Tag Archives: almonds

Suji (Semolina) Cake 2

19 Nov

HappySo, I was thinking about the suji cake I made earlier this month. It was quite delectable, and very rustic. Nubbly bits of almonds gave it texture and a deliciously different crumb. It was the suji cake of my memory and my childhood… But there were a few things about it that annoyed. First and foremost, you really had to make this cake with forethought. No popping a few ingredients together, and quickly baking in the oven. The butter and suji had to be left for a while to get acquainted, which is fine if you have the time, but if you really want suji cake right here, right now, could be a bit frustrating.

There was another suji cake of my memory that was slightly smoother, more pudding-y, with the same gorgeous scent, and since I havent been well, and have not had much to do, I decided to try and see if I could come close to making it. I succeeded quite well with this cake, and it took about 20 minutes to put together, and a further 20 – 30 minutes in a hot oven to bake. Easy and quick, this is a different suji cake, but just as comforting, just as golden, and just as open to interpretation – may be even more so.

I used vanilla to scent this cake, but you could certainly go with cinnamon, some almond essence, the grated rind of an orange or lemon… Go with what comforts you, and get semolina that is as fine as possible… and yet, not floury. You want the texture and the bite of the semolina in this cake. Its a big part of what makes it so unique.

If the previous cake was a bit intimidating, start with this one. Its a pleasure to make, and a joy to smell baking in the oven. Its a fantastic little cake to offer friends who are dropping by for tea. It creates happy happy memories, even when you might be struggling with a cold, or tiredness, or just the regular woes of the world. A little sifted icing sugar, or a simple glaze, or a smear of buttercream elevates this cake, but its so good it doesnt really need it. As you can tell from the photo – I was so greedy for a taste, I sliced it straight out of the pan, without waiting to sift any icing sugar on my bit.

This little golden cake seems to say, for that one glorious instant, its OK. Just have some cake, and be happy.

Makes 1 9-inch cake

  • 1 3/4 stick (12 tbsp) butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup icing (powdered) sugar plus an additional / optional 1/4 cup for sifting over cake if you wish
  • 5 eggs separated – 5 yolks plus 4 whites (the extra white can be discarded or saved for a future use)
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence (or 1 vanilla bean scraped – or in fact, and flavouring that seems to catch your fancy)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup ground almonds

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F). Butter a 9-inch cake tin, and line with baking paper. Butter that too, and set the cake tin aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until soft and slightly fluffy. Add 3/4 cup icing sugar, and cream well. It will look like the beginning of buttercream. I decided to use icing sugar in this recipe because I wanted the softness of the cake to be highlighted. The fineness of the icing sugar really helped.

Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until fully incorporated, before you add the next. This cake, while quite quick and easy, also relies on a slow and gentle process of addition of each ingredient. I used a stand mixer, and as I added each egg yolk only after I separated it from its white. This gave the batter a period of slow steady incorporation of each yolk before the next was added.

Once all five yolks have been added, you should have a gloriously golden batter. Add the sour cream and vanilla essence, pausing to combine after each addition.

In a measuring cup, combine the salt, semolina and baking powder, and stir with a fork to combine. Add to the egg-butter-sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, beating with a stand mixer or electric beaters all the while, on medium low. Keep beating for about a minute, and then add the ground almonds in a steady stream, beating all the while.

Once the mixture has been well combined, set it aside for at least ten minutes or so.

Clean your beaters, and in a clean bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until they hold firm peaks. If you turn the bowl upside down, and the egg whites stay, then they are ready – though I would not suggest you do this unless youre sure, or you have extra egg whites to work with!

Once the batter has sat for the requisite time, fold in the beaten egg whites, in three batches, combining extremely well. You need to make sure the batter is fully incorporated. The egg whites will lighten the colour and texture of the mixture. You shouldnt beat them into the batter, but you dont need to be timid about mixing them in firmly with a spatula.

Turn out the batter into your prepared tin, and bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let cool for five minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a cake rack, and turn right side up again. Cover with sifted icing sugar if you like.

A warm slice of this cake will ease just about anything that ails you 🙂 Enjoy.

 

Green

12 Sep

PastaThe end of the summer is near, I can see it in the leaves on the trees. They are turning ever so slightly brown (and red and gold). There is a little bit of a chill in the air, and the neighbours had a fire last night for the first time. I smelt it when I went outside onto the porch in the evening. The sun drops so fast out of the sky … it is dark before 7pm. These little indicators of the season changing makes me want to hold on to the lush greenness of summer for a just a little bit longer…

And so tonight, in defiance of autumn and winter, of the changing of the season, I made green pasta. Simple, vegan, and so deeply green. It was good. And it was fast to make. I used green spinach fettucini to augment the green … Use whatever green you can find, or like best, but I have a particular fondness for broccoli and zucchini, so that is what I used.

This recipe serves 4, but feel free to double or halve it. Use the best produce you can find – organic everything if you can afford it. Serve parmesan on the side, but know that it will make the meal vegetarian rather than vegan. And hold off on the urge to add lots herbs or some ricotta or a touch of cream. This works because it is so clean, tasting of green, and of the lasting sunshine of summer.

If you dont have any pasta in the house, but still want to make this dish, it would be wonderful served with rice, quinoa, couscous, noodles, or even with some yeasty brown bread. Its very adaptable!

You will need:

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into chunks
  • 3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 – 15 cloves of garlic, sliced fine (yes you read that right!)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp red chili flakes (depends on your propensity for heat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt plus more for pasta and to taste
  • 1 zucchini
  • Approx 250 – 300 g dried pasta (I used spinach fettucini)

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil. You will use this pot for making the pasta later, so have a handled sieve ready.

Chop the broccoli into edible chunks, and throw it in the water. You want to boil it until it has lost its snap, and when you bite into it, the broccoli is creamy. This can take anywhere from 7 – 10 minutes (sometimes more) depending on how thick or thin you have chopped the broccoli, as well as what kind of broccoli you are using, and its freshness.

In a non stick pan, over medium low heat, saute the sliced garlic until soft. This can take a while. Be patient. This is the basis of the pasta sauce, and its imperative you dont let the garlic burn. Lower the heat if you think it needs it. This can take you up to ten – 15 minutes, so prep your other ingredients while you wait.

Once the broccoli is to your liking, drain it from the water using a handled sieve. Leave as much cooking water as you can in the pot, and put the broccoli in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the red chili flakes and salt to the garlic in the pan, and stir. Raise the heat a little and add all the almonds. Keep cooking while you slice or chop your zucchini. I like it halved, and then sliced. Add the zucchini to the pan, and raise the heat to medium high. Stir well, and keep stirring. You want the zucchini to soften a little bit, and burn around the edges. The almonds will follow suit.

Meanwhile, add a bit more water to your boiling pot if you think it needs it, and bring it to the boil again. Add the pasta, and cook to al dente.

Add the broccoli to the zucchini in the pan, and stir well. Taste for heat and salt. You might want to add a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pasta directly to the broccoli/zucchini in the pan.

Once the pasta is cooked al dente (I always check a few minutes before the stated cooking time on the box!), use a mug and save a bit of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta, and pop it right back into the pot. Pour the contents of the broccoli/zucchini pan over, and mix well. You can add a little more of the pasta cooking water if you like, but it shouldnt be that neccessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Serve with parmesan on the side. Enjoy!

Lemon Broccolini

25 Aug

Tart Bright Beautiful and Green!This is another dish from my sister’s feast – the perfect side dish as far as I am concerned. Bright, green, beautiful, and amazingly tasty. Plus, it tastes best if served cold, so you can make it up to one day ahead (though not more) and it will be gorgeous on the day. I love broccoli and broccolini (which is just the baby version)… there is no taste quite like it. I hate it when its boiled to death though, because I think it tastes of *green* and too much cooking just decimates its pure flavour.

You can use broccoli in place of broccolini here, but if you can find it, do use the baby version. Its so delicate, very sweet, and incredibly tasty. It needs very little prep too – the stalks are tender, and all you need to do is just trim the edges and slice them into 2 – 3 inch chunks. I like broccoli with anything – in a soup with some aged cheddar cheese, in a gratin (with more cheese), tossed with butter… but I think this is my absolute favourite. The lemon just enhances that very bright clear flavour – and its surprising because we usually expect the broccoli to be heavy and rich. Toasted almonds add creaminess and a nutty richness to this dish – they are a wonderful balance to the lemon and broccoli.

Two days after our birthday feast, I used the left over broccolini and almonds as the base for a cold vegetable soup (whizzed up with the help of the adored immersion blender!) – it was superb – and the almonds added texture and great depth of flavour.

You can double, triple, or even halve this recipe. Its great to take on a picnic, and wonderful to serve to hoardes of people. Its a tasty addition to a feast, and a perfect side dish for dinner or lunch.

Serves 8

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds (I liked this to be very almondy – but use less if you like)
  • 2 – 3 cups broccolini or broccoli
  • 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Grated peel of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon

In a dry, non stick pan, over medium high heat, toast the sliced almonds. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to keep the almonds moving in the pan – they can burn in the blink of an eye! Once they are toasted, set aside to cool.

Prepare a bowl with water and ice, if possible. If not, have cold water standing by.

Also, prepare the lemon dressing. In a large-ish bowl, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, olive oil, the grated peel of a lemon, and all its juice. Organic lemons have a huge depth of flavour that cannot be matched, and are so worth it in this recipe! Whisk together well. The lemon juice and olive oil will emulsify, and you will have a creamy looking very lemony dressing. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with water, and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to the boil.

While the water is coming to the boil, trim your broccolini or broccoli spears. For broccolini, just trim the ends, and slice into manageable chunks… I usually just cut them in half. For broccoli, divide the head into florets, and trim the woody bits off the stalk, and cut into bite sized chunks. Wash briefly in cold water.

As soon as the water has come to the boil, put all the broccolini in. Watch carefully – you may only need a minute or two. Broccoli might take longer, but you want a crisp tender vegetable, with a little bit of crunch left. Do not over boil. You will lose all the freshness!

As soon as the broccolini is snap tender, drain, and pour the bowl of ice water or the cold water over. The broccolini will still be a little warm – this is okay. Shake to drain off as much of the water as possible, and immediately dunk the broccolini into the lemon dressing. Add the almonds, and mix thoroughly. Taste for salt and pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.