Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spiced Cake

A while ago I saw a recipe for a delicious sounding,beautiful spiced pear cake at Kalofagas, a blog which I stumbled on through Foodycat's blog. The cake sounded so inviting I could almost smell the spiced aroma and the sweet delicate fragrance from the pears, and knew I had to make it. A few months passed and with an afternoon tea date upon me I thought it was the perfect time to give it a go.

I followed the recipe pretty much as it was, but not having any ground star anise, I added a whole one to the poaching liquid with very pleasing results. I made an executive decision that the temperature wasn't fan forced, so reduced it to 160'c, and it seemed to be right. I also decided that 1/2 a cup of butter was 125 g, which is probably close enough.

This cake has to be one of the nicest cakes I have had. The cake itself is tender and moist and deliciously spiced. The pears, which I think look so pretty when poached in a neutral liquid, looked stunning in the cake, and tasted amazing. We finished the cake off between the 4 of us, and I think we all could have gone another slice. It didn't need cream or any other accompaniment, but I think a bit of cream or creme fraiche combined with a little of the poaching liquid would have moved the cake from afternoon tea to dessert.

I wasn't done with the cake just yet. As figs were in season and encouraged by foodycat, I decided to try it out with figs.

As the figs wouldn't need poaching I made a little syrup with 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar, a star anise and a cinnamon stick to use for the 60 ml of poaching liquid needed in the cake. Four figs replaced the three pears, and it worked a charm. As the figs cooled, they collapsed a little, but still retained their shape within the cake. They were sweet and jammy, and had lost any of the, what I can only describe as 'planty' flavour that some figs have. We served it with a little vanilla cream, and it was wonderful.

(Not the best picture of the last piece, taken the next day before I scoffed it for breakfast.)

This cake, in both its pear and fig varieties is already a favourite and I can see it being a go-to cake for a long time to come.


Saturday, February 13, 2010


I have been baking quite a lot the last couple of weeks, partly for procrastination, partly for mental health, partly for my family who are all busy at the moment, and partly to have as a reward for if I happen to do some work.

I have made Nigella's Pear and Ginger Muffins, from Nigella express, many times before, and they are quick, easy and very delicious. The recipe makes a good base recipe for fruited muffins and I have been playing with it a bit of late, with excellent results.

The first was apple cinnamon muffins. Replacing the pear and ginger for apple and cinnamon gave the muffins a much more teacake taste and I also replaced the sour cream with Greek yogurt, as that is what I had, which added a lovely tang to the muffins. The total weight of fruit I used was 200g after it was peeled, cored and chopped, as 300g creates too much batter for the tins. I made two batches of these in the one week, and they remained moist and tender for 3 days after baking, after which time they were all gone.

My second foray was more seasonally inspired, after purchasing several punnets of fresh figs. After eating the figs with yogurt and honey, I thought that teamed up with yogurt and honey in a muffin, they would also be fabulous.

I went for fig and ginger muffins, the spice combination inspired by the fig and ginger pudding served atBadde Manors, a cafe which I go to very often. This time I replaced the caster sugar with brown sugar and again used Greek yogurt. I just tore the figs, letting the juices drip into the mixture. I added a little extra ginger which gave it a nice kick, though some crystallised ginger finely chopped might have been nice as well.

In both instances I forgot to top them with a bit of brown sugar, but I don't think they need it as they are quite sweet already.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sweet Potato and Roast Cashew Soup

I have always wanted to make a really tasty spiced soup. I have tried before, but haven't got the balance right, generally shrinking away from making it too spicy at the cost of flavour. This recipe is care of Mr A's SIL, but where she got it from, I do not know. She made it for us the night we arrived in Adelaide and it was wonderful, spicy and welcoming. It claims to be a wonderfully filling African soup, and it is indeed wonderful.

500g Sweet potato sliced
1 litre vegetable stock
25g butter
1 tsp chopped red chillies (I couldn't get fresh so used flakes)
1 tbs chopped root ginger
1 tbs chopped garlic (about 4 or 5 cloves)
175 g carrots sliced (about 3 medium)
175 g onions, sliced (1 medium)
50 g plain flour
3 tbs soy sauce
175 ml coconut nut milk
A hand full of coriander, plus extra for garnish
Salt and white pepper
250 g Cashew nuts.

Put the sweet potatoes and vegetable stock in a pan and boil for 15 minutes (or until soft). Melt the butter in a large pan, add the chillies, ginger, carrots and onions and fry over moderate heat until soft. Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon.

Add the onion mix to the sweet potato and whiz with a stick blender until smooth (or put in the food processor, but that is too much washing up). Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes, adding half the soy sauce, all the coconut milk at some stage during this time and the coriander roughly chopped, and seasoning to taste at the last minute. (I only added a little pepper, as the cashews covered in soy sauce along with the soy were salty enough.

Preheat the oven to 200'c/180'c. Pour remaining soy sauce over the cashews in a shallow bowl, mix thoroughly until they are all coated. Bake for about 10 minutes, turning them occasionally to ensure they are browned evenly and don't stick together.

Serve the soup with a garnish of coriander leaves and the cashews sprinkled on top.

Serves 4