It’s been freezing, so I’ve been hunkered down here a bit for the last few weeks and my dear friend Stanley has been cranked to the max. I find the presence of a constantly hot oven generally prompts an insatiable urge for comfort food, and what could be more comforting than cake? While tidying up in a corner of the pantry the other day I stumbled upon a bag of pistachios. Pistachios (apparently a relative of cashews – who knew?) have been grown in the Middle East for many thousands of years – in fact they were said to be growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Their purplish skin and gorgeous green flesh make them one of the prettier nuts around and they are still hugely popular in one of my favourite cuisines – Middle Eastern cooking.
While winter in the Northern Hemisphere might mean a lack of fresh fruit in many areas, that is not the case here in Australia. We are lucky in this great big land to be able to grow most fresh produce all year round. For most states in Australia, winter means fresh citrus fruit and loads of it. Australia grows some amazing citrus fruit all over the country. At this time of the year we can choose from oranges (Valencias and Navels), lemons, limes, mandarins and grapefruit, and I had a big bag of vibrant, juicy oranges sitting in the kitchen just begging to be treated extra specially. With a nod to the Middle East, it didn’t take me long to think up just one more ingredient to add to take that old family favourite, orange cake, up a notch or two and thus my Pistachio Orange Blossom Cake was born!
Oranges are a perennial favourite as they are rich in fibre, vitamin C and, most importantly, flavor – and adding them to cake is an inspired way to add fruit to the diet. Orange cake is always a crowd-pleaser, but with the simple addition of these special extra ingredients you will have a delicious cake that will be just as at home on the afternoon tea table or the after-dinner table! True to my preferences for keeping things easy, this recipe makes use of an indispensable kitchen appliance, the food processor, making the preparation quick and simple, however the addition of pistachios and orange flower water also make it stylish enough to serve as dessert at your next dinner party.
Pistachio Orange Blossom Cake
- 3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios approximately 4 ounces, 110 gms
- 1 cup SR flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 100 gms 3 ½ oz unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- finely grated orange zest from 1 medium orange
- Preheat oven to 165C (350F).
- Butter loaf pan and line bottom with waxed paper.
- Using food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground, about 40 seconds. (Do not over process, or mixture will become paste.) Set aside.
- In processor, at moderate speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add orange rind, sour cream & vanilla, mixing in. Scrape down.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients and nuts & mix until well combined.
- Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack.
- Drizzle with glaze made from icing sugar and the juice of the orange, decorate with candied orange peel and chopped pistachios.
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I’m sorry if this post confuses you, my lovely readers, as it is one that I usually manage to get up on a Friday or Saturday. Last week we took advantage of school holidays and took ourselves off to Melbourne for most of the week, arriving home last night. I took my laptop and the necessary technology to make sure I could post Seasonal Secrets as intended, but you know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions.
In a previous existence I lived in a share house in Melbourne and enjoy getting back there to catch up with good friends – generally over copious amounts of food and wine, check out whatever the NGV currently has on offer and do a spot of shopping – especially at some of the specialist food warehouses. We didn’t manage to eat anywhere heart-stoppingly good in Melbourne on this trip (quite the opposite one night, in fact), but took a detour on the way home and enjoyed the fantastic local produce and Alla Wolf-Tasker’s remarkable cuisine in Daylesford at The Lake House. Daylesford is just under two hours drive from Melbourne and a very pretty town, popular since Victorian times as a spa destination because of it’s natural effervescent mineral water and even more notable now because of Alla’s culinary skills – well worth a side trip on your way in or out of Melbourne.
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WHAT’S IN THE BOX – 2 JUNE (Where is the year going!!!?)
Now I seem to have the hang of this – the link to the list of this weeks contents is here!
If you need some inspiration for the pumpkin and/or leeks you need look no further than my home page where I have only just posted a recipe for a pumpkin and leek risotto!
You can find the list of what is in the boxes this week (depending on which size you order) here.
The carrots that we have been getting are just lovely and last night I just peeled them, cut them into chunks, tossed them in some butter and olive oil melted together and put them in a shallow baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes of cooking I drizzled them with honey and sprinkle some ground coriander seeds over them and gave the pan a bit of a shake. I cooked them for about 40-45 minutes, tossing occasionally to prevent them sticking – delicious! If you have some maple syrup on hand I think that would be a fantastic substitute for the honey.
I am thrilled to see our local citrus becoming available now – our oranges are very hard to beat!
I have a fantastic, idiot-proof, healthy and simply delicious dessert using fresh oranges here – enjoy!
The new seasons citrus is just wonderful and oranges, in particular, are so versatile and can be used loads of ways. Today I have two different ideas for you. The first is just a plain and simple orange cake. this recipe is one that I have had for ages and it never fails. It is very rich with 4 egg yolks, but these can be substituted for 2 whole eggs if necessary. It can be iced with a butter cream icing flavoured with orange juice or I often just make a low fat icing by mixing icing sugar with straight orange juice and pouring that over the cake.
- 2 cups SR flour
- pinch salt
- 125 gms butter
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- grated rind of 1 orange
- 4 egg yolks
- juice of 1 orange
- Grease and flour 20 cm ring tin and preheat oven to 180C.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 4-5 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating well between each one, then add rind. Fold in sifted flour and salt and orange juice.
- Pour into tin and bake 40 minutes. Check that it is cooked by piercing with a metal skewer which will come out clean if cake is done.
- Cool on wire rack before icing.
The second recipe is a dish my mother used to make – but, in spite of that, is really very nice!
- 4 chicken breast fillets or on the bone (skin on is nicer, but no skin if you must!)
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 1-2 tsp ground coriander
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Place chook fillets in shallow baking dish, skin side up, and squeeze juice over them, then sprinkle evenly with coriander and place in oven. After about 10 minutes, remove from oven and drizzle each breast with about 1 dessertspoon of honey and baste with juice. Return to oven for 15-20 minutes, basting again after 10 minutes, the honey will caramelize with the juice, making it all sticky and yummy.