Tag Archives: almonds

Apricot, amaretto and almond cake

It’s Monday morning as I write this. I was promised sunshine and warm weather and yet, as I sit here in my Uniqlo padded jacket and thermal socks, it is grey outside and I feel depressed.

This is why I am writing about cake. Cake is a happy, safe word, with its promises of tea, friends, chat and warmth.

I made this at the weekend, for a birthday treat for a loved one. It’s a recipe I’ve had for many years (from Waitrose magazine). Most unprepossessing, and even a little bit gauche to look at maybe, but what drew me in was the introduction (I love an introduction in a recipe) which said, briefly but fulsomely:

“This is one of the best cakes in my repertoire, it has a very intense apricot flavour”

(I don’t know who wrote it so apologies.)

That confident appraisal, “one of the best cakes in my repertoire”? Well it rather throws down the cakey gauntlet, doesn’t it?

This is a magnificent cake. Not, of course, if you don’t like almonds or apricots. And each time I make it, it’s slightly different. One time it was so moist at to be barely sliceable – but still delicious – yesterday when I made it, it rose more than ever before, and didn’t sink in the middle (it usually does, a dip which acts as a useful pool for the yoghurty, creamy topping) and was definitely a spongey cake. Anyway, try it and see. It really does have a wonderful flavour, and on a depressing, grey, Monday when the weekend is all behind you still, that’s what you need.

You’ll need, for the cake:

115g unsalted butter, softened

325g caster sugar

50g marzipan, cut into little pieces

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

50ml amaretto, plus an extra as a sip as it’s delicious

3 eggs

165g plain flour

25g raising flour

a quarter of a teaspoon of salt

a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

75g ground almonds

125ml sour cream

125g read to eat dried apricots, chopped

 

You’ll need, for the topping:

225g thick Greek yoghurt

4 tablespoons of whipped up double cream

125g soft set apricot jam

50g toasted almond flakes

a little icing sugar for dusting.

 

This is what you do:

Preheat the oven to 170C. I use this time to toast the flaked almonds for 5 minutes or so. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. I use a spring-form 23cm cake tin which I parchment line the bottom of.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, either by hand or in a mixer. Then add the marzipan bits and blend well. Now add the eggs, beating well with each addition. Now add the vanilla and amaretto. MIx together the flours, salt and bicarb and the ground almonds. Now add these dry ingredients to the mixture, alternating with the sour cream. Finally, fold in the chopped apricots and bake in the oven for 1hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean, but the cake shouldn’t be too cooked, if you follow.

Let it cool completely, then run a knife around the edge and take out.

Now mix the topping ingredients together: the yoghurt and the whipped cream first, then marble through the apricot jam. Spoon on top of the cake. Some times, if the cake hasn’t sunk much, then I feel like I’m left with too much topping. In such cases, it’s best not to put all the topping on, but reserve it for spooning it up when you slice up and serve the cake.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top, dust with icing sugar and slice and eat.

Store in the fridge when not being eaten.

A totally wheat free cake: almond, pistachio and lime cake

I only realised this was wheat free when I was half way through making it. I do eat wheat. Lots of it, but I realise not everyone does or can, so I hope this helps some of you.

Despite the lack of any sort of flour, this cake does rise quite a bit, thanks to the four eggs. And it feels light. But it’s packed with protein so it’s quite filling and certainly you don’t get that huge blood sugar crash after eating it. Which can only be a positive thing (I’m choosing to only see it as a positive thing).

So in essence this is a light, moist, delicious cake which I think you’ll find hard to overeat. It needs no adornment or accompaniment other than a cup of strong coffee or, for you English peeps, a cup of tea.

It’s from the Donna Hay magazine, incidentally, which is my favourite foodie magazine.

You need:

150g unsalted very soft butter

165g caster sugar

The finely grated zest of a lime (equivalent to one tablespoon but I never measure it)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4 eggs, at room temperature

180g ground almonds

130g ground pistachios (I ground these myself in my electric grinder, stuff of five minutes)

Honey for drizzling a-top

What you do:

Oven to 160C.

Put the butter, sugar, lime rind and vanilla extract in an electric mixer and whisk for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture has turned pale and creamy. It’s a heck of a lot of mixing isn’t it? But there you go. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the mixture as you go. This is the hardest bit.

Now take the bowl out of the mixer and manually, fold through the ground nuts. Spoon into a 2lb loaf tin which you have lined with baking parchment and bake for 1hr to 1 hr 10mins until a test comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin then spoon some honey over the top.

 

Nutty quinoa salad

IMG_3944

Today was the Big Storm. As we waited for it to pass and the 80mph winds almost bent our poplars in half and shook the beech tree like a deranged nanny, I thought about lunch. Something healthy, but not salad, something warming, but not soup.

I found this in the BBC Good Food magazine, which is about as comforting a magazine title as you can get. It says serves 2-3 and I’d say that’s about right. You can obviously up certain ingredients, such as the squash or the quinoa, if you need to make it go a bit further. I never weigh my squash incidentally. The only thing I found was that this was a bit salty for my taste – ergo delicious – so you may want to not salt the squash, for example. Anyway, this is packed with good things and if only I can resist the bourbon biscuit¬†waiting for me in the kitchen, I will have had a wholly good lunch.

A small butternut squash, peeled, seeds out, cubed into 3cm cubes (approx 500g)

10sprigs of thyme

50ml olive oil (not virgin)

50g whole almonds, skin on

250ml stock (veg or chicken) or water

125g quinoa, that lovely middle class staple, rinsed

100g feta, crumbled

4 tablespoons of chopped parsley (we grow our herbs but struggle with the parsley, so I always have some of this in the freezer. It also stops you paying out 80pence for herbs that then go off in the salad drawer).

Preheat the oven to 200C and toast the almonds (whole) for 5-7 minutes, watch them really carefully. When they’re done take them out and at some point before serving, chop them up roughly.

Now put the squash in an oven tray and pour over the olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Mix it up and place in oven for 30-40 minutes until it’s tender and slightly brown at the edges. When done take out and put to one side. You’re done with the oven now.

Put the water or stock in a saucepan and put the rinsed and drained quinoa in, cook for about 12 minutes, until the stock is mostly absorbed and the quinoa is tender to the bite. Now put the cooked quinoa into a large bowl or plate, put the squash on top, crumble the feta on top, scatter the almonds and some parsley and you’re done. You can have this warm (I did and it was superb) or at room temperature. Strikes me it would make an excellent packed lunch, too.

For extra veg, eat with a small green salad. I didn’t because I couldn’t be bothered to pick some salad from outside and rinse it, so I’ll, um, have that later.