Easy Mix Lemon and Almond Syrup Cake

When the young ones ask me which football team I follow, I always reply ‘The Seagulls’. They look bewildered as there is no major AFL (Australian Football League ) team with this bird as their logo. I quickly follow this with an explanation, that I barrack for real seagulls, the birds that land on the grounds during a match and annoy players, lest they think it’s time to send me off to the funny farm. I am not a football fan at all. In fact, it bores me to tears – please feel free to substitute that other very Australian colloquial phrase which refers to ‘a state of being during which one is without feces’.

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After the cake has rested a little, pour on the lemon syrup.

On rare occasions, I allow myself to watch ‘the footy’. It is usually forced upon my consciousness during the grand final season, when all sorts of non footy followers suddenly convert. Not me. I allow myself snippets of the game to waft over me, but would rather be the tea lady – or the beer/wine/cake/biscuit gatherer- during the broadcast.

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Cake ready to slice.

My mother, born and raised in Footscray, the original home of the Bulldogs team, was excited and anxious during the grand final this year. We had joined her to watch the big event, especially given that the last time her team won was in 1954. That’s pre- TV, a very long time to wait for a victory. She mentioned a few names of the players, the much-loved captain of the Bulldogs who retired earlier this year due to injury, my eyes were glazing over, and another one she referred to as ‘The Package’, a player who was bought for a large sum but who wasn’t living up to expectation. I kept calling him ‘The Packet’, at which point, the assembled football devotees suggested I should take a nap. I was happy to grab my smart phone and head to the backroom for a surf and a snooze.

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Lemon almond cake, cut into Middle Eastern shapes.

I woke up for the last 12 minutes, and enjoyed the match thoroughly. I can recommend this approach to my fellow football- loathing friends: just watch the last 12 minutes- that’s when the real action happens. You won’t have missed a thing.

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The lemon zest candies a little when cooking down the syrup, adding to the glazed surface.

I made this lemon cake for the day. As it turned out, it was a celebratory cake – the Bulldogs won. I can recommend this cake for its excellent keeping qualities ( up to one week in the fridge) and for its simplicity. It is now my favourite lemon syrup cake and can easily be adapted to gluten- free. The recipe comes from Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffries. I have made minor adjustments to the method.

Lemon Almond Syrup Cake

  • 50g plain flour ( or GF flour if required)
  • 200g almond meal
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 190g castor sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature cut into large chunks
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp almond essence
  • 1½ large lemons, finely zested

Lemon Syrup

  • 150g of castor sugar
  • 2 lemons zested ( or one large)
  • 125ml of lemon juice
  • 250ml of water

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 160c or lower for Fan Forced. (150c FF worked well for me). Butter a 20cm – 24 cm square cake tin and line the base with paper. Butter the paper and dust the tin lightly with flour.
  • Put the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt into a food processor. Whiz them together for 20 seconds, then tip into a bowl.
  • Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and whiz them together until they are light and creamy. Scrape down as you go, then add in eggs, one at a time, until creamy. Stop the processor, add the vanilla, almond essence and lemon zest and blitz for another 10 seconds or so.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in the food processor and pulse until they are mixed. Do not over pulse. Scrape the sides to make sure all is well mixed.
  • Scoop out the mixture into the prepared tin and flatten surface. Bake for around 50-55 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and if browning too quickly, cover the top with tin foil.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the lemon syrup. Place all ingredients into a pot over a high heat. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and allow it to come to boil. Let it bubble for 10 – 12 minutes or until it looks thicker and like syrup. Then off heat and set aside. Keep warm.
  • When the cake is ready, place the cake in the tin on a wire rack for 10 mins. Invert onto the rack and remove the paper. Now brush with the lemon syrup. I used all the syrup as the cake happily absorbed it but the original recipe advises using half and serving the rest of the syrup alongside the cake. If using all the syrup, the cake will be very moist and very lemony.
  • The cake stores well for about 1 week in the fridge. Warm it slightly before serving if from the fridge. Other lemon and lime cakes from my blog can be found in the links below.
  • Limoni di Mama.
    Limoni di Mama.

    https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/lemon-lime-and-poppy-seed-cake-with-books/

    https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/lemon-ricotta-and-almond-cake/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/easy-lime-syrup-cake/

Crunchy Fried Calamari with Tahini Remoulade

Saha, by Greg and Lufy Malouf.
Saha, by Greg and Lufy Malouf.

