Shakshuka Flatbreads

 

unspecified

One thing you don’t really see in this space are savoury recipes. So I don’t need to explain how much of a sweet tooth I have. And it goes without saying that almost inevitably I start my days with a sweet breakfast, be it porridge with fruit and honey or maple syrup, a slice of homemade sourdough with jam or marmalade or whatever is left from recipe-testing from the weekend before. But, born and raised in Germany, I actually grew up on savoury breakfasts.

One of my favourite savoury breakfasts (and a dish I happily eat for lunch and dinner as well) is shakshuka. Shakshuka doesn’t really need an introduction anymore given how popular a brunch dish it has become over the last years. And who can argue with eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce with plenty of bread on the side to mop up that delicious sauce?

For a while now, I have been meaning to come up with a breakfast pastry or flatbread involving shakshuka. Basically, I wanted a more portable version of shakshuka. When I started thinking about this, I really struggled with the type of dough or pastry I wanted to use. To help me figure this out, I turned to google. While I did not really come across any examples of shakshuka pastries or flatbreads, I did come across numerous articles chronicling other people’s trips to Jerusalem. And that is how I first came across Kachapuri and what led to the recipe below.

Kachapuri are cheese-filled pastries of Georgian origin. They are made with a yeasted dough that is enriched with eggs and yoghurt. As it turns out there is a rather famous Georgian restaurant in downtown Jerusalem which serves Kachapuri (and which is why my search for shakshuka pastries and flatbreads not only threw up posts on people eating shakshuka in Jerusalem but also threw up posts on Kachapuri). It is so popular a snack in Jerusalem, Ottolenghi in fact included a recipe for Kachapuri in his book ‘Jerusalem’. Given this, it only felt right to use the same dough that is traditionally used for Kachapuri for these Shakshuka Flatbreads.

And I am glad I did. Ottolenghi’s recipe for the Kachapuri dough is great – the dough is an absolute dream to work with, transforming itself from a craggy and sticky mess into a smooth and elastic ball of dough in no time. Plus, the dough bakes up beautifully, not unlike pizza dough, and yet is sturdy enough to hold its own against a wet filling like shakshuka.If you time it right with this recipe, you can prepare the dough and the shakshuka in the evening, letting the dough proof overnight in the fridge. All you then need to do in the morning is to assemble and bake off your flatbreads, make some strong tea or coffee while the flatbreads are in the oven and, ta da, you have a brilliantly simple yet delicious breakfast.

unspecified

Shakshuka Flatbreads

Makes 3 Flatbreads

Note: Unlike other shakshuka recipes, the recipe below will produce a rather thick and chunky sauce. While the sauce will reduce a little further while the pastry is in the oven this is to stop the dough from getting soggy. The recipe below makes 3 large pastries – one is likely enough to set you up for a day of chopping wood. That being said, you could divide the dough into 6 portions to get much smaller pastries – if so, you might want to see whether you can get your hands on some quails eggs to place in the middle as the flatbreads would otherwise be too small to hold a whole chicken egg. Delicious as they are, you can also serve these pastries with some labneh on the side, some olive oil mixed with za’atar and a mixed salad.

 Ingredients

For the Flatbreads (recipe adapted from Ottolenghi)

250g wholemeal spelt flour
1 ½ tsp dried active yeast
½ tsp salt
1 egg
110g greek yoghurt

 For the Shakshuka

1 tsp cumin, whole seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced finely
4 cloves of garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
2 tsp sweet paprika powder
1 whole bay leaf
1 pinch of saffron
2 small dried chillies, chopped roughly
1 tbsp sugar
1 small can of peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
Juice of ½ lemon
½ glass of water

