ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT
It's Monday morning and we are all recovering from a rather full-on weekend. For us, Friday night is family night, whether it's just our separate nuclears or a gathering of the clans.
This week was a somewhat increased affair as we had relatives in town from both Washington DC and Geneva as well as Cornwall!
My mother has always been a 'the more the merrier' kind of person and there is always enough food for a few extra bods around the table, so as well as the family there were several friends added into the mix. Just as our annual Thanksgiving dinner gives my mother a practice run at cooking a turkey before the holidays; I viewed a gathering like we had this weekend as a dry-run for the Pesach festivities.
Forewarned is forearmed, and I was lucky enough to find out that one of our guests is gluten-free which meant that this particular FND (Friday Night Dinner) would be a total facsimile of what we will serve in two weeks time, even down to the dessert!
Over the years, I have made and re-made this cake in all its many variations. The first time I came across the recipe was in a battered and well used copy of Claudia Roden's peerless A Book of Middle Eastern Food first published in 1968 and sitting on my mother's kitchen shelf. In those days there were no food processors, and you had to rub the cooked oranges through a sieve but now a quick blitz in a food processor is all you need to do.
This cake-pudding hybrid is a rarity among cakes, in that exact measurements are not critical. A few grammes more or less of boiled fruit pulp will not sabotage it, and if you want to go down the lemon or lime route just add another 25g of sugar to balance the tartness.
The cake is damp and dense and keeps incredibly well. In fact, it is best a day or two after baking, assuming you can wait that long to dig in, as it gets even more squidgy and sticky. It freezes well and if it feels a bit 'tired' when it comes out the freezer a drizzle with some icing sugar mixed to a paste with whatever fruit you have used will perk it up no end. Serve it with cream, ice-cream, fruit compote, oranges in caramel or just on its own with a cup of strong coffee; bliss!
I have made orange and pistachio, clementine, lemon, lemon and lime, pink grapefruit and have even made a lemon hazelnut (2/3 ground hazelnuts and 1/3 ground almonds).
Just be creative with your fruit and nut combinations and it will turn out brilliantly every time.
375-400g clementines (about 4 medium sized ones)
6 large eggs
225g ground almonds
1 clove - optional
1 teaspoon baking powder - check it is gluten free if you are making it for a coeliac.
9 inch round tin or foil dish
Wash the clementines well and remove the 'pitom' the little cap at the top that would attach it to the stalk. Put them in a small but deep saucepan and add the clove if using; cover well with water and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly for about 90 minutes until the clementines are very tender. Scoop them out onto a plate with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool.
Now pre-heat the oven to 180c, grease and line the bottom of your cake tin, I find a spring form tin is best; or grease the foil dish. Last time I made this, I used two foils one inside another for extra rigidity and it also prevented the sides from browning too quickly.
Cut the fruits in half and remove any seeds that might be in them and then place the whole lot into a food processor and blitz until you have a thick puree. Don't worry about the skin and pith as the boiling will have removed any bitterness.
At this point, I just dump the rest of the ingredients all in together and whizz them again until blended. I don't even bother to sieve the ground almonds as I quite like this very damp cake to have a bit of texture. If you choose to sieve the nuts then it will take a bit longer than the two minutes it takes me to get it to this stage!
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes. Check the cake after 30 minutes and if it is browning too quickly give it a foil or baking paper 'hat' to stop it colouring too much. Allow to cool in the tin and then dust with icing sugar just before serving.