Monday, 25 October 2010

Swedish Apple Cake

I’ve had this recipe filed in the “must bake’ bookmark ever and today was the day I finally baked it.

Halloween is coming up and despite my attempts to do something with a pumpkin its simly not in my blood, probably because it is a non existent holiday on this part of the world and , well, the heat waves are confusing any notion of fall. If it weren’t for the apples, pumpkins and citrus fruit that began appearing in the market, I’d be lost.

I don’t recall what it was about this cake that caught my eye. I think it was it its pure simplicity and my affection for anything Nordic. You see, its Swedish, and Sweden can get quite cold. Quick and easy to bake it is not a flashy cake pregnant with failed promises, but is instead succulent and moist, naïve and pure in its plainness. And it filled my house with the warm air of a home.

It is one of those cakes that become a staple, a comfort, and I cant stop thinking about a slice sitting cosily inside a bowl of warm custard.

Swedish apple cake

This recipe is adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s Swedish apple that appeared here.

3 eggs

¾ cup unrefined cane sugar

2 cups flour

1½tsp baking powder

200g Sour cream

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks

¼ tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 175ºC.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until it is thick and pale.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, folding t gently until it is all combined.

Fold the sour cream into the mixture.

Fold the cinnamon and diced apples into the mix until it is all combined.

You can brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with golden granulated sugar and some cinnamon (I added cinnamon sugar I bought on my last trip to the Netherlands).

Grease a 20cm cake tin with a knob of butter, then pour the batter in.

Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, then take it out and leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge and turn out on to a plate, then flip again so the apples are on top.

Serve hot or at room temperature, as is or with a dollop of crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

For variations, try adding freshly ground mace, cardamon, chunks of candied ginger or apricot, raisin or chopped walnuts to the mixture for your personal signature apple cake.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Apple walnut goats cheese loaf

This is the first time since I started this blog, that I haven’t updated it for this long. Its not for the lack of want, more like having to accept there are only 24 hours in a day and just so much I can do, despite being über- efficient.

I’ve been busy working food from different angles, but not before I recovered from the previous post, which took longer then anticipated.

The fall is here, despite it being warmer now then a hot day in August, and apples, Jerusalem artichokes and other fall vegetables are finally starting to appear in the markets in full glory.

it’s also the olive picking season.

I took a day trip to an olive grove that belongs to one of the finest olive oil producers in the land days before the olive harvest begins. Set by the Sea of Galilee, the fattoria grows and produces 7 different olive varieties from across the Mediterranean such as Suri, Barnea, Coratina, koroneiki, picholine, arbequina, leccino and piqual.

In order for an olive tree to produce it must cross-pollinate with a different variety so the grove is mixed, alternating every few rows.

I picked a handful of each variety and took them home with me. I made a cut in the flesh of each olive and set in a bowl of water for a week, changing the water daily. This is done to extract the bitterness from the olives, now resting in a sterilized jar by the window, infused with water, salt, herbs and spices. Now comes the waiting part. So I wait.

In the meantime, apples are calling me and whilst I do love me an apple cake, I decided to try as a savoury one. Paired with walnuts and a semi hard goats cheese, the result was part cake, part bread. I'll call it a loaf. It gives off the aroma of a comforting apple cake, of autumn, of home, but the bite is surprising in its maturity and the flavour isn’t masked by sweetness. It can be served as a side dish, for a picnic a brunch, or as part of a light lunch.

Apple walnut goats cheese loaf

Adapted from a recipe in the NYTimes

Makes 1 loaf


1 cup AP flour, sifted

¾ cup whole wheat flour, sifted

2 Tsp baking powder

1 Tsp salt

½ Tsp freshly ground peppercorns

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 eggs

1/3 cup goats milk yogurt

1 granny smith apple, cored, peeled and diced

50 gr semi hard goats cheese (like Bouche, for example), crumbled

Handful of walnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped

Atlantic sea salt

Needles from a Rosemary twigs

Preheat the oven to 175ºC and use olive oil to oil a loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine flours, baking powder, salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl lightly whisk the eggs, then add the yogurt and olive oil and whisk to combine.

Fold the liquids into the flour mixture and mix until it all comes together. The dough is pretty dry and thick, but don’t worry.

Fold the diced apple, crumbled goats cheese and walnuts into the dough and transfer to the loaf pan.

Drizzle some olive oil and scatter the rosemary needles and the sea salt above.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the loaf has turned golden and a knife inserted in the centre comes out dry.

Allow to cool for several minutes before realising the loaf from the pan, and leave on a rack to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to slice the loaf and serve with a dollop of fresh sour cream.

The loaf can be kept frozen, tightly wrapped in foil.

Note: If you’re not a fan of goats milk, you can substitute the cheese and yogurt with sheep’s milk. for other variation trv substituting the apple and walnuts with other seasonal fruit, nuts and seeds, different herbs, or salumi of your choice.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Seasonal greetings

After months of careful planning, collecting menus, locating the right producers, organic growers and artisanal bakers, hiring furniture, ordering flowers and choosing a selection of locally grown and produced wines I am now, happy and satisfied, recollecting my thoughts and recharging my batteries.
It was my mother's 70th Birthday and we thought this feat was worthy of a get together for the closest circle of family, friends and colleagues.
I decided to take upon myself the role of the catering service and what started out as a light buffet with a cheese platter and bread, a fruit basket and fine wine ended up as a lavish brunch table covered with an explosive and colorful cornucopia; the best in local and seasonal produce.
The Cheese and salumi platters were sourced from a nearby self sustained farm and pieces of schmaltz herring were laid out on a plate, interlaced with red onion slices and crushed black peppercorns. Organic goat's milk butter and a 2Kg specially made feta cheese complimented the selection of breads from a nearby artisanal bakery. Fluorescent carrot cubes lit a French lentil salad, and lima beans were lightly fried in olive oil, seasoned with fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme, finished off with roughly diced succulent Medjool dates.
Brunch wouldn't be complete without Kedgeree, a traditional British rice breakfast dish from colonial India with a poached smoked Mackerel, hard boiled egg, fresh ginger and parsley, served with sheep's milk yogurt dotted with sumac.
The Freekeh salad combined smoked green wheat kernels with sauteed leeks, toasted walnuts, and brown butter, topped with aged Tzfatit cheese, a salty, tangy white cheese originating in Tzfat, a city in Northern Israel.
I also baked several Savory cakes speckled with dates, nuts, aged sheep's cheese and herbs grown on my window sill.
For Dessert my mother baked traditional Hungarian cakes and in addition to a queen sized bowl of Scottish Cranachan I had also sourced the finest Rugelach in the whole of the land from a pastry shop famous for its succulent and juicy little pastries. Exploding with melting chocolate, these miniature pastries burst of goo, dripping to the floor leaving a trail of comfort. I found myself enjoying them above the kitchen sink.
This was an architectural construct combined with a military operation and it all came together as I had envisioned, choreographed and executed meticulously and precisely, like the satisfying 'click' of a car door slammed shut.
Coincidentally the event took place during the thanksgiving day for the fruit harvest and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate 70 years of a life well lived with family & friends surrounded by the finest produce from the land of plenty.