Tag Archives: almonds

Christmas Log

Christmas-Log-(6474)

Click here for the updated version, posted on 21/12/2017.

Unlike the traditional Christmas cake, which I only made a handful of times, I’m a huge fan of mince pies, the crustier the pastry the better, and this log. Now I must honestly say that the Maltese recipe for Christmas log wins hands down here, at least for me. The British chocolate sponge version doesn’t really do anything for me. I still prefer it over the pudding though, which on the other side of the spectrum is too rich, again for my taste.

Christmas-Log-(6461)

I use this recipe year after year, and is exactly how I like it. My mum makes a mean log, moist and it’s basically yumminess personified, which she gets by adding more alcohol than I do. I like mine a little bit more mellow, reflected in my version. If you want to add a bit more, so be it. I promised my friends this recipe by the end of the week, so without further ado here it is.

Makes approximately 3 x 20cm long logs, and it’s a no-cook assemblage! Please note that the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk – the gloopy sticky stuff. The mixture will turn out to be too liquidy if you use any other kind of tinned milk.

For the log:

  • 300g rich tea biscuits
  • 125g chopped almonds
  • 200g walnuts
  • 400g candied cherries
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 75ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 397g sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

  • Dark chocolate, melted for covering the log
  • icing sugar, for sprinkling

Lay 3 sheets of parchment paper or cling film on your worktop, one for each log.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients for the log, preferably using your clean hands. You should basically end up with a sticky mess, but trust me, this is what you want.

Divide the mixture into three, and roll each one in parchment paper.

Put them in the fridge and leave to set overnight.

When you are ready to decorate, unwrap and place them on flat serving dish. Cover with the dark molten chocolate. When the chocolate is completely set, liberally dust the logs with icing sugar.

My countdown to Christmas has officially begun! Enjoy!

Rob x

Rachel Khoo’s Pistachio and Prune Cake

Rachel Khoo Sausage Prune and Pistachio Cake (6872)OK…for the last few weeks the weather drove me insane. On a recent visit to Malta one of my friends said that there is always a grey cloud over the UK. There has been some windy and rainy weather around this Spring, and let me tell you, it can get to you after a pretty dismal winter. J loves stormy weather because it makes photos look good. He’s right of course. But that doesn’t make you want to go out for a picnic, does it? Mmm?

Today though, the Sun’s finally out once more. Great for all those lucky tennis fans in Wimbledon, and also good for the rest of us mere mortals, watching the action on the internet! For a taste of the grass, out with the boots and in with the flip flops, good food, an ice-cream or two, a picnic basket and off we go.

For an outing such as this it’s always good to opt for food which is very easy to make and very portable. I find that simplicity and portability always work well together and the following recipe was just that. While waiting for Rachel Khoo’s next book I made her cured sausage, pistachio and prune cake, from her charming third publication The Little Paris Kitchen, changing absolutely nothing from the original recipe. Removing the pistachio shells was the biggest faff and to be honest their taste got kind of lost in the end. I thought the smoked sausages were quite chewy, but the saltiness was what the cake needed. Mademoiselle Khoo said that salami would work well here and I know for a fact that friends who have tried it with cured chorizo, loved it.

Rachel Khoo Sausage Prune and Pistachio Cake (6863)Rachel Khoo Sausage Prune and Pistachio Cake (6864)Rachel Khoo Sausage Prune and Pistachio Cake (6867)Rachel Khoo Sausage Prune and Pistachio Cake (6869)Jarlsberg Muffins and Savoury Cake (6877)The Little Paris Kitchen (6865)I tried it again with dates and walnuts, two ingredients found perpetually found in my pantry, and I bet it would also work well with whole toasted almonds. That would certainly give it a more Mediterranean feel.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 150g cured French sausage (or whatever you can find – chorizo or cured Maltese sausages are good options), chopped in little cubes
  • 80g pistachios (or toasted walnuts or almonds), shelled and roughly chopped
  • 100g prunes (or dates), roughly chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100ml milk
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 50g plain runny yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper

Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Measure out all the the flour, baking powder, cubed sausage, pistachios and prunes, and give them a good mix in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, whisk the eggs until they turn pale. Add the milk, olive oil, yoghurt, salt and pepper and whisk again.

Now, making sure not to overbeat, slowly add and fold the dry flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Remember: some lumps in the batter is a good thing.

Pour this lovely cake mixture into your diligently prepared loaf tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

I like this best when served with a fresh salad. Picnic anyone? What’s your favourite picnic food?

Rob xx

(Recipe adapted from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen, Michael Joseph, 2012.)

Nigella’s chocolate and olive oil cake from “Nigellissima”

Chocolate-and-Olive-Oil-Cake-(6373)

When I purchased Nigellissima, this was the first recipe I wanted to try. I have previously come across other recipes with vegetable oil instead of butter as one of the basic elements of cake, but never olive oil. It could be that my reading isn’t extensive enough. Having said that this is somewhat of an unusual recipe. It really does work well though, and it has become very popular in this house. My lovely neighbour also told me it was “delicious” and I trust her judgement. Nigella’s recipe is great for those who are allergic to gluten, but you can also choose to replace the ground almonds with plain flour (the measurements of which she gives both in the book, and see the link below). I made it with almonds, as I always have a stash in my pantry, especially in the colder months when I make crumbles by the dozen. The almonds give extra moisture and oiliness to the cake, and by the end you should have something in between a sponge and a cake. If you want something easy but different this is the recipe you should go for, and it takes no time to prepare just before your guests arrive for lunch. Perhaps today for Halloween. All you need now is an espresso. A real one. Black and black.

