Friday, 21 March 2008

Nigella Lawson's Easy Almond Cake

I'm going to cook this cake up the coast at my mums place over the Easter weekend. I decided on this cake because it's easy, I've made it before (and have marzipan in the fridge) and it's a counterpoint to Easter chocolate. It's also a cake that lasts a few days very nicely. Since my mother claims not to like sweet almond dishes, but loves friands and various other sweet things with almond in them I'm going to have to make the cake with Michael, keeping the recipe a secret til they are eating it. I'm also going to replace the vanilla essence with the zest of an orange as per Nigella's suggestion, and I might even replace the almond essence with some orange flower water, but I'll decide on the day.

250g softened unsalted butter
250g marzipan
150g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond essence
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs
150g SR flour

25cm springform tube pan or patterned ring mould, buttered and floured

Preheat the oven to 170C
Chop the butter and marzipan and put them into the bowl of the food processor with the sugar. Nigella asks for the double bladed knife attachment to be fitted to the food processor.
Process til pretty smooth and add the essences and extracts
process again and add the eggs, one at a time, down the funnel of the processor, processing between each addition.
Add the flour and process and then scrape into the prepared tin
Bake for 50 minutes, checking after 40 - the tester doesn't need to be completely clean - and cool in the tin.

I have a sneaking suspicion we don't have a food processor up there, but I know we have and industrial sized stick blender, and with a little ingenuity I think we can make it work. I'll try to post pictures if it all works, because it could be amusing!

Monday, 17 March 2008


I know I said I wasn't going to use this blog anymore, but we made pate last week and I wanted to record how we did it and how we'd do it next time so that next time the urge strikes me I have a recipe of sorts.

We started with:

  • 200g fresh duck livers - Tim said to pick them over carefully for gallbladders
    (!) but we didn't find any. Next time I would try half duck half chicken livers.
  • Half a bottle or so of red wine and a cup or so of Brandy reduced with aromatics (I used peppercorns, juniper berries, some thyme) to 4-6 tablespoons of syrupy liquid
  • Butter - 150g plus more to cook the livers in. This needs to be at room temperature otherwise, apparently, you get flecks of butter in your pate.

  • plenty of salt and pepper

  • Then we:
    Firstly we got the butter out and chopped it up a bit and did the same to the livers.
    Then we arranged the things the finished pate would go into. We weren't planning on turning it out, so we just gave the pots/ramekins we used a light spray of cooking oil. If we had been going to turn them out I could have given them a good spray with oil, then lined them with glad wrap before getting fancy with the gelatin.
    We then fried the livers, a few at a time in plentiful butter. The livers need to be seared but not cooked through.
    As the livers were cooked they were tossed into the food processor, once they were all done I threw in the rest of the butter, the strained reduction and plenty of salt and pepper.
    It got a decent blitzing before I tasted it for seasoning. Since at this stage it's warm pureed semi-cooked liver it'll need more salt because you won't taste the salt as much when it's chilled.
    Blitz to mix in the added salt and then pour it onto the waiting containers.

    Before popping it in the fridge we covered each little pot with clarified butter to ensure it keeps it's colour nicely (success!).

    The verdict:
    Well, it was definitely pate, which is a start, but it was a bit dark and intense, for our personal taste. Since it was made with duck livers (rather gamey) and red wine (dark red) that's not surprising. If I was doing it again I would add a splash of cream, some tinned green peppercorns and I'd probably play around with the booze that went into the reduction. I'd also consider using half or all chicken livers to scale back the intensity. I think I want to make it again....