3 eggs

 Directions

To make the dough for the flatbreads, place all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Form a well in the centre and add the egg and the yoghurt. Using a fork start to mix the dry into the wet ingredients, then use your hands or the dough hook of a standmixer to knead the dough until it is completely smooth and elastic – by hand this should take between 10 and 15 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise somewhere warm for 2-3 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. While the dough for the flatbreads is proofing, prepare the shakshuka.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin seeds on medium heat until fragrant. Finely grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the cumin, onion and garlic and stir on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the remaining spices, the sugar, the crushed tomatoes with their juices, the lemon juice and water, stirring to combine. Let the shakshuka bubble on medium-low until the sauce is thick and has reduced quite a bit (ca. 20-30 minutes). Season to taste – take a cue from Honey and Co who mention in one of their books that the seasoning for shakshuka is perfect when the sauce hits all the right notes: ‘sweet, sour, salty and spicy’. Remove and discard the garlic.

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the shakshuka flatbreads divide the dough into three pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. On a lightly floured surface roll each ball out until you have circles of ca. 16cm in diameter. To shape the flatbreads, take two opposing sides of each circle and fold them inwards by about 1cm, repeating this once. You should now have a rough oval. Take the shorter sides of the oval and twist them together a few times until the twisted ends align with the long sides of the oval (the aim is to create an almost boat-shaped pastry with a raised edge all around as shown in the the above photo).

Carefully place the flatbreads on the sheetpan. Distribute the shakshuka evenly between the flatbreads. Bake the flatbreads for ca. 10-15 minutes or until the pastries are well risen, puffy and golden brown in colour.

Crack the eggs open and separate the whites from the yolks. Whisk the whites with a fork. Using a spoon create a small dent in the shakshuka in each flatbread and place an egg yolk in the middle. Add as much of the egg whites to each flatbread as will fit. Return the flatbreads to the oven until the whites of the eggs are just set but the yolks are still liquid, about 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

unspecified

 

Elisenlebkuchen – German Gingerbread

7324bee8-4242-4480-ae97-932cbe0f6ad7--Screen_Shot_2015-11-28_at_11.53.44_AM
Food52 had the genius idea of making a cookie map of the world for this Christmas and I am excited because not one but two of my recipes made it onto the map (alongside recipes from the likes of Olivia Hercules, Heidi Swanson, Emiko!): Alfajores from Argentina and Elisenlebkuchen from Germany.
While I like to think my 4 months studying Spanish in Argentina were worth it for the simple reason that Argentina is where I met and fell in love with Alessandro (and without our rudimentary Spanish we would not have had any way of communicating when we first met), I also may have never discovered the greatness that are Alfajores but for that trip.
7fbf492e-26af-4b31-b8b7-218571faab29--Screen_Shot_2015-11-28_at_11.56.51_AM
When spending any time in Argentina, no matter how long are short, you are bound to eventually grow sick of all the ingenious and mainly not-ingenious-at-all ways that Argentineans manage to wrangle dulce de leche into each and every dessert. Yet it is difficult to grow sick of Alfajores (believe me I have tried!). They are just so beautifully soft, buttery and crumbly yet manage to not fall apart thanks to being held together by said dulce de leche. Also, Argentinean coffee is so strong, you most certainly need something sweet and sugary to go alongside each cup.
defe3766-3b98-41fb-a243-3e95946dce36--Screen_Shot_2015-11-28_at_11.40.13_AM
And the Elisenlebkuchen? Well, as they say, you can take the German out of Germany but you cannot take Germany out of the German. Despite an overflowing spice drawer, a dedicated miso shelf in my fridge and by now questionable German grammar (at least I make my mum laugh when I try and email her in German), when December rolls around, all I really want are Elisenlebkuchen. Mainly made with nuts, candied peel and plenty of spices, they are soft round gingerbread cookies that are maybe not as well known as Pfeffernuesse or Vanillekipferl but really deserve to be on every holiday cookie plate.
a18ccc56-75e4-43bc-8c80-7878e826b186--Screen_Shot_2015-11-28_at_11.38.01_AM
So head on over to Food52 where you will find the recipes for both the Elisenlebkuchen pictured in this post and the Alfajores but also 44 other recipes from all over the world. I already have my eyes on the Basler Leckerli, the South African Chocolate and Pepper Cookies as well as Heidi’s Swedish Rye Cookies!

