Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

There are so many versions of Lemon and Ricotta cake out there that I was reticent about adding another. This one, I can assure you, will go straight into the hand written sepia toned exercise book that I reserve for very good cakes. The recipe includes 4 lemons, and the batter is lightened by 6 eggs, the whites whipped and folded through at the end. It is an expensive cake but then it serves around 10 people, or two greedy people who eat it every day for dessert and afternoon tea. When served hot, it resembles a lemon delicious pudding. When served cold, it becomes more like a lemon cheesecake. It also keeps well. In summer, store the cake in a container in the fridge. Buonissimo e Molto Siciliano.                                         l

Torta di Limone, Ricotta e Mandorle,  Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

Ingredients

  • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 6 free range eggs, separated
  • 250 g almonds, ground
  • 75 g self-raising flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • zest of 5 organic lemons and juice of 4 organic lemons
  • 400 g fresh ricotta

    Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake
    Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake

Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4).

Butter and paper a 25 cm round springform cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. With the motor running, add the egg yolks, one at a time, until all are incorporated.

Combine the ground almonds with the flour, salt and lemon zest. Fold into the batter.

Whisk the lemon juice with the ricotta until light and airy.

Fold into the cake batter.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold them carefully into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the cake. It should come out clean when cooked through.

Remove the cake from the oven and turn it out onto a cake rack to cool. It will remain moist for a few days. Store in the fridge in warm weather.

From Four Seasons, Manuela Darling-Gansser, Hardie Grant Books.

And Manuela’s great food and travel blog can be found here.

Exit

Brexit has rocked the world this week and so Ailsa, at Where’s My Backback, has nominated Exits as the travel theme of the week. I found this beautiful door, with its hand painted Salida or Exit sign, in Valparaiso, Chile. A few chains around that Salida, leaving won’t be so easy. SALIDA. Door in Valparaiso, Chile

Partners in Chengdu

Living statues usually busk alone. These partners work together in Well Alley, Chengdu. Well Alley is near Narrow and Wide Lane, an historic tourist precinct in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.

Living statues busk together in Chengdu, China
Living statues busk together in Chengdu, China

For Daily Post prompt, <a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/partners/”>Partners</a&gt;

Spaghetti Carbonara: I Can’t Believe it’s not Bacon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about eels lately, eels to eat and those other slippery and be-suited characters poncing about in politics and local government. There are the crafty eels standing for election, their slick barrage of three word slogans masquerading as debate. Then here in Melbourne we have the serpentine organisation called VCAT, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, their nefarious machinations designed to twist words and regulations faster than an eel can swim backwards. Our local government is not immune from eeliness, with self-important planning committees proposing an eel pit full of new draconian restrictions, designed to trap the unwary ratepayer, like a sharp toothed moray lying in wait.

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Spaghetti con Anguilla ( nello stile di carbonara)

How did poor innocent eels get to be connected to untrustworthiness and devious dealings? The saying ‘as slippery as an eel’ is associated with the most duplicitous and sly behaviour.

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I can’t believe it’s not bacon. Frying diced eel in butter.

But getting back to my foody eel thoughts, I was excited last week when my fishmonger turned up with one long smoked eel, vacuum wrapped but otherwise fresh. This set my mind racing. Eel is rich and has that umami taste missing in my diet. Time for a Spaghetti Carbonara I Can’t Believe its Not Bacon. It’s a pescatarian delight.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Smoked Eel. Recipe serves two.

  • 200 g spaghetti
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 20 g grated parmigiano, reggiano or grana
  • one large handful of Italian parsley, very finely chopped
  • 15 g or so of unsalted butter
  • 85 g diced smoked eel, skin and bone removed. This amount was from about one quarter of a whole smoked eel.