It was a lucky find. I was cleaning out the freezer in anticipation of the bounty that late Spring and Summer provides, when I found a small packet of frozen calamari. This buried treasure was still within the realms of short term memory, unlike many of the other odd frozen parcels, which became treats for ‘el chooks’  (the chickens).

As the rest of the ingredients were on hand, it was time to attempt Greg Malouf’s Crunchy Fried Calamari and Tahini Remoulade from the cookbook Saha.

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Although the total recipe appears to have a long list of ingredients, it is really quite simple. The recipe is divided into steps: make the spice mix, then the remoulade, then the crunchy topping and finally the quick fry of the calamari. The Golden Spice Mix comes from the first chapter of Malouf’ s Saha with recipes for cumin salt, fragrant salt, paprika oil, taklia – a garlicky spicy topping- baharat, and a spicy marinade.

Golden Spice Mix.

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 tablespoon chilli

Mix together and store in a jar for up to 6 months.

Tahini Remoulade.

  • 150 g plain yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini, well stirred
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins
  • 1 teaspoon chopped capers

Combine the yoghurt, tahini, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Crunchy Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cornflour ( cornstarch)
  • 3 tablespoons fine polenta
  • 3 tablespoons fine semolina
  • 1 tablespoon of golden spice mix ( see above)

The Calamari, Cooking and Assembling.

  • 8 small calamari, quartered
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for shallow frying
  • lemon wedges
  • fresh garden leaves to serve

Prepare the crunchy coating by sieving all the ingredients together. Season the calamari pieces then dunk them into the crunchy coating mixture. Put the calamari pieces into the sieve to shake off any extra coating. Heat the oil in a large frying pan until nearly smoking. Add the calamari pieces in batches, shaking the pan to coat them with the oil and to colour them evenly. They should take less than a minute to cook. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Serve them piping hot with lemon wedges and the Tahini Remoulade.

My Notes

*I used larger calamari and cut them into small  pieces. This would work well with any shape you decide to cut. I also used the tentacles.

* The coating would be handy for many other small fry, although a sticking agent, such as a beaten egg or some milk, would help the coating adhere to flathead fillets. Calamari has enough of its own ‘glue’.

* The tahini remoulade is a winner. This sauce is far more appealing than the common place tartar based on mayonnaise. I will be using this in future. I used more capers than suggested in the recipe.

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Thanks Leah, of the Cookbook Guru, for encouraging me and others to cook from a nominated cookbook, taking us away from our comfort zone!

 

 

 

Super Smoky Babaghanouj

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Just as Autumn begins to turn cold and hints at what’s to come, we light our first wood fire and the family menu begins to change. Stock simmers gently on the stove, Anzac biscuits are made, hearty lentil dishes re- appear and eggplants dishes are back on the menu. During the eggplant ( aubergine) season, when they are large, cheap and white fleshed, I am secretly pleased to find a morning fire that is almost spent- save a few red coals and ash. The eggplants are thrown straight onto the coals- and the door to the wood heater is left open.This works equally well in a corner of an open fire.  After some time, I return and flip them over. Super smoky Babaghanouj is on the way.

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After retrieving the charred, blistered eggplants from the fire, slit them open and place in a colander over a bowl to drain. Lunch is some hours away but the flavour base is ready. Image

Today’s Babaghaouj recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’. Leah, from the Cookbook Guru, is highlighting Claudia Roden’s recipes this month, in particular, those from the A New Book of  Middle Eastern Food. I have been making it this way for so long now: I have experimented with the addition of yoghurt and other flavours but have settled on this smoky dairy free version, with lots of garlic. I recommend that you give Leah’s a go too, especially if you are not into a strong smoky taste and you like the velvety texture that yoghurt brings.