Miso Walnut Cakes with Espresso Buttercream

_MG_1194

It feels odd to write about cake with everything that has been happening this week. But with all the terrifying stories in the news, I guess we could all use some cheering up right about now. So cake it is. More specifically miso walnut cakes with espresso buttercream.

Coffee and Walnut is a classic cake pairing. So while I did not want to mess with the original idea too much, it was about time Miso and Walnut met in a sweet context. For quite some time now, one of my go-to easy dinners has been Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Miso Walnut Noodles. You make a pesto of sorts with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, white miso, some vinegar, honey and salt and that you stir through some pasta. The bitterness and delicate crunch of the walnuts is the perfect contrast to the creamy and sweet and slightly funky-tasting miso – the paste is so good I tend to make a big batch to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, cooked pasta and greens.

While Heidi’s Miso Walnut Noodles are decidedly savoury, her recipe made me realize how well walnuts and miso go together. And we already know how much I like using miso in sweets. While it lends a beautiful savoury note to custards and caramel or butterscotch (and in a less direct and less aggressive way than sea salt does), baking with miso I noticed how it can make things taste ‘malty’. A brilliant discovery when malted milk powder can be hard to track down and given my fridge already sports several jars of miso.

_MG_1202

These little miso walnut cakes don’t contain a whole lot of miso. Like salt, miso is powerful and a mere teaspoon is enough to give these cakes a bit of a malty flavour and really underline the flavour of the toasted walnuts. The cakes are topped with a lick of espresso buttercream – enough for these little cakes to feel a bit more indulgent but without being cloying.

 

Miso Walnut Cakes with Espresso Buttercream

Note: Makes 6 small cakes. Recipe for the espresso buttercream lightly adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Book

Ingredients

50g walnuts (plus 6 additional walnut halves for decoration if you like)
50g brown rice flour
75g butter, at room temperature
50g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp white miso

For the espresso buttercream
40g soft butter
125g icing sugar
2 tsp soluble espresso powder
2 tbsp milk

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a 6 hole muffin tin (or 6 similarly sized individual cake tins such as friand moulds).

Toast the walnuts in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Pulse in a food processor until the walnuts turn into a fine meal (but before they start turning into walnut butter!). Add the rice flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the soft butter with the sugar until pale in colour and doubled in volume (this should take ca. 4-5 minutes). Add the egg yolks and the miso paste and beat well to incorporate. Incorporate the flour and walnut mixture 3 portions, mixing well in between each addition.

Beat the egg whites until stiff before carefully folding them into the batter.

Carefully distribute the batter between the muffin tin holes/cake tins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and the cakes are just starting to colour.

Leave the cakes to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from their tins and placing on a cookie rack to cool down completely.

To make the buttercream beat the butter with the icing sugar and espresso powder on medium speed until combined (the mixture will look impossibly dry at first but should come together after 3-4 minutes). Add the milk and continue beating util the mixture is light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes). Using a spoon or a small spatula, carefully spread about 1 scant tablespoon of buttercream on top of each small cake. Decorate with the walnut halves if using.

_MG_1213

Rye Molasses Ginger Snaps

_MG_0567

I don’t know whether this is the same in every family, but in ours, my mum is the most adventurous eater, never afraid to try new things and always on the lookout for that one item on the menu she has never tried before. By contrast Gustav (my dad, but us four kids all call him by his first name), prefers to play it safe when eating out. If there is a steak or a nice piece of grilled fish on the menu, he will likely order it. Inevitably this results in food envy when my mum ends up stumbling upon yet another unknown-to-us but utterly brilliant dish. And it is funny really, while Gustav may hesitate to order a new-to-him dish in a restaurant, he likes strong flavors more than anyone in our family.

