Wednesday 28 August 2013

Citrus Almond Semolina Cake

One of the 'stars' in our garden is the huge lemon tree. It's a very old gnarly one that's produced a fabulous crop this year. I have almost exhausted ways to use them. My three large jars of preserved lemons, numerous batches of muffins and bagged up gifts to give to friends has barely made a hole in branches laden with fruit.
So it was a no brainer when searching for a dessert for a special dinner, it had to be lemon something. Our guests included one old friend (hubby's flat mate from the 1960's) visiting from out of town, the other guest a 'girl' celebrating her 39th birthday. Apart from knowing us, they had one other thing in common - both were vegetarians. Sunday was the day set aside to produce a three course dinner for four.
I always love the challenge of finding new untried recipes for such occasions. I like to have time to think about what to cook and create and of course vegetarian food always takes longer to prepare and cook! Sometimes I think it is a bit like a painting..... there is often so many layers to it - and it takes time to get it just right.
The menu ended up as follows - Spicy Lentil soup, A Very Full Tart as a main (a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe), two side dishes, one Johnson's Coleslaw and the other, Carrot and Sesame Salad and for dessert, a Citrus Almond Semolina Cake. The starter and one of the side dishes you will recognise from previous posts. The Carrot salad is a new Ruth Pretty number, and an absolute winner! The main was truly a labour of love ( I made my own wholemeal pastry too) but it was so worth it, and the good part was we were still eating it two nights later.
Back to the cake. I have made a few variations of Lemon cake over the years but I think this is my favourite so far. It may be the combination of orange and lemon, or the ground almonds and fine semolina but it has such a lovely flavour, texture and lightness about it. I didn't bother with the compote as I was short on time, the alternative marmalade reduction I made was really nice though.
The final meal came together well, hubby raved about it the next day! A triumph- we loved it he said! Was it really I say? how nice......makes all that chopping, mixing, stirring and baking all so worth it! Here it is -
Citrus Almond Semolina Cake and Citrus Compote – SST - Ray McVinnie, July 2012
Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
200ml extra virgin olive oil or light olive oil if you prefer
220g icing sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten
200g fine semolina
120g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1tbsp orange flower water (optional but I think it adds that little something special)
Preheat oven to 160°C (150 for fan oven)
Butter thoroughly, sides and bottom of 25cm spring form cake tin - paper the bottom too
Put zests, juices,oil, icing sugar and salt in a bowl and mix well.
Add the eggs and mix.
Add the semolina, almonds, baking powder (use a sieve to remove any lumps), add orange flower water. Mix well – but don’t beat
Pour into the tin and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean
Remove from the oven and cool
Serve in wedges warm or at room temperature. Serve with compote if desired (and/or cream)
Citrus Compote
1 orange (thinly sliced)
1 lemon (thinly sliced)
½ cup castor sugar
Put fruit in small saucepan, cover well with water
Bring to the boil and boil 10 minutes, drain well and add sugar to fruit.
Add ¼ cup water and bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil 4 minutes until syrupy.
Remove from the heat, cool and chill.
(Due to time I used some marmalade with a little water added and boiled for 4 minutes to reduce – it was just as nice)

The other courses - all that was left over!

