Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Bitter Orange & Almond Cake

Are you hating the holiday season yet? I'm trying to avoid any pre-Christmas annoyance by spending as much time at home or at the gym where I can ignore the fact that the whole world seems to have gone crazy. That and the fact that I didn't and am not planing to make any Christmas cookies this year.
I'm making up for my lack of festive spirit on that front by playing Christmas music pretty much all day long (especially this song) and by making my flat smell of bayberry.
This cake is inspired by Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake but I wanted bitter oranges and I didn't like the idea of having to remove all the pips in the bitter oranges before pureeing. I modified her recipe and I hope you'll like the new, somewhat less dense version as much as I do.
I made this cake for my team's Christmas party and while I thought it was nice that evening, the leftovers were even better the next day. The orange flavour intensifies overnight so while I'm sure you'll enjoy it the day you make it, if you have the time, make it the day before you need it.

Bitter Orange & Almond Cake
2 Bitter Oranges
1 'Normal' Orange
200g Ground Almonds
50g Coconut Flour
100g Flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 Eggs
180g Raw Cane Sugar
80 ml Olive Oil

Wash the oranges in hot water (even if they're organic and definitely don't use waxed oranges here), then put them into a pot with water and cover with a lid. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or so - I doubt 5 or 10 minutes more will ruin this recipe. Take the pot off the heat and allow the oranges to cool in the water.
Preheat your oven to 160˚C and grease and flour a 26cm springform tin.
Once the oranges are mostly cold, juice them and set the rinds of one bitter orange and the 'normal' orange aside. Discard the rest.
Make sure there are no pips left in the orange rinds, then puree the rinds using a food processor or an immersion blender.
Stir the flours, baking powder and ground almonds together.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar until they become somewhat fluffy (they're whole eggs so don't expect too much) then add the olive oil, orange juice and the flour mix. Don't overmix things but try to get things somewhat mixed. Then fold in the orange puree.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. If the cake starts getting too dark, cover with tinfoil.
When the cake is done, keep it covered with the foil or cover it now. You can wrap it in a tea-towel but if you'll be eating the cake at home then just covering it should do the trick. Wrapping it means you can move the cake sooner if you are waaay to later for a Christmas party though (I'm totally going through a purely hypothetical scenario here).
This cake is lovely on its own but thick double cream or ice cream or custard work incredibly well with the slight bitterness of the oranges.
I hope you have a fantastic rest of the week and hopefully I'll find the time to write a bit more regularly :) My excuse is a good one though...the new layout and organisation of the blog is nearly ready and I should be able to share them with you before this baby turns three in January :)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Buttermilk with Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup

In case I have never told you before - I love meals that require only one pot or pan. Partly because for the entirety of my adult life I have not lived in a place with a dishwasher and I really don't like washing up. More importantly, though, I love all those dishes that allow flavours to build and mix and develop. Soups and stews and casseroles - take some simple things, give them some time and you end up with some amazing flavours and leftovers for the next couple of days :)
This soup is one of those amazing dishes - it's incredibly easy, it tastes like home and the last glorious autumn days even when it's already snowing outside, and while each of its ingredients is nice by itself, it is so much more than just the sum of its parts.

Buttermilk with Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
200g Carrots (I used a variety of carrots that pretty much breaks apart when you cook it and that becomes super creamy, normal carrots will not be as creamy but will taste nice as well)
200g Butternut Squash
1/2 Apple
1 small Onion
Olive Oil
Beef Stock (trust me, the beef works wonders here!)
A small glass of white wine if you have some sitting around
Buttermilk (lots and lots and lots - I used 100ml for my bowl)
Salt, Pepper, Crushed Chilli Flakes

Peel and dice the carrots, butternut squash, onion and apple (eat the remaining 1/2 apple while you cook). I don't believe it makes a difference what size you go for other than that if you cut tiny pieces things are going to cook faster.
Heat some olive oil in a pot and sauté the onions until they become glassy, add the carrots, butternut squash and apple. Stir around for a bit, then add the wine and enough beef stock to cover everything.
Cook until the carrots are tender. If you get bored - do you have any more wine left? Remember the other half of that apple from earlier? They should go really well together :)
Once the carrots are tender, puree using an immersion blender.
Season until you are happy.
Put some soup in a bowl and then drown it in buttermilk (don't forget to stir because the buttermilk will sink). If I'm perfectly honest with you I tend to use more buttermilk than soup but then I do love soup with my buttermilk or yoghurt. If you're not convinced - the soup is lovely on its own but you should really try it with some (or lots) of buttermilk!
Oh, and bread obviously works really well with this :)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

First Advent Weekend & Thanksgiving Impressions

Are you excited about the next 23 days?
I got back from the US last Monday and as always I have surprised myself at how bad I am at adjusting to having to get up 6 hours earlier when I don't have the sun shining in my face at 6 in the morning.
This time I decided to put the spare time at night to good use and for the first time in as long as I can remember I have finished writing my Christmas cards and my Christmas shopping before people even got around to lighting the first candle on their Advent wreath. 
Here is what mine looks like this year (I was just told off by Judith that it's not a proper one because it has no candles, but you'll see where I got the idea for this year's theme from later)
Sorry about the really bad colours...but my camera really doesn't like the light spots in my flat....

I thought it would be fun to give you a peek of what I was up to for my belated summer holiday :). I spent a week in DC and Williamsburg, Va. You have no idea how amazing it was to see so many lovely people I get to seen nowhere near enough. Oh, and then I kinda fell in love with Williamsburg (it's like St Andrews but with less rain, a Williams Sonoma and places selling hot apple cider in the streets...I think I went to the wrong university)

How how cute is this place?!?!?

 I have become somewhat obsessed with Christmas wreaths...

 Colonial roosters at Jamestown Settlement

Yes, your plants can have their own tipi, too

©Kathleen Dowling
 Lovelovelove this hat, as you can see in the top right corner of the picture you can also use it as a basket...

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