He adores smelly cheese (mainly French n his case but as long as the cheese is really smelly and nicely ripe and soft, Gustav will likely like it) and while I love a good smelly cheese now, as a child, seated next to my dad for all our meals, I found the smell almost unbearable. Lately, Gustav is really into his fermented foods. A Christmas present of Sandor Katz’ book on fermentation kick-started an already nascent Kimchee operation in my parents’ conservatory. And then came the fermented sodas (which sound stranger than they are – I had a lacto-fermented quince soda at Semilla in Brooklyn last autumn and it was all kinds of delicious, similar to what you might expect to taste if someone offered you quince ‘cider’). But one thing I never understood until recently was his love of all things ginger. He must be one of the few people I know who actually enjoy the chewy ginger candies you can buy in what look like small cigarette packs in Chinese supermarkets.

With its undeniably soapy flavour, ginger can be an acquired taste. And it certainly was for me. Yet, the older I get, I have come to not only appreciate but in fact enjoy its flavour – sweet yet fiery – most recently in an incredible risotto that included both anchovies and small pieces of candied ginger Alessandro and I enjoyed at Marzapane in Rome. So it was no surprise that when I picked up Claire Ptak’s new book The Violet Bakery Cookbook, I was immediately drawn to the Chewy Ginger Snaps – with the wet and rather cold start to autumn we have been having here in Brussels, there is little I would rather like to do than sit on the sofa with a good book (currently reading this!), a steaming mug of homemade chai and a heavily spiced cookie like one of these ginger snaps.

_MG_0546

Rye Molasses Ginger Snaps

Adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Notes: Claire writes that the recipe yields 12 cookies – what I was not quite expecting was that by 12 cookies she meant 12 cookies the size of your palm. While I am used to seeing and eating chocolate chip cookies that are that big, when it comes to ginger snap cookies I am used to seeing them in much smaller sizes, roughly the size of a slice of cucumber maybe. So just bear this in mind if you make these. The dough can obviously be divided into much smaller pieces for smaller cookies and that way should easily yield 18-24 cookies (just make sure to reduce the baking time accordingly). Claire rolls her cookies in caster sugar before baking which I skipped when I made these – next time I may follow her advice but use a flavoured sugar like cinnamon or cardamom sugar instead of plain caster sugar.

Ingredients

200g wholemeal rye flour
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground black cardamom
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground coriander
Pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g candied ginger, chopped finely
125g softened butter
100g dark brown sugar
100g molasses
1.5 tsp boiling water

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two sheetpans with parchment paper.

In large bowl mix the rye flour with the spices, the salt, the bicarbonate of soda and the chopped ginger. Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the softened butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy (this will take about 5 minutes). Add the molasses and beat to combine. Add the boiling water, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a ball. Place six balls on each sheetpan. Flatten each ball slightly using a spatula or the palms of your hands.

Bake for ca. 15 minutes or until the tops are starting to crack but the cookies are still somewhat soft in the middle (they will firm up as the cookie cool).

_MG_0565

Cinnamon and Walnut Babka

 

_MG_0497After a summer of more Amazon packages carrying cookbooks arriving than I would like to admit, autumn so far has been all about making the most of them. Tara O’Brady has had me rediscover the brilliance and simplicity of a good dal (followed by her simply delectable chocolate chip cookies – it is all about the melted butter!). She also introduced me to a fresh chutney made with green apple and copious amounts of coriander which will become a staple in my kitchen. And Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Wholefoods Kitchen has not only upped my game when it comes to preparing legumes, her stunning book also introduced me to Miso Mayonnaise. Simple yet delicious. Most recently, Heidi Swanson‘s Near and Far had me thoroughly enjoying Saag Paneer for dinner several nights in a row and enjoying an unexpectedly wonderful dessert of goat yoghurt topped with her saffron infused honey.