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The Recipe

  • 2 small eggplants or 1 large one.( weight 650g)
  • 3 Tablespoons Tahini
  • juice of two large lemons
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed.
  • salt to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly ground cumin.
  • EV Olive Oil
  • Parsley

After charring the eggplants in your left over fire, (as above), slit them open, drain them, and peel. Remove all the flesh, place in a food processor with the garlic,briefly process, then add tahini paste, process, then the lemon juice and salt to taste. In the meantime, heat a small pan, toast the cumin seeds, then grind them in a mortar. Add to the mixture. Taste. adjust salt or lemon. Swirl out flat on a plate and serve with falafel and other salads. Drizzle with a little EV Olive Oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

A couple of notes.

The Arabic term , Baba Ghanoush, means “pampered papa” or “coy daddy”, perhaps with reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem. 

It really is worthwhile grinding fresh spices, if you use them. For me, it’s a chance to break out my baby mortar and pestle.

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Kisir: Peppery Bulgur Salad

In Melbourne, Brunswick is the home of Middle Eastern food, with numerous Lebanese and Turkish restaurants lining the northern end of Sydney Road. Along with Persian sweet shops, the emerging Shisha ( hookah) bars as well as some notorious Middle Eastern bread shops and grocery stores, a visit to Sydney Road, Brunswick is an exciting and inexpensive trip to another world. I can highly recommend a tram ride on Route number 19 to North Coburg, via Lebanon,Turkey and Iran.

I have been cooking food from this region for many years. The salads are vibrant and fresh with herbs used in abundance. The little mezze or starters make wonderful lunches, and the colourful and earthy dips made from fresh vegetables and pulses are so quick to throw together. It is also naturally vegetarian, apart from kebabs, with so much to choose from.

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Today, as part of this month’s  ‘The  Cookbook Guru’s ‘ focus on Claudia Roden’s ‘The New Middle Eastern Cookbook,’ I am heading straight to Turkey. This little side dish, Kisir, is simple to make and would be an exciting foil to many other Mezze. The recipe comes from Claudia’s ‘Arabesque’ as I was unable to obtain the original classic, but I am sure some recipes remain the same.

Kisir ( serves 6)

  • 200 g fine-ground bulgur
  • 125 g boiling water
  • 1 Tbles tomato paste
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 5 Tbles extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fresh red or green chilli , finely chopped
  • salt
  • 5- 7 spring onions
  • 300 g tomatoes, diced
  • bunch of flat leafed parsley, ( 50g) chopped
  • bunch of mint ( 25 g) chopped
  • To serve – 2 baby Cos or Little Gem Lettuces

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  1. Put the bulgur into a bowl, pour the boiling water over it, stir and leave for 15- 20 minutes until the grain is tender. Don’t be tempted to add more water since the juice from the lemons and tomatoes will soften it further.
  2. Add the tomato paste, juice, and oil, the chilli, salt and mix thoroughly. Trim the green tops of the spring onions, then slice them finely. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the bulgur mix, together with the parsley and mint.
  3. Serve with the small lettuce around the edge of the salad. Another way is to roll the bulgur mixture into balls the size of a small egg and to place one in the hollow of a baby lettuce leaf.

Variation. Add 1- 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses to the dressing.

My Notes.

I had to add more boiling water in step one. Despite Claudia’s warning, I found this to be necessary.

I used the pomegranate molasses and enjoyed this extra dimension.

I notice that Ottolenghi also has this recipe in ‘Plenty’. Claudia’s version of this classic is so delightfully simple.

Below- Sydney Road, Melbourne 3056. Catch a tram or walk, it’s always stimulating.

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