Wednesday 21 August 2013

The best Ginger Loaf

It was one of those days. I had to come up with something quick, easy to make and delicious that would satisfy a crowd. Yesterday the builders were back and I had a food blogger friend, Anne, coming for afternoon tea. Whatever I baked it needed to appeal to a couple of big burly blokes and one discerning food lover.
I think it passed the test. Still warm, one loaf was gone by morning tea (they loved it) - just as well I held back the other one to ensure my friend and I got some later in the day! 
The loaf has to be smeared with lashings of butter - not margarine - just think you are helping rebuild Fonterra's profits - don't hold back - it adds to the experience!
With all the sugar in the mix it is definitely not for diabetics and although nearly a tin of golden syrup seems excessive it helps make it the most glorious, gingery, moist sweet thing to have with coffee or dessert (with whipped cream of course) EVER!
The recipe says it will make three loaves, I made mine in two tins, one medium size and one much larger. If you do this, obviously one will take longer to cook than the other. About three quarters through the cooking I placed a piece of tin foil over the top. I have found they may burn slightly on top if not watched. And if need be, adjust the temperature for your fan oven.
For peace of mind I lined my tins as well
Not concentrating and listening to the radio, I made a mistake and added allspice instead of mixed spice - but it didn't seem to matter with the final result.
It is a relatively new recipe for me. I had previously ordered the Ginger Loaf at The Penthouse Cinema Cafe (pretty much the only theatre we go to) so when I spotted it in the paper it was duly filed away for future use. I love that it can be all piled into one large bowl and mixed, but just a tip - it does take a while to get the whole mixture well blended so take the time to ensure that it is.
A recipe this size really does come in handy. For me, making three loaves means one can go to the cake stall, one to slice for my Old Girls morning tea and one to pop in the freezer for those unexpected guests. Perfect! Oh, and by the way it passed the taste test with Anne too! We ate it with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea along with the faint smell of her beautiful freshly picked Daphne in the air.
Ginger Loaf (The Penthouse Cinema CafĂ© – as in Dominion Post)
4 cups of flour
2 cups of brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2tsp baking powder
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
850g golden syrup
250g butter roughly chopped
4 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 160 °C.  Grease and line three loaf tins.
Sift all the dry ingredients together. Combine the eggs with the milk.
Melt the butter and the golden syrup together.
Add the syrup/butter mixture to the dry ingredients, followed by the egg and milk mixture.
Whisk well until combined.
Note this is a very wet mix.
Pour into greased loaf tins.
Cook for 60 minutes, then leave to cool in the tins overnight. (I didn't do this step and they were fine - just cool a little, remove from tin and place them on a cake rack).

Friday 16 August 2013

Lamb Mince with a twist

As you know my dear Mother passed away nearly three years ago and I have only just had the where-with-all to open the huge plastic box of her bits and pieces, packed (in a rush) while cleaning out her small apartment in the week after her funeral.
It was a real trip down memory lane as I mulled over the many items I had packed in there. Inside I found some of her mothers (my Nana) papers and photos too, she died in June 1992 aged 88. Nana led quite a tough life raising seven children through the Depression and World War II. It reminded me how lucky I was to be raised post War in the 50's and 60's.
What do you do with your Mother's 1940's work reference (written in beautiful flowing ink when people knew how to write properly) or her 'crown' and Hawaiian lei she wore at her 70th birthday party - boy did she love that night, she often referred to the event as one of the best nights of her life!
Sigh.... just put them back in the box and work it out later.
One thing I must keep, and share with my siblings, are the many, many photos she saved; some in albums, but mostly great piles of photographic memories of a life well lived. These will be passed onto our children, who will in turn (hopefully) pass them onto their children who will no doubt (as I did) be entertained to look back on the funny hair styles and outfits people wore in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's. Of course many of these fashions have (at some time) been back in vogue!
This task has also made me think about how my children will feel when they have to sort through my many precious possessions when I'm gone!
On a brighter note, as the only girl in my family, I was expected to be in the kitchen helping my mother on most baking days and at meal times. I remember she had a huge loosely stuffed book of her favourites recipes. I am not sure where that has gone nor what happened to her well used Edmond's cookbook - they both probably fell apart years ago. However, among my Mother's things I found a few old recipe books, one a perfect little gem called "New Zealand's Leading Recipe Book, 6th Edition ' written by Elsie G. Harvey (An Effort of a Returned Soldiers Wife) of Point Chevalier. It is subtitled 'Every recipe has been tested and is guaranteed economical, dainty and wholesome'. It is a small book, pages yellow with age - no flash pictures or publishing date but clearly a winner that was published at least six times. I have no idea where my mother got it from but it is an absolute classic. It is full of interesting items like Friday Sausages - made with oatmeal not meat? or Savoury Baked Tripe - yuck!!
One recipe that particularly caught my eye was Sheep's-Head Mince. Reading it out to my husband was highly entertaining - lots of arrggghsss and heaving sounds on my part!! I would never in my wildest dreams EVER consider making such a dish but for those who may interested here goes! I suggest just reading the recipe will be one of the most exciting things you have done in ages!!
Sheeps-Head Mince
Soak a sheeps-head in salted water for several hours, changing the water twice. Remove brains (this is when I would leave the room!), and boil them separately. Put the head in saucepan and cover with water, add pepper and salt, boil for an hour then add 4 onions, 3 split ans scrapped carrots, a medium sized and peeled swede/turnip and boil for another hour (or more if not a young sheep). Take out the vegetables and keep hot in an oven. Remove the meat from the bones, peel the tongue, mince very finely and place in the centre of the meat dish. Arrange vegetables as a garnish. Heat to boiling point 2 cups of milk. Mash the brains, add one tablespoon of flour blended with a little milk, and also one of the cooked onions minced fine, boil up and then add 1 teaspoon butter with salt and pepper to taste and if liked, a little minced parsley. Pour puree over the head-meat and serve at once.
To the stock from the head add 2oz split peas, 2oz pearl barley, a carrot, 1/2 minced onion, 1/2 a grated potato and 1 tbsp of tomato sauce. Boil for 1 hour and serve as a soup the next day for lunch or dinner. 
Just as a footnote - I remember my Nana loved cooked brains and/or sweetbreads and every Tuesday when my Mother visited her she would often cook them for her. I would sit and watch her eat them and think how extraordinary that someone could enjoy eating such a 'tasty treat'!
Then, as in now - all I can say is Yuck!

