg mix split, and there was nothing I could do about it. They were split and they remained split, no matter what grandmother tricks I used. I had no other solution but start all over again.
When I thought the worst was over and the cake was placidly sitting on the stove, I started on the frosting, using a Nigella recipe. Instead of a consistent white cream I was supposed to get, I ended up with a grey-greenish liquidy crème with lots of white floaters. I tried to sieve it, as recommended by most Mothers and professional chefs. After this delicate operation, the floaters were gone, but the grey-greenish liquidy could not be used to finish any serious cake. Again, had to start again, this time using the recipe of the original recipe. It called for a lot of butter and even more sugar, but .. it worked. I have to bitterly add, that Nigella’s recipe failed me not once, but twice.
At this point, I had my kitchen bench full of discarded elements: the gray-greenish liquid (basically, butter, sugar, vanilla and some flour), 3 yolks and something that resembled beaten white eggs. Meaning, the elements you need for a cake. Following tje directions of a very basic recipe of sponge cake, I added the egg yolks one by one to the butter and sugar “cream”. Then I tossed in enough flour – and 1 teaspoon of baking powder – to obtain a batter with a nice consistency. Finally, I folded in the egg whites. No need for a lot of TLC- it was actually quite the opposite of this.
Finally, I dropped into the stove, previously heated to 175oC (pretty much a standard of baking), and waited until a wooden stick came out dry from the center of the cake.
The result was a surprisingly light sponge cake, with a fresh almondy – vanilla taste. None of the testers was aware of the precarious conditions of this experiment, and fortunately they are all still alive. Some of them even asked for seconds (and got them).
I cannot make rice pudding the way my Mother does. No matter how many times I have watched her doing it or how scrupulously I follow her instructions, it is not the same thing. It doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t feel the same and it doesn’t do her recipe any justice. It seems just impossible to reproduce her pudding rice. For a while, I tried other recipes, like the one Spanish chef Juan Maria Arzak has in one of his books, to less than optimal results.
A few days ago, while watching season 2 of Masterchef Australia, I saw how Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris did this rice pudding during one of their masterclasses. It looked delicious, packed with different flavors and textures, and they comprehensively explained how to cook it. And, I decided it to give a another go to rice pudding. Anyway, what sort of expectations would you have on an Australian rice pudding recipe? It was worthwhile the effort. In fact, there was a respectful silence around the table while people eat their desserts… Do not feel tempted to remove the tarragon, on the pretenses that no rice pudding has green stuff on it. With the orange, it is a delicious combination.
Rice Pudding with Orange Jewels, Tarragon and Puffed Rice
- 40g caster sugar (or sugar too taste )
- 700ml milk (the real thing, with all its fat)
- 135g Arborio rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
Candied orange peel
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- the peel of 1 orange, pith removed, julienned in the vertical
- 1 orange, peeled zest, pith removed, julienned
- tarragon leaves,
- 1/4 cup puffed rice, toasted
- 1 orange flesh segmented
- 15g caster sugar
- 1 ½ tsp agar agar powder (do not follow the instructions on the bottle, as they are aimed to get a gelatin consistency. The jewels need to be solid to be cut properly, so it is OK if you add agar agar in excess).
- 190ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I used the juice of 2 oranges and topped with water until I had 250mL of liquid)
Step 1: For the candied orange peel, place 1 cup of the sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium, add orange peel and simmer gently for 45 minutes until syrupy. If you are not using it immediately, it is better to separate the peels and letter then cool).
Step 2: For the orange jelly, line a 500ml plastic container with cling film. Add ¼ cup water, orange juice and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in agar agar and whisk for about 5 minutes until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into the lined container. Refrigerate for about 25 minutes or until set. Invert jelly from container onto a board and cut into 1cm cubes.
Step 3: For the rice pudding, add the milk, rice, vanilla bean and seeds to a non-stick saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until creamy and the rice is tender, stirring regularly. Add the remaining sugar and stir for about 2 minutes until dissolved (I had to use the whole 1-L of milk, as the rice absorbed the first 700mL of milk).
Step 4: To serve, divide rice pudding between serving bowls. Arrange the jelly jewels on top, along with the orange segments, tarragon leaves, candied orange peel, a spoonful of syrup and some puffed rice. Serve immediately.