Archive for the 'Summer' Category

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Summery Red Currant Cake

We arrived yesterday, the hottest day in England so far this year. There I was, hoping to show off my new jacket and cool rain boots, and instead sat in the shade eating lots of ice cream. Wherever I go, it’s usually hot and as you might have guessed by now, heat and I don’t go together very well. But then again, I realize that most importantly all these poor white English people deserve a bit of sunshine and that my live will be much easier with my children happily playing crocket (English game – don’t ask) outside instead of being miserable and fighting inside.

One of the first things I did after we arrived, was checking out my father-in-laws beautiful vegetable garden and raiding it for lunch. Fresh beets, crisp lettuce and delectable broad beans and I quickly got over not going to be able to put on rain gear for at least another week according to the weather forecast. We ate our way through the remaining day to find some energie and keep ourselves from falling asleep too early. Well, I made it until 8.30 in the evening and slept like a baby until my daughter thought it was time for breakfast just before 5 am. We ate fresh strawberries and lots of red currants with cereal, when I got the sudden urge to bake something with all those lovely and abundant red currants. I miss fresh currants wherever we live. They were hardly ever available in Texas and even less affordable, existent only as decoration on beautiful buffet displays in fancy Thai restaurants and literally non-existant in Western Australia. That’s where I tried to grow them myself, unfortunately without success. Hence the immeasurable delight when I saw all the fruit laden bushes in the garden.

It wasn’t even 7 am when I started rummaging through my mother-in-laws cupboards looking for potential cake ingredients. I found whole wheat flour, brown sugar, almonds, vanilla extract, butter and eggs, exactly what I needed. I didn’t find the right size cake pan, and decided to bake two small cakes instead. In theory, one could always be frozen… The gas oven gave me a bit of a fright, what with gas marks instead of temperature scales. But eventually another grown-up got up and together we figured it out. The base of this cake is very simple and can easily be adapted, by, for example substituting apple sauce for some of the butter, using spelt four, instead of whole wheat, ground hazelnuts instead of the almonds, rice or almond milk for cows milk and maple syrup instead of the sugar. The topping can be any fruit in season, I particularly enjoy it with fresh peaches in summer or pears in fall, but even frozen berries work well. I did underestimate the acidity of the currants a bit and should have used a little more sugar in the topping. Instead, after the cakes cooled down, I dusted them with some icing sugar and now they are perfect. (I changed the amount of sugar in the recipe, so unless you like it really sweet, you won’t need to add any icing sugar.) I ate 2 pieces already, and seriously doubt that the second cake will ever see the inside of the freezer. Happy summer days!

Red Currant and Almond Cake 

serves 10

2-3 cups red currants, all green bits removed

2 cups whole wheat flour, self raising

1 cup almonds, lightly toasted and finely ground

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

125 g unsalted butter (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon), room temperature

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Topping:

3 tablespoons light brown or demerara sugar

1/3 cup almonds, coarsly ground

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 5 (350 F, 180 C)
  • Toast almonds in oven until slightly fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Grind almonds in food processor. Personally