Directions

  1. Cook the spaghetti in ample boiling and salted water until al dente. Reserve a half cup of cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the diced smoked eel in butter in a large frying pan. Fry gently until golden, around 5 minutes. I like using a non stick wok these days, providing room to toss through the pasta at the last stage of preparation.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, grated parmesan cheese and parley together.
  4. Drain cooked spaghetti, add to the pan with the eel, toss about, then pour in egg mixture. Toss until the egg sets, adding a little reserved cooking water for creaminess. Keep tossing and heating for a few more seconds, adding a little more water as you go.
  5. Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and more parmesan.
    Hmm, eel carbonara
    Hmm, eel carbonara

    This recipe has been adapted and simplified from a Gourmet Traveller recipe, March 2014. It has been filed in my mind for two years now, waiting for that illustrious smoked eel to appear.

Another weird eel expression found while researching this post.

Sposarsi è come mettere la mano in un sacco pieno di serpenti, nella speranza di tirar fuori un’anguilla.
Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.  Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.

 

 

Winter Solstice Mushroom Soup

Every winter solstice, I am drawn to dark looking foods. One year it was squid ink pasta, followed by an eggplant dish. Sometimes, we have a pint of Guinness. On one particular occasion, an old friend, Brian, arrived dressed for the occasion, his cheeks smeared with charcoal, a crooked stick in hand, and wandered around my kitchen muttering Celtic chants. He then placed a wooden box of dried oak leaves on the table, a box of spells perhaps.

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Crema di funghi e porcini

This year’s Solstice offering is a traditional mushroom soup. I only make this soup when my favourite green grocery sells discounted bags of mushrooms that have dark gills. White coloured mushrooms are rather insipid in flavour. I have add a handful of dried porcini to boost the taste of the dark woods.

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Cream of mushroom and porcini soup.

First make a good rich vegetable stock. The smaller you cut the vegetables in a veggie stock, the more they will sweat off flavour. Also use the mushroom stems in your stock.

Crema di funghi e porcini,  Cream of mushroom and porcini soup

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g of butter
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 500g sliced mushrooms, preferably with darker gills.
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 15 g dried porcini mushrooms
  • a handful of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup of cream, or more
  • 1 tablespoon or more, dry sherry
  • some sour cream or crème fraîche to serve
  • black pepper and salt
  • finely chopped parsley to serve
  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in some of the hot stock. Leave for 20 minutes, then remove porcini and strain the liquid through a muslin cloth. Save the soaking liquid.
  2. Add butter to a heavy based saucepan or soup pot, add the onions and cook gently until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and toss through briefly, then add the sliced mushrooms and chopped porcini. Toss around for a few minutes until the mushrooms wilt and reduce, then add the diced potato, thyme, stock and reserved porcini liquid.
  3. Simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, then blend with a stick blender until very smooth. Add the cream, warm through, then add freshly ground pepper, a little salt, and the sherry. Taste and check for seasoning and sherry.

Serve with a little crème fraîche or sour cream and parsley and some good bread.

High Hydration Sourdough loaves.
High Hydration Sourdough loaves, mark 3.

Tagliatelle with Butter and Sage

siena 2
Albergo with a view, breakfast table, Siena

It was in Castellina in Chianti, just north of Siena, in 1993, when I first ate Tagliatelle con Burro e Salvia. I remember the day quite vividly. At the time I was studying Italian at the Scuola di Dante Alighieri per Stranieri for a month and, as school attendance required me to be present only from 8 am to 1 pm, I had the rest of the day, as well as each Sunday, to roam around Siena and Tuscany, often taking the local bus to a small village, followed by a lunch and a stroll. It was on one of these jaunts that I ended up in Castellina in Chianti, and not long after hopping off the bus, I was drawn to a modest ristorante where a big pile of freshly made tagliatelle was laid out on display. I was in like a shot.

Tagliatele fatta a casa
Tagliatelle fatta a casa Morgana

Although seemingly a very simple dish, fresh tagliatelle with butter and browned sage leaves does require some hours of preparation. There is no point making this dish with dried pasta or even shop purchased fresh pasta. This is where I get bossy. The pasta must be freshly made up to two hours before. This is why it tastes so good and comforting.

