Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fig, Yoghurt and Almond Cake

I'm leaving for Berlin today! I'm really exited about this short trip. It's been ages since I've been away on holiday. But before I leave, I have another scrumptious recipe for you. Ottolenghi just never disappoints me, even when it comes to cakes. And again, it's the combination of flavors which makes this cake special - the addition of ground star anise gives it a unique taste. Also, it has wonderfully moist and dense consistency. In the original recipe, this cake comes with an extra helping of figs and yoghurt which I left out because I think this cake already is a hit on its own, but I posted it for you anyway if you feel like giving it a try.

(from: here)

200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar, plus 1 tsp extra
3 large free-range eggs
180g ground almonds
100g plain flour
½ tsp salt
Scraped seeds of ½ vanilla pod or ½ tspvanilla paste
1 tsp ground star anise
100g Greek yoghurt
12 figs

For the extra figs:

3 tbsp caster sugar
6 tbsp red wine
6 ripe figs, quartered
Greek yogurt

Heat the oven to 200C. Line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose-based cake tin with baking parchment. Put the butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl, and use a beater to work them well until they turn light and pale. Beat the eggs lightly, then, with the machine on medium speed, add them gradually to the bowl, just a dribble at a time, adding more only once the previous addition is fully incorporated. Once all the egg is in, mix together the almonds, flour, salt, vanilla and anise, and fold into the batter. Mix until the batter is smooth, then fold in the yogurt.

Pour the batter into the lined tin and level roughly with a palette knife or a spoon. Cut each fig vertically into four long wedges, and arrange in circles on top of the cake, just slightly immersed in the batter. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170C and continue baking until it sets - about 40-45 minutes longer. Check this by inserting a skewer in the cake: it's done if it comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool down before taking it out of the tin and sprinkling with a teaspoon of caster sugar.

You can eat the cake just as it is, but the addition of warm, syrupy figs turns it into something very special. Once the cake is cool enough, divide it into portions. Put three tablespoons of caster sugar in a medium saucepan and put on a high heat until the sugar starts to caramelise. Remove from the heat, carefully add the wine - it will spit a bit - then return to the heat and let the caramel dissolve in the wine. Add the fig quarters and quickly toss them around just to warm them up. Spoon a generous dollop of Greek yogurt over each slice of cake, plus a few warm figs and their juice.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rye Hazelnut Brownies

When it comes to brownies, there are no limits. Every now and then I stumble over a new recipe with a combination of ingredients I have never tried before. These here are made with rye flour which gives them a slightly different taste. I can't tell you how exactly, but it's different, delicious! As for the rest... these brownies are just the way they should be: chocolatey, moist and sticky.

(from: here)

125g unsalted butter
75g hazelnut oil (walnut oil works, too)
300g dark chocolate, chopped
275g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
75ml strong black coffee
250g rye flour (you could, of course also use plain flour)
¾ tsp baking powder
150g toasted hazelnuts, skinned
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the oil and chocolate, and stir over a low heat until melted. Beat in the sugar and eggs, then the coffee. Beat in the rye flour and baking powder until smooth, then stir in the hazelnuts. 
Spoon the batter into a deep, 20cm-25cm square cake tin lined with parchment paper (I used my 18x23 cm brownie tin), Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes; check it five minutes before the end, just in case the oven cooks it too quickly - it's always better slightly to underbake a brownie. Just stick a toothpick in the centre - if it comes out with barely cooked and sticky crumb on it, it's done. Remove from the oven and leave until the brownie is completely cold before cutting

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pumpkin, Saffron and Orange Soup with Caramelized Pumpkin Seeds

Boy, it's getting colder! Which is why I'm starting the week off with a soup recipe. This will warm you up and put a smile on your face on grey and rainy autumn days, believe me! Ottolenghi just never ceases to stun me with his fabulous flavor combinations. The roasted onions give this soup a slightly smokey touch. The saffron brings in the warmth. The orange peel adds a wonderful sweetness. It just all blends in perfectly with the pumpkin. And the spicy caramelized pumpkin seeds are so yummy, it's hard to stop oneself from sneaking them off the baking tray after taking them out of the oven...

(from: here)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
550g pumpkin flesh, cut into 2cm cubes
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp saffron fronds
1 litre water or vegetable stock
2 tsp grated orange zest
6 tbsp crème fraîche
Salt and white pepper

For the pumpkin seeds:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
60g pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp golden (or maple) syrup
½ tbsp soft brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 big pinch cayenne pepper

Serves six.

First prepare the seeds. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line an oven tray with greaseproof paper and brush with sunflower oil. Put the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with all the other ingredients, spread over the tray and bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring a few times, until a nice, golden color. Leave to cool down.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion, season and sauté over high heat for a minute, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft, sweet and golden brown, but not very dark.

Add the pumpkin, carrot and saffron, pour in water or stock to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the pumpkin and carrots are almost tender. Add the orange zest and simmer for five minutes longer. When the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, blitz the soup with a hand blender or liquidiser - you want it with a bit of texture, not too smooth. Add extra water or stock if it is too thick. Season to taste.

Serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of the caramelised seeds.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Liverpool Tart

Here comes something I've never tried before. The recipe for this tart requires you to boil whole lemons for almost two hours until they are very soft. To create the filling, you blend the boiled lemons in a food processor together with butter, sugar and eggs. Liverpool tart is a British treat. According to Google searches, the original recipe dates back to 1897. I was very keen to find out how this tart was going to turn out flavor-wise. Its taste is somewhat different from other lemon tarts which are usually almost overwhelmingly sweet. This filling is very soft and creamy, and it has a very distinctive taste which I would describe as a mixture of sour, bitter and sweet. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I liked it a lot - and don't you love its golden color?!

(from Marcus Wareing & Chantelle Nicholson: The Gilbert Scott Book of British Food)

Makes 1 tart

4 lemons
150 g unsalted butter
250 g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs

75 g soft unsalted butter
40 g icing sugar
1 free-range egg, beaten
150 g plain flour 
pinch of salt

Put the whole lemons in a pan of water and bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours, until soft; drain. Place in a blender or food processor with the butter, sugar & eggs and blend together. Set aside.

For the pastry, cream the butter with the icing sugar in a food processor or with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, then fold in the flour and salt. Roll out to a round 3mm thick to fit a 26cm tart tin that is 2,5cm deep. Transfer to a tray and place in the fridge to rest for 20 min.

Line the tart tin with the pastry, taking care not to stretch it; reserve the pastry trimmings. Put the tart case in the fridge to rest for 20 min.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the tart case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans, then bake blind for 25 min. Remove the beans and paper. Patch any holes with the pastry trimmings. Bake for a further 10 min,

Reduce the oven temperature to 165C. Fill the tart case with lemon mixture. Bake for 20-25 min, until lightly golden; there should still be a slight wobble in the centre of the filling. Leave to cool before serving.

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