Flourless Orange and Almond Cakes with Candied Pistachios

"I started it. I lost it and I slapped him. He just retaliated."

"We have a volatile relationship. We're both passionate people."

"He only yells when he drinks."

"Am I going crazy? I must be losing my mind."

"Stop talking. Just stop making it worse!"

"It's my fault."

"Oh he has a little temper, just like his grandfather."

"I shouldn't have said that. I pushed him too far. I know better."

I have heard these words in the course of my journalism work, from ordinary women and celebrities, from my friends and family, even thought them myself in the course of growing up.

There are few women I know who can honestly say they have never experienced abuse of some sort in their home life, be it violence in their childhood, emotional and mental cruelty, or verbal tirades in a relationship.

It seems to be a generational scar we carry around. Except it doesn't fade. It is perpetuated in so many cases. Man-pleasers breeding man-pleasers, treading on eggshells to keep the peace. Male victims of abuse becoming abusers. It's madness. And yet it is still taboo to speak about. You mustn't air the dirty laundry! And shameful. How could anyone love someone who hurts them? How idiotic, how self destructive. Well, when they're charming and warm and loveable the other 80 percent of the time, it's easier to make excuses for the outbursts rather than confront the ugliness.

The problem is dependence. Domestic abuse crosses cultural and demographic boundaries and so often victims can feel trapped by a lack of immediate money, shelter and protection. 

But what if there was somewhere to go. And that somewhere was a discreet house offering a network of help and support for both the now and the crucial after? Would that prompt someone to leave a toxic relationship? Or at least get out of the house before being seriously hurt or worse? I hope so. 

I first heard about my local parish's project to build Mary's House, a non-denominational refuge for victims of domestic violence and their dependent children, when I was enrolling my son for primary school. It touched a nerve.

I have two little boys of my own. They are kind and funny, cheeky and a little bit shy. They have an unashamed enthusiasm, an innocence that I want to bottle and drip-feed to them while they are growing into men. To arm them against the barrage and the burden of all the conflicting messages they will encounter about being a man in the world.

I want them to grow up into men who respect and value their partners. I want them to be able to talk through and process issues rather than bottle them until they combust. To have the skills to control emotions like anger and jealousy, should they flare. And to appreciate the good in their lives.

I offered to help with Mary's House in any way I could and so I was delighted to cater nearly 200 desserts for a recent fundraising dinner.

On the platters were salted caramel peanut tarts, blueberry ginger cheesecake bites, lemon curd tarts and my recipe offering today, flourless orange and almond cakes with candied pistachios.

You have to allow time for the oranges but these little cakes are simple to make, really pretty on the plate and they last for a week in the fridge.

It may seem odd to pair a post about domestic violence with a recipe, but I have two professional skill sets - writing and baking - and this is the best way I know of to help out in my small way.

You can find out more about Mary's House at www.maryshouse.org.au or do your own small bit to help the refuge raise its dollar target to open in September by donating to their crowd funding campaign at https://www.chuffed.org/project/maryshouse and like and share on social media with the tag #MarysHouseRefuge.

Flourless Orange and Almond Cakes with Candied Pistachios
(Makes 12-15)

2 oranges
6 eggs
250g caster sugar
250g almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons apricot jam
Optional: edible dried rose petals

*Place oranges in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for two hours, topping up the water where needed to keep the oranges covered. Drain and leave to cool.
*This step can be done ahead.

Preheat oven to 160C. Spray a 12-hole muffin tin with non-stick baking spray.
Place the oranges in a food processor and blitz until a smooth pulp.
Add the eggs and caster sugar and blitz until thick and pale.
Transfer to a large bowl and stir through almond meal and baking powder.
Pour into a jug for better control when filling your tin.
Fill each muffin hole to just below the rim and carefully place tin into the oven.
Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and coming away from the edges.
Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare glaze by placing the apricot jam into a small saucepan and bringing to a boil, then sieve the jam. Use a pastry brush to spread the sieved glaze on the top of each cake. Pile candied pistachios on top, and rose petals if using.

Candied Pistachios:
125g pistachios
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon water

Place a sheet of baking paper onto a large baking tray.
Place nuts, sugar and water in a bowl and toss to combine.
Pour into a frypan and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted. The mixture will crystallise but continue to cook for about 5 minutes until the crystals melt into a lovely toffee. Coat the nuts in the toffee, taking care not to burn them, and pour onto prepared baking tray.
Use any left-over candied nuts on top of ice cream or as a decadent topping for muesli, fruit and yoghurt.


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