The colder months are notable for citrus fruit and this year’s crop of lemons, limes, mandarin, oranges and some weird agrumi throwbacks is abundant and extra juicy, given the plentiful rainfall. I find myself grating citrus peel into more dishes lately: a touch of grated orange peel enhances a dark rye sourdough, while grated lemon peel has become the new parsley- it’s the final sprinkle on many savoury dishes. Lemons have been preserved: that salty acid is a surprising addition to a fishcake mix, while the limes have gone straight into the freezer. It’s odd, but I always associate limes with summer and hot climates, Thai food, Mojito and the beach, and yet they are usually scarce when you need them most. They juice well after a few months in the freezer. Oranges and mandarins are best enjoyed straight up, though both make rather lovely cakes. I also dry the skins near the woodstove as they make very effective fire starters: orange oil is highly combustible as I found out one winter, so care needs to be taken in drying them. This season I’ve made a rather lovely lemon jam, Marmellata di Limoni. It lacked the fussy soaking and slicing of a British marmalade and yet tastes just as good. I also attempted the famous steamed pudding from The Three Chimneys Restaurant in Corbost on the Isle of Skye. It was a terrible flop, and yet the accompanying Drambuie custard was a winner. I inflicted my flop of a pudding on my friends, who gave it a new title, “The Three Jimmys.” After a shot or two of that special liqueur, no one really noticed how bad it was. The chooks enjoyed it the next day.
Which brings me to the Mandarin Almond cake which doubles as a noble winter pudding. It is similar in many ways to that classic and famous cake, the Middle Eastern orange almond cake, but more exotic and interesting. It can also be made more quickly as the mandarins don’t require hours of boiling. This is a recipe to keep, unlike my failed attempt at that famous Isle of Skye marmalade pudding.
Mandarin Almond Cake
- 300 -350 g mandarins, skin on, cut into quarters, seeds removed
- 1 3/4 cups caster sugar ( divided into two parts- 1 cup and 3/4 cup)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 125 g unsalted butter, softened
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups ground almond
- 1/3 cup cornflour
Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 20cm (base) round cake pan. Line base and side with baking paper.
Combine mandarin, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon and 13/4 cups cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Gently boil, covered, for 15 minutes or until mandarin skin is tender. Remove mandarin with a slotted spoon. Process mandarin until almost smooth. Cool. Reserve syrup.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining sugar until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed. Stir in almond meal, cornflour and mandarin purée. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Meanwhile, place reserved syrup in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack over a baking tray. Pour half the syrup over cake. Serve cake warm with cream and drizzled with remaining syrup.
This recipe is adapted from one found on Taste.