All of which is to say, there is some comfort in following a (good!) recipe rather than simply trying to make the most of the ingredients in your fridge. Someone has already done the heavy lifting for you and thought about the proportions of the main ingredients, flavour pairings and seasoning. All of those can of course be adjusted, but it is nice to have a solid base to start with. And one such solid base is the enriched dough recipe in Honey & Co: The Baking Book, the first step in making their famous babkas.

Similar to the Krantz cake of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem fame, the Honey & Co Babka consists of a sweet enriched dough that is wrapped around all manner of fillings – chocolate, cinnamon and hazelnuts, tahini and white chocolate or a poppyseed filling that reminds me of the Mohnstrudel of my childhood in Germany. And while I have resisted the lure of the Jerusalem Krantz cake to date, I found myself unable to stop thinking about the Honey & Co babka and once I tried their recipe, unable to stop making it: in the past month or so, I have made the babka three times. Over that time, I have slowly adapted the recipe until I was happy with how it worked in my kitchen (and until the filling to dough ratio was spot on). Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

– the recipe mentions you can substitute the fresh yeast asked for with dried yeast. I don’t generally have fresh yeast at home (unless you count my sourdough starter Hugo) so I have been using dried active yeast instead (I use the Allinson bread – I pick up 2 tins every time I am in London). If using dried active yeast, I found it worked best to dissolve the yeast in the milk before adding it to the dough. This not only makes it easier to distribute the yeast evenly in the dough, but is also a neat way of checking whether your yeast is still alive.
– if you have a stand mixer, by all means use this for kneading the dough. For a small amount of flour as is required here I am quite happy to knead by hand. But, and here is the but, the dough is very sticky initially and it will take about 15 minutes to turn it into a smooth ball if kneading by hand (good for anger management though)
– while the recipe asks for room temperature butter, I am the first person to forget to take the butter out of the fridge in the morning if I want to bake in the evening. But, I am glad to report that the recipe works equally well with melted butter as it does with room temperature butter
– ensure the babka can proof somewhere warm. If your kitchen is anything like mine, it is probably too cold, hovering just above the 20 degree mark, and the proofing times will be off. One way to get around this is to let the dough rise while running the washing machine or tumble dryer and placing the bowl with the proofing dough on a chair in front of it. That being said, don’t expect the dough to grow to double its size while proofing – it is ready when the dough is puffy and when pressed gently with a finger the dent will only slowly disappear.

_MG_0492Cinnamon and Walnut Babka

Note: Recipe for the babka dough is only very very slightly adapted from Honey & Co: The Baking Book. The filling recipe can be easily adapted using different nuts or spices (almond and cinnamon would work equally well or pumpkin seed and mixed spice). Similarly, you can make the syrup without honey (just substitute the same amount of sugar in weight) and can be flavoured with different spices or with orange blossom water for example.

Ingredients

For the babka dough

2 tsp dried active yeast
100ml milk
330g wholemeal spelt flour
40g sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 egg
90g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature

For the cinnamon and walnut filling

75g soft butter
100g sugar
100g walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon

For the syrup
100ml water
60g sugar
40g honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves

Directions

Start with the babka dough. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until hot to the touch. Add the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, egg and the butter. Add the yeast mixture. Using your hands or a mixer, mix until everything comes together in a shaggy and sticky ball of dough. If using a stand mixer, knead for ca. 8-10 minutes or until the dough is perfectly smooth and no longer sticky – alternatively, turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until it is perfectly smooth and no longer sticky, this should take around 15 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.

While the babka dough is resting, prepare the filling. Add the butter, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon to the container of a food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are chopped finely and the mixture comes together.

Grease a loaf pan with butter and line with parchment paper.

To assemble the babka, place the dough on a floured surface and roll out to a 30x50cm rectangle (don’t worry if the edges are a bit uneven – no one will be able to tell once the babka is baked!). Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush, then add the filling and try and distribute it as evenly as possibly – there won’t be enough filling to cover the entire rectangle in a layer of it (I found that much filling overpowering in previous tests) but try and ensure it is evenly spread across the dough.