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Tagliatelle con burro, salvia e parmigiano

Making pasta at home is an easy process if you have a little time AND a helper. I never make pasta on my own, but when young Daisy Chef is around, what seems like a tedious business becomes a joy. We flour up the benches, get the aprons on and make a load of yellow snakes. She loves to crank that handle and feed the stretched pasta through the wide cutting blades.

Rolling the pasta.

Taglatelle con Burro e Salvia- Tagliatelle with Butter and Sage

First make the pasta.

  • 300 g flour, preferably farina doppio zero, or ’00’ flour
  • 3 large eggs ( around 60 g each)

Make the pasta dough either by hand or in a food processor. I simply place these two ingredients into the food processor and pulse until the dough clumps together. If it doesn’t, have another small beaten egg on hand and add it, bit by bit, until the pasta clumps. Don’t over process it.

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Feeding the pasta through at number 5.

Bring the dough together on a lightly floured bench and, without kneading, cover the dough ball in plastic for 20 minutes or so to rest. Unwrap the ball and knead the dough for around 5 minutes, turning and folding, until it is smooth. Wrap again in plastic and leave on the bench to rest for another 30 minutes or more, until you are ready to continue. In summer, this step may involve resting the dough in the fridge, but always bring it back to room temperature before rolling

Flour the bench well. Feed the dough through the pasta machine, twice at each number, from 7 to 5, then once on each number down to number 2. If the dough sheets get sticky along the way, dust them with more flour.

Feed the long sheets through the tagliatelle blade, then place them on a large flour covered tea towel and toss around so that the strands don’t stick together. Cover the pasta with another tea towel until ready to use.

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The fun part!
  • Boil up a large pot of water and add ample salt.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente- two minutes is usually enough but this will depend on how long the pasta has been resting.
  • Meanwhile, melt some unsalted butter in a wide frying pan and cook some sage leaves until crisp. Remove. Then add more butter to the pan to melt. Return the sage leaves. The butter is main sauce so be generous, around 40 g for two serves.
  • Drain the tagliatelle and toss through the butter and sage in the pan. Add some freshly ground pepper or nutmeg. Serve with lots of freshly grated grana padano or reggiano parmigiano.

    Daisy picks sage.
    Daisy picks sage.

 

 

Akaroa, New Zealand’s French Village

It is unusual to find French settlements in Australia: it seems that on every occasion when French explorers, cartographers and naturalists came sniffing around, they were pipped at the post by the Poms.

Fishing Boat. Akaroa
Fishing Boat. Akaroa

Given the absence of historic Frenchness in Australia, it was a surprise then to find a quaint little French village in the South island of New Zealand. Akaroa ( its French name became Port Louis Phillipe for some time before reverting back to the original Maori name) began its French life in 1838, when Captain Francois Langloir

‘ made a provisional purchase of land in the greater Banks Peninsula from Tuaanau… On his return to France, he advertised for settlers to come to New Zealand and ceded his interest in the land to the Nanto- Bordelaise Company of which he became a part owner. On 9 March 1840, 63 emigrants left from Rochefort. The settlers embarked on the Comte de Paris – an old man-of-war ship given to them by the French government – for New Zealand. The Comte de Paris and its companion ship the Aube, arrived in the  Bay of Islands in the North Island on 11 July 1840, where they discovered that the Banks Peninsula had been claimed by the British. The French arrived in Akaroa on 18 August and established a settlement.’¹

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Today, Akaroa and the nearby smaller settlement of Duvauchelle, retain a pride in their French beginnings, fostering French detail in the local architecture, and ambience as well as holding a biennial French festival held in odd-numbered years in Akaroa.

Those looking for a French conversation will most likely be disappointed. Most of the old-time French speakers have long passed. There is a French cemetery, French named streets and of course, French bistros and restaurants, the local gendarmerie and a boucherie, a French backpacker hostel and wine bars. The local council is active in preserving its French heritage; new buildings and beachside apartments come with de rigueur French roof lines. It stops short, just, of being theme parkish.