Saturday 3 August 2013

Spicy Lentil Soup

A wholesome soup on a cold winter's day is just the right sort of comfort food for me. I am a great fan of soup, more often than not a lunchtime favourite in our home.  Throughout my childhood (and adult life) I use to love coming home to my mothers special soup. She would boil a smoked hock for hours (in those days they didn't cost a fortune), add a packet of old fashioned soup mix and a few vegetables and voila, a lovely inexpensive warming meal. It was always accompanied with a pile of hot buttered toast, the thick slab variety of course!
Over the years I have made a similar recipe. I am sure you will have one that your mother passed onto to you but somehow the best soup was what our mother made. She never really went for anything fancy, maybe a potato and leek soup now and then, but usually she would just make the old faithful. She wasn't a fan of fancy spicy food and seldom cooked it - it gave her indigestion!
Over the years I have tested and eaten a few variations of my personal favourites, tomato, chicken and vegetable, mushroom and leek and potato. I also like to experiment with garnishes. I have coriander growing in my herb garden at the moment - a little coup for me as (in Summer) I allowed a huge plant to go to seed and now I have lots of tiny little coriander plants growing 'luxuriantly', perfect for this soup. 
For this recipe like most soups, everything goes into a pot and boiled gently for hours. Although I made it in my slow cooker, it can easily be cooked in a soup pot on the stove. It makes a really nice change and I love the flavours and the simpleness of the recipe. For my soup I used Pataks Mild Indian curry paste as I am not a great fan of really hot spicy food (gosh, I sound a bit like my mother!), but adjust the curry paste to suit your own tastes. 
Depending on how small you chop your vegetables, you may like to lightly mash the cooked vegetables in the final stages, as it could easily be a stew by cutting the vegetables into large chunks.
Serve it with Naan bread and use it to scoop up the chunks like we did.
Either way I am certain you will enjoy it. It is super yummy!

Spicy Lentil Soup - Australian Women's Weekly Slower Cooker Supplement - June 2013
Serves 4 - 6
½ cup (100g) dried lentils
1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock or vegetable stock
400g canned diced tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¾ cup (100g) mild Indian Curry Paste
2 small carrots (240g) chopped coarsely
1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
2 medium potatoes (400g), chopped coarsely
½ cup Greek-style yoghurt
½ cup finely chopped coriander

Rinse lentils under cold water and drain
Combine lentils, stock, un-drained tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, curry paste, carrots, celery and potatoes in 1 4.5 litre (18 cup) slow cooker.
Cook covered on low for 6 hours, season to taste.
Serve soup topped with yoghurt and coriander.
Suitable to freeze (without the garnish).