Carefully roll up the babka starting from the long side. The easiest way to do this is to first fold the edge of the dough in over itself as tightly as possible starting from one end of the dough and slowly working your way to the other end. From then on you should be able to roll up the entire dough using both hands and resting the heels of your hands on the folded dough and gently rolling your hands forward.

Roll the dough so that the seam is facing downwards. With a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the roll in two halves along the long side. Turn the dough slightly to ensure the cut side is facing upwards on both pieces. Pinch the ends together on one side then gently twist the two pieces of dough, pinching the other ends together as well. Carefully push on both ends to compress the twisted strands of dough until they are about the length of your loaf pan. Using both hands, carefully place the babka into the prepared loaf pan. Cover and let proof somewhere warm for ca. 1.5-2h or until risen and puffy and a dent made in the dough with a finger will only slowly disappear.

While the babka is proofing, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Once the babka is proofed, bake for 30-40 minutes until well risen, springy to the touch and golden brown in colour.

While the babka is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine the water, sugar, honey and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Wait for the sugar to be dissolved completely, then continue boiling until the syrup just starts to thicken slightly. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the babka – you may not need all the syrup.

Leave the babka to cool in the pan before turning it out.

The babka should keep 3-4 days at room temperature.

_MG_0493

Preserved Lemon and Almond Cake

_MG_0433

Certain recipes do not really warrant an introduction given how well known (and well loved!) they are. Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake is one of those recipes. A fat-free sponge made with whole oranges (cooked until soft) and ground almonds instead of flour, the final cake is more than the sum of its parts. Simple in appearance, the cake is deliciously moist and incredibly perfumed thanks to the use of two whole oranges per cake.

In fact, it is so good that once you start making it, it becomes difficult to stop. My parents went through a long phase of cooking oranges in batches (the process takes about 1 hour) and freezing the orange pulp so the cake was that little bit quicker to prepare once another craving for Claudia Roden’s delicious cake struck.

I read Helena Atlee’s The Land Where Lemons Grow with great interest during the summer. And while I most certainly do not have a green thumb it was nonetheless fascinating to read about the origins of the different citrus fruits we now eat on an almost daily basis, how revered ornamental citrus trees once were and the impact the appearance (and disappearance) of certain types of citrus has had on local economies all over Italy. Reading about some of the challenges of growing citrus (and the sudden mutations that can happen) has made me appreciate even more the subtly varying flavours different citrus fruits have.

There are a couple of lemon varieties native to Morocco, typically called citron beldi (i.e. traditional lemon). What they have in common is that they are rather small in size (not much larger than a ping pong ball) and coloured bright yellow that almost tinges into orange. They are incredibly fragrant with a perfume not unlike that of bergamot lemons (the flavour we all recognise from Earl Grey Tea). Their most famous use is probably in preserved lemons – one of the key ingredients of many delicious Moroccan tagines.

If you can get your hands on citron beldi or similarly profumed lemon varieties such as meyer lemons, it is very easy to make preserved lemons at home (David Lebovitz has a simple recipe on his website). In theory you can use whatever lemons (ideally organic) you can find at the market, but the flavour will be slightly different using normal varieties. Failing that, most Middle Eastern and North African delis will sell preserved lemons by weight these days.

In addition to flavouring tagines, preserved lemons are also a wonderful addition to salads, they can serve as the base for a North African twist on gremolata to finish off rich stews (substituting finely diced preserved lemon peel and coriander for the lemon zest and parsley) and can be used for all manners of different marinades, especially for fish. But one should not stop there. Given how fragrant they are, I was curious to see how a cake made with preserved lemon would taste. And what better recipe to adapt than Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake.