Akaroa Museum. Preserved French colonial building
Akaroa Museum. Preserved French colonial building
Le Bsitrot
The Little Bistro

Other pleasant pastimes include a stroll down the long picturesque jetty, stopping along the way for a tray of Murphy’s freshly caught and grilled fish. In town there is a famous cooking school, coffee shops and restaurants along the promenade, sea voyages to visit the Akaroa Dolphins and other wild sea creatures, getting completely lost in the Garden of Tane, strolling through the older parts of the village, and the listening to the Tim Minchin -like guy who plays classical music on an old piano along the main promenade.

Akaroa busker

Like many place names in New Zealand, the name Akaroa is Maori, meaning “Long Harbour”, which is spelled “Whangaroa” in standard Māori.

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Beautiful gardens, backstreets, Akaroa

Akaroa is around one hour’s drive from Christchurch. It is a great road trip, with scenic views along the way. The town, being so close to Christchurch, makes a great place to start or finish a trip around the South island of New Zealand.

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Back streets, Akaroa
Akaroa Lighthouse
Akaroa Lighthouse

 

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akaroa

 

 

 

Celia’s Inspiration. Sourdough Bread Diaries.

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Angels of the morning

Since taking up sourdough bread making around two years ago, after Celia sent me some sourdough starter, I have rarely bought bread. It’s not just about economy, though good loaves do seem to cost an arm and a leg these days, but more about the flavour and satisfaction, as well as the ability to adjust the bread’s composition to suit your own needs. I usually make a linseed studded loaf as I find that grain very beneficial to my gut, making the bread much nicer to eat. I also prefer a bread with a proportion of wholemeal added, at least up to one quarter of the total, as it gives a nuttier flavour. On the weekends I often make flavoured yeasted breads, Pani Festivi, such as rosemary, walnut or cheese bread. This weekend’s version, a pumpkin and fetta loaf was tasty but a little challenging to make. It was cakey and soothing and went well with the rainy weather.

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Pumpkin and fetta bread. A Sunday yeasted loaf

I love the days when Celia, my/ our/your sourdough mentor and home village baker extraordinaire, puts out another bready post. Her recent addition, “A New Overnight Sourdough Tutorial – High Hydration Loaf” is a must read for those who need some revision, or inspiration, or a new approach. The instructions come with step by step pictures and videos so really, any one can make a beautiful loaf, if you already have some starter.

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A few more loaves for the freezer.

These two loaves were made this morning after following Celia’s method. As I don’t have an enamel roaster, as mentioned in her post, I used a cast iron enamel Le Creuset style pot for the round loaf and a preheated metal tray for the long loaf. The loaf cooked in the enamel pot required further browning, removed from the pot, for a further 10 minutes after baking, as recommended. The open baked loaf was ready to pull out after 40 minutes. This bread has a very open texture. The one cooked on the tray has a firmer crust. Do not be tempted to cut them open until properly cold! You must resist.

Morning Madness
Morning Madness, Flour and Mess.

I am now keen to invest in some of these enamel roasters- they are lightweight, will probably heat faster than the cast iron pot, and make my early morning madness even sweeter.

Grazie Mille Celia for your continual inspiration

Life Succs

succulents in the rain

No, that’s not a typo: I am referring to succulents that go by the name of succs around here. Such a popular plant, they grow easily, and have become a green fashion accessory for apartment dwellers and those with brown thumbs. They require minimal attention and behave like undemanding pets. Just break off a pup from an older plant and, eccolà, a new one grows, artfully filling the container’s space in no time. I am inclined to snap bits off plants if they grow near a fence. Plants are to be shared. None of my succs were purchased. Although they do grow with minimal water, mine love to be watered often. Spoil them and see what happens.

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succulents create their own arrangements
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Anduze pot of succs.

For Ailsa’s travel series this weekend, Plants.