Saturday, June 25, 2011

A closer look

Not a lot going on in my kitchen today (see Elsewoman). But I did have a superb mushroom soup for lunch, finished with lemon juice and zest - I got the recipe and will post it when I've tried it out. Dinner was a quick and simple combination of clams in their juice with vermouth, cream and parsley, served over spaghetti.

But before I made this, I went out to the garden in the late afternoon and picked the last of the raddichio. The punnet of seedlings I planted in that pot was labelled "Cos lettuce" - I wanted it for Caesar salads. But I was more cheerful about having raddichio instead when I found it was selling in Moore Wilson for $25 a kilo. Today its beauty made me feel better - Harvey would have approved of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

California sunshine

For a professed non-baker, the number of cake posts seems to be increasing rather fast, but that's just too bad - or good. For a dessert last week I made one I found years ago in a US vegetarian cookbook. (I kept only this one recipe and have since lost the book, so I can't recall who wrote it.) I know New Zealand oranges are really out of season, but as it's a Californian recipe, I thought it would be okay to use Californian oranges.      
        The original quantities contain mysterious US measurements like "a stick of butter" (about 60 grams, so my American friends tell me). The recipe also specifies " "buttermilk" (I use half milk and half plain yoghurt) and "pastry flour", which is apparently halfway between "cake flour" (only 8 to 9 percent protein) and normal flour (11% protein or more). We don't have either cake flour or pastry flour - well, I've never seen any here - but I just use normal standard flour and it seems to work fine.

Californian orange and raisin cake

2 oranges
1 cup seedless raisins
60 g butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk, mixed with 1/3 cup plain yoghurt
2 cups sifted white flour
1 tsp baking soda
another 1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange flavoured liqueur (I use a cheapish triple sec, it's less sweet)

- Set oven to 180C.
- Prepare cake tin - a well greased ring tin carefully lined with paper on the bottom works well, or use a medium-sized square tin lined with baking paper - have it coming up the sides and extending a little beyond the rim so you can lift the cake out easily later.
- Juice the oranges, strain juice and set it aside. Grind the two orange rinds in a food processor with the raisins.
- Add all other ingredients except the orange juice, and process just to combine.
- Spread evenly in tin and bake for about 45 minutes - a square tin takes a little longer - until a skewer ot thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- While cake is baking, mix 3/4 cup of the orange juice, the second 1/4 cup sugar, and the liqueur in a jug.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, spoon this liquid evenly all over the top.
- When the cake is almost cold and has absorbed the liquid, either lift it carefully out of the square tin using the bake paper, or for a ring tin, turn it carefully out onto a plate and then immediately invert it onto another plate so the top is again on top.

It has a really fruity, moist texture and tastes beautifully orangey, but not too sweet - I use less sugar than the original recipe. I'm afraid this is the last slice (yes, once again I forgot to snap it before we ate it), and it's a bit fuzzy - the photo, not the cake. If you have leftover cake, keep it in the fridge and take it out ahead of time, or warm it up gently, if you want to serve it for dessert - it shouldn't be eaten really cold. You can serve it with whipped cream, slightly flavoured with orange liqueur, or with yoghurt - vanilla is nice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Such a simple lemon cake...

Now this post will probably be of no use to all those savvy readers who've been making this cake ever since they could first say "Alison Holst". But as I thought there just might be someone out there who hadn't heard about it, and it's the only cake I set out to make that never, ever goes wrong, I thought it would be worth writing about. I got some free lemons from my friends from Linton, and I needed something to serve as dessert, so I made it for Monday night. I originally got the recipe from Ali, but she says it's really from the other Alison. The ingredients are listed in the order you use them.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

1 and 3/4 cups sugar (I cut this down a little to 1 and 1/2)
rind of two medium lemons
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup yoghurt (any kind, plain or sweetened, though of course lemon is good - but more expensive)
2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups self-raising flour

Set oven to 180C. Grease and flour cake tin - a ring tin with baking paper on the bottom works well. Or else just put baking paper into a square tin.
Put sugar and lemon rind into food processor bowl. Process until completely combined.
Add eggs, oil and salt. Process until thick and smooth.
Add yoghurt and lemon juice and process to mix.
Add flour and process briefly, just to combine.

Pour into tin and bake at 180C for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (A square tin may take a bit longer.) Cool for 10 minutes before removing from tin.
Serve with icing sugar sieved over the top, and/or either whipped cream or plain or lemon yoghurt or lemon sorbet.

As you can see, it's still a tiny bit damp at the bottom - I was in a hurry and took it out of the oven slightly too soon - but as it was for dessert, that didn't matter in the slightest. I served it with a quick syrup made from lemon curd heated up with a little juice and water.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A little of what you fancy does you good

What shall I eat? Food, of course - but what kind of food? I know this looks like a silly question, and that I'm very lucky to even be able to ask it. But ever since I started cooking, which was several decades ago, after I got married the first time, I've had some sort of framework for deciding what to make for dinner (breakfast is pretty much routine, and lunch often seems to take care of itself). And that framework has always involved cooking for other people as well as myself. I did enjoy what I made - but what I personally wanted to eat was almost never the main thing I thought about when I was deciding what we would have.
         Of course, after the boys left home, there would be the odd stretch of time when Harvey was away, but I tended to have a few set things I always made then because I liked them and he didn't - things like vege curry and some Albanian dishes. He was the same when I was away, he'd indulge in pickled pork and tinned tongue and those round beef roasts stuck together with skewers.
         But now it's a different story. I'm just not used to having only myself and my own preferences to consider. Quite often, of course, I'm having one or more people to dinner, and making what I think will work for them, and then there are usually leftovers and I eat them quite happily. But otherwise it's really odd how difficult it can seem to decide what I actually do want to eat. There's always cost to consider - I'm not rushing off to buy fillet steak or blue cod every day, not that I'd want to anyway. Still, within reasonably broad limits, I can get what I want - if I could only know what that was...
         I've started trying to pay attention when I have even a slight yen for something. I find that when I do manage to work out what I'd like at that time, and go to the effort of getting and making it, I enjoy it much more than when I just vaguely make do with whatever seems easiest or happens to be on special. And now and then it's actually okay to throw away the last helping of something that won't freeze well, or wasn't all that nice to start with, or I really don't want to have again, and get something fresh to eat instead - or just have a poached egg, if that's what I fancy.

PS - to Susan who posted a comment on Saturday on my Lois Daish post, asking for Gina'a no-knead bread - I have the recipe and have put it up on that post for you to see. Must try it out myself!