Preserved Lemon and Almond Cake

Adapted from Claudia Roden

Notes: If you love lemon flavoured cakes, you will love this cake. It is true that preserved lemons are stored in a salty brine, but once you rinse off the lemons and boil them in water, the saltiness is neutralised. So all the preserved lemons impart to the cake is their beautiful perfume. And the ground coriander? Earthy yet zesty in flavour, the small amount of this spice tames the perfume of the preserved lemons just enough to ensure the cake does not taste overly perfumed or soapy. In short, if you have been wondering what to make with that jar of preserved lemons lurching at the back of your fridge, make this cake!

Ingredients
4 preserved lemons
6 eggs
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
250g sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Directions

In a medium saucepan boil the preserved lemons for ca. 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a round springform and line with parchment paper.

Cut the lemons in half, remove the seeds, then add the lemons to the bowl of a food processor. Process until roughly chopped. Add the eggs, ground almonds, baking powder, sugar and ground coriander and process until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform. Bake for ca. 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the springform before serving.

The cake will keep ca. 5 days at room temperature.

(The recipe is easily halved. If so, reduce the baking time to ca. 30 minutes and start checking for doneness around 25 minutes.)

Turmeric Tonic

_MG_0347

That nasty sore throat I brought back from my summer holiday? It is thankfully long gone. What is not gone is my mild obsession with turmeric, especially fresh turmeric. While I always have powdered turmeric at home to cook with, I only recently started buying fresh turmeric (mainly because my local organic supermarket only recently started stocking it).

So, while I was still soothing that sore throat, one day I decided to make turmeric tea using fresh turmeric instead. And it was nothing short of a revelation. While I used to dutifully sip mug after mug of turmeric tea to help my at times battered immune system, I cannot say I ever much enjoyed its flavour (and in fact I always tried to hide it underneath copious amounts of honey). Yet the same tea made with fresh turmeric tea is positively delicious because the balance of flavours of fresh turmeric is completely different. Fresh, the root has a really bright and almost zesty flavour, sweet yet earthy. And that acrid flavour that can be overpowering when using dried turmeric? It is barely noticeable in the fresh root. Fresh turmeric is so delicious in fact, I now happily drink turmeric tea and even make a turmeric soda (and I may or may not have enjoyed the odd gin & (turmeric) tonic too once that cold was gone)!

Maybe you don’t drink turmeric tea at all when you have a cold. Maybe you already know about fresh turmeric. But in case you don’t, and you too have been dutifully sipping acrid turmeric tea for too long, then today’s recipe is for you. Because I could not keep all that deliciousness all to myself. So in a short break from cookies, cakes and other baked goods and desserts today we will have turmeric tonic instead (and fret not, more cake is coming!).

Turmeric Tonic

Note: Unless you use kitchen gloves or a food processor, chances are making turmeric tonic will heavily stain your hands an any other surface it touches. Given this, I now tend to make a big batch of turmeric tonic (it will keep for about a week if stored in the fridge). And while I am no nutritionist, I have read that some suggest adding freshly ground black pepper when drinking turmeric tonic to help the body absorb or all those immune-boosting properties of turmeric, so I have included that suggestion below.

Makes enough turmeric tonic for ca. 2-2.5 L of turmeric tea or turmeric soda

Ingredients

500ml water
2 tbsp grated fresh turmeric
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp honey

To serve: extra hot water (for turmeric tea) or sparkling water (for turmeric soda), juice of 1/2 lemon per person (or to taste), optional: freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Turn off the heat. Add the turmeric and ginger. Cover the pot and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain (discarding the turmeric and ginger) and add the honey, stirring to dissolve the honey completely.

For turmeric tea, add 1 part tonic to 3-4 parts hot water (depending on how strong you like it) and the juice of 1/2 lemon per mug (and you may want to add extra honey if you prefer things sweeter).

For turmeric lemonade, wait until the turmeric tonic has come to room temperature. Use 1 part tonic to 3-4 parts sparkling water (again, depending on how strong you like it). Add the juice of 1/2 lemon per glass (again, feel free to add more honey if you prefer things sweeter) and finish off with some ice.

To store, pour the turmeric tonic into a glass bottle or large jam jar and place in the fridge where it should keep about a week.