Apricot, walnut and lavender cake

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It was love at first sight. And, timing couldn’t have been better. I was just looking for my annual super baking project when I bumped into this recipe.  It was so delicious, I will have to bake it again. And again… and again. Never mind the Modern Art Cakes – this the one I want I want for my birthday. Truth to be said, it is not particularly difficult dish.  But the flavours, oh!, the flavours….  It were layers upon layers of fresh, summery and nutty flavours, each mouthful different.

Apricot, walnut and lavender cake  (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 120g ground walnuts
  • 90g plain flour
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
  • Salt
  • 600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed

For the icing

  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

 Method

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.

Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.

Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.

While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.

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Roasted beetroot with chestnuts, red onions and balsamic vinegar

roasted beetroot with chestnuts and red onion

I was not joking: here it goes #beetrootgate dish number 3. I tried this recipe once, out of one of favorite cookbooks long before I had a blog. As beetroots were pulling up in the fridge, it seemed like a good idea to try it again.  And, it was as lovely as I remembered it, with lots of different flavors and textures. A perfect side dish for you winter roasts…

Roasted beetroot with chestnuts, roasted red onions and balsamic vinegar (adapted from Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas’ Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations)

Ingredients

  • 3 large beetroots washed and cooked, sliced (pay attention not to pull the vinegary ones from the shelf)
  • olive oil to taste vinegar to taste
  • 3 red onions cut into quarter
  • 8 roasted chestnuts, crushed with a mortar and pestle
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 190oC/3750F/mark 5

Place the sliced beetroots* in a roasting tray, and drizzle them with a generous amount of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 25min. Reserve.

Put the quartered onions in a small roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place them at the bottom of the oven and roast for about 20min. Reserve.

When everything is ready, place a large heavy-based non stick frying pan on a medium heat and  put in enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When is piping hot and begins to smoke, drop in half the onions and  season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 min, until the beetroots start to get dark, stirring occasionally, Add half the roasted onions and dash of balsamic vinegar. Mix well, and add the half the chestnuts. Cook together another 3min. Reserve.  Repeat whit what is left of the ingredients.

Just when the second batch is about to get ready, put in the reserved portion. Drizzle again with olive and let it cooked until everything is well mixed.

*If you cannot find cooked beetroots, cook them by bringing them to boil in a large pan with salt and water and bring them to simmer for about 3h. After allowing them to cool, peel of the skins.


Chestnut soup with rosemary pesto

Still bitterly cold in Zurich. The type of weather that calls for a hearty soup to keep you warm… Randomly found this recipe in Mafalda Pinto Leite’s Cozinha Para Quem Não Tem Tempo [Cooking for those who have no time]. The combination of flavors looked exactly what I was looking for and I even fancied chestnuts, for whatever obscure metabolical reasons. You cannot wrong with this recipe, but this gets hardly done in the 30min she claims it take.  The original recipe called for 150mL of cream to be added at the end. I found it a bit excessive and replaced the cream an equivalent quantity of chicken stock.

It was really good and soul warming. And, it is really worthwhile to make the rosemary… it just gives the soup a little punch, making it more interesting.

Chestnut soup with rosemary pesto

Ingredients for the soup

  • 800g of peeled chestnuts (I used frozen ones)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil – about 120 mL
  • 2 yellow onions chopped
  • 3 celery sticks sliced
  • 125g bacon slices, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red skin potato
  • 1,5L chicken stock

Ingredients for the rosemary pesto

  • 1 table spoon of finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 20g pinenuts
  • salt
  • 40g of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 100 mL olive oil.

Method

Heat the olive oil in a big saucepan until it shimmers. Add the onion, celery, bacon and garlic. Cook for 10min or until the onion get soft and the mix start to color.

Add the chestnuts, the potato and the garlic. Add in salt and pepper to taste.

Bring it to boil, cover, and then let it simmer for about 25min, or until all ingredients are  soft.

In the meanwhile, start the pesto. Put the rosemary, garlic and pinenuts in a mixer. Blend and after, add the cheese and the salt. Add slowly the olive oil, mixing at the same time so you get a creamy mixture.

Finally, blend in the soup (if you want to add cream, this is your chance to do it).

Serve the chestnut cream sprinkled with the pesto.


Pan-fried pork with chestnuts

To keep up with the Autumn spirit, an old Portuguese classic. The sort of dish that reminds of home, rich, tasty  hearty. Just what you need for a cold grey day.

The recipe is by Chefe Silva, from his book Recipes for My Friends. The paprika is a replacement of colarau, a condiment used in Portuguese cuisine made with the different types of Capsicum. They are more or less the same, but colorau tends to have a stronger saltier taste and give a radioactive red color to the food.

Pan-fried pork with chestnuts

Ingredients

  • 700g pork (preferably loin or sirloin)
  • 1,5 dL white wine
  • Salt, pepper and paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 smashed gloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • 750g frozen chestnuts

Method

Cut the meat into small pieces weighing app. 15g and season them with white wine, salt, pepper, paprika and the garlic. Let it marinate for about 1 hour. Then drain the meat, squeezing it very well. Save the marinade. Heat up the lard in heavy bottom frying pan, add the meat and let it fry at strong heat, stirring well. When brown add the chestnuts and let it fry for another 3 to 5 min. Then add the marinade you saved, and let reduce for about 2 min. Serve the dish with oranges or with apple jam.


Pumpkin bread

Normally, I only publish dishes I have made with my own hands. But, this pumpkin bread baked by the lovely K. made me change my mind. I picked a slice, and  just couldn’t stop eating it. I had to go for a second slice. And a glass of milk.  Then, everything make sense again…

Pumpkin bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 (=100g)  white flour
  • 3/4 (=100g) wholewheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (see recipe below)
  • ½ cup (=115mL ) olive oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup water (=60mL)
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F (=180°C) and generously coat the inside of a loaf pan with your preferred cooking spray. Use a non-stick pan, if you have one.

Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Set aside your dry ingredients.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices thoroughly. Combine your wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, mixing lightly. Fold in the nuts and pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. If the loaf is browning too quickly on top, you can cover it with foil for the last ten to fifteen minutes of baking.

Turn your pumpkin bread out of the pan and let it cool on a wire rack. Quick breads taste great warm but will crumble badly when you cut them before they have cooled completely. The bread will taste best after sitting for several hours or overnight, to allow the flavors to marry

Pumpkin purée

To make pumpkin purée, cut a small pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Lay the halves facedown on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour.

You can also cut your pumpkin into pieces and roast or boil them until tender. This makes removing the skin much easier. Cool the squash, scoop out the flesh, and mash it with a fork. Freeze whatever squash you don’t use