Rob xx

Additional note (11.12. 2013): I have made this cake again and have posted new updated photos. Click here for the full recipe.

Moist Almond Cake.

Almond-Cake-(5255)

This recipe goes quite a few months back. I had an unusual number of lemons lying around doing nothing. This is not the norm in this house. As any good Mediterranean foodie I really really love lemons…in anything, not just in baking. That makes it perfect for use all year round.

Now how about this: the following recipe has almost nothing to do with lemons, so why am I rambling on about them you ask? It’s because the *original* recipe used the zest and juice of two lemons, but being such a klutz in the kitchen I zested my lemons, juiced them, placed the zest and juice into two small ramekins ready to go into the batter…yes…and of course I forgot about them!  I tipped the batter into the cake tin, into the oven it went and by the time I went about doing other things like checking any mail and cleaning the kitchen in between prepping other dishes, it was too late to add the lemons. This is definitely not the first time something like this happened, but nonetheless I was still angry with myself. I thought that the cake would lose out too much on flavour and maybe it would have lost some of the moistness. I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. One has to admit one’s mistakes! The cake was good and moist. Thinking back, how couldn’t it not be?

This recipe is taken from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Nigella says: “It is a plain cake, but gloriously plain.” It’s not meant to be a warning – this cake is meant to be made and enjoyed like all the simple things in life. It’s a cake for all seasons with or without the lemons. J preferred it without because he loves almonds. I think that it’s great either way. One thing I love here is the minimal amount of flour used; there are only 50g. The ground almonds take care of the rest. Here’s the recipe without the lemony element. I will make a note for those who would like them to be included as I go along. Here it is then!

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened or slightly melted
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 225g ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence (I used ¼ teaspoon almond extract instead)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons if using*
  • a piece of kitchen foil big enough to cover the top of the cake**
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and line or grease a 23cm springform tin. (I tried this cake twice also using a normal round cake tin. Make sure you *really* grease the tin well. But be careful; this cake is damp and very fragile.)
  2. In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together till you have a white mixture. Be patient – it *will* turn white. Beat in the eggs one by one and also add the flour, one quarter of it at a time. (Beating the eggs properly ensures some rise in the cake as there is no raising agent here.)
  3. Now add the ground almonds, the almond essence, and if you like tip in the zest and juice from the two lemons at this point.* Stir very very gently. This is important to keep the air in the batter.
  4. Tip the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for around an hour. This is only a rough estimate (as you can see in the book). Mine took 55 minutes exactly in both cases. So always keep an eye on it. After around 25 minutes cover the top of the cake with some kitchen foil to avoid burning.** You want it to turn a nice golden colour. Any more than that and it could burn. When the cake is done the skewer should come out clean. Don’t worry if there is a little gooeyness stuck to the knife or skewer. It’s ok if there’s just a little!
  5. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin for a little while. Then turn it on to a wire rack and let it cool completely. What I did at this point, and this is totally up to you, is to melt around 100g of dark chocolate with a knob of butter on a small pot of steaming water. Drizzle this over the cake. It’s an unfussy way of putting a little decoration. I don’t bother with anything else at this point – it will be gobbled up anyway! Nigella has some great tips on how to serve this cake too: either with some lemon ice cream or with raspberries or both! Enjoy and tell me what you think if you try it.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Soggy muffins – slight improvement but…

Apple-and-Cinnamon-Muffins-(5414)

…I’m not there yet. However I was definitely happier with the result. I did make some changes, one reason being I didn’t have any flaked almonds left. Also I had some Braeburn apples instead of Pink Lady on the suggestion of my neighbour, which I have to say have worked better I think. Braeburns are slightly firmer, even though I grated the apples this time round. This could have made the muffins soggier but actually they didn’t. Go figure.

Even though it took a teeny tiny bit more of work I avoided the use of muffin paper cases. After a little research I found that pros don’t favour their use because it makes the muffins wetter and keeps loads of moisture in, which makes the texture unpleasant to say the least. A disaster in fact, which was what happened to me before. All you have to do is to butter the tin and coat it with a thin layer of flour. A bit messy but worth it. You will have to be gentle as you take them out of the tin. Let them cool for a while but not too much, then using a soft spatula go round the edges slowly and remove each of them carefully. I’m saying this because a couple of them ended up with a split top. Don’t worry though – you can add some flavoured whipped cream in between!

As far as the cooking time goes it obviously varies from oven to oven, but I tried baking them at 180ºC for the first 25 minutes, then for 160ºC for 10 to 15 minutes. I know it may seem a long time but frankly I preferred to let them crunch a little instead of having loads of undercooked cakes. I should also say that these keep best in the fridge especially if you don’t plan to eat them within 2 days.

These are the ingredients I used this time. I *will* try to make them again just because I don’t like to give up. But these muffins are full of flavour anyway so why not? Why not indeed.

  • 2 Braeburn apples, grated, set aside in a bowl and sprinkle on some lemon juice
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 125ml honey
  • 60ml runny yoghurt (not Greek)
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 35g ground almonds

For next time I have a list of some more changes I want to make. Stay tuned.

Rob x