Saturday, 25 July 2015

Mandarin, Almond and Ricotta Cake

It's Friday, so let's eat cake! I need no other excuse.

How has your Friday been? Mine are always brimming and they fly by. Today was spent in cake prep, deliveries, a spot of birthday shopping for my Mr Nearly-Five, lunch with Mum at a cafe we're eyeing and then more baking for tomorrow's orders. I'm looking forward to a glass or two of wine tonight! And possibly some of this delightful mandarin cake for dessert.

The texture is moist and light and almost cheesecakey. It's quite different to anything I've made before. It could be a pudding. I'm tempted to make an orange caramel, spoon it over the top and serve the whole thing warm with icecream. And maybe a glass of Botrytis. Cheers to Friyays!

Mandarin, Almond and Ricotta Cake
(Serves about 12)

125g butter
125g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs at room temperature, separated
Zest and juice of 2 large mandarins
Zest of 1 lemon
125g almond meal
60g self-raising flour
200g fresh ricotta cheese
Icing sugar to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.
Brush the insides of a Bundt, ring or Kugelhopf tin with melted butter, then dust with flour to ensure the cake doesn't stick.
Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy (about five minutes). 
Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until combined each time before adding the next.
Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Add the zests, self-raising flour and almond meal and fold through.
Whisk together the ricotta and mandarin juice until frothy like a milkshake. Fold this through the cake mix.
With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir half the egg whites into the cake batter, then gently fold through the remaining egg whites.
Spoon the mixture gently into the prepared tin (you want to preserve the air in the batter), then lightly jiggle it and give it a small tap on the bench to make it even.
Bake for 45 mins or until a cake skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for at least ten minutes before turning onto a wire rack. 
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar. I had some edible flowers in my fridge (of course I did!) so I kind of tore them up and scattered them around because flower confetti is a thing and everyone should have more of it in their lives.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Winter Is Here White Vegetable Soup

It was such fun to say Winter Is Coming in the lead up to June, especially when Game of Thrones was actually screening. Unfortunately Monday nights are plain again and winter has arrived with a vengeance.

It is time for huddling in the kitchen around steaming cups of tea, reaching for one more just-baked biscuit and craving nothing but soup for lunch.

I have been doing just that, baking daily, warming the house with the oven, tunes on, or listening to the odd podcast. My favourites at the moment are Salesy and Crabb prattling about books, food, politics and movies in Chat10Looks3, and Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright on the hilarious ups and downs of parenting in This Glorious Mess. I also love Lee Tran Lam's The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry, and the best edu-tainment going around, Conversations with Richard Fidler. Do you love podcasts too? Any recommendations?

This soup has been on high rotation in my house lately. It has all of the good things, plus a pear for sweetness and crunchy hazelnuts on top. Try not to skip the hazelnuts - they make it extra delicious. 

Winter Is Here White Vegetable Soup
Serves 4-6

30g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle to release flavour
1 leek, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g speck, finely chopped
2 parnsnips, peeled and chopped
1 Beurre Bosc pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
250g (about a quarter) cauliflower broken into florets
1L chicken stock
50g roasted hazelnuts
Dash of cream, to serve
Fennel fronds or dill sprigs, to serve

In a large heavy, based soup pot or casserole dish (like a Le Creuset or similar), melt the butter and olive oil together over medium to low heat and gently fry off the fennel seeds with the sliced leek until the leek is very soft. 
Add the garlic and speck and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes to lightly fry the speck.
Add the parsnips, pear, potato and cauliflower, and stir.
Pour over the chicken stock and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 mins or until the veggies are buttery soft. Leave to cool slightly then purée the soup with a stick blender until smooth.
Preheat your oven to 200C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 5 mins until lightly golden. Cool slightly then roughly chop.
Reheat the soup and ladle into bowls topped with a dash of cream, a scattering of hazelnuts and a few fennel fronds (or dill sprigs work nicely too). Serve with a big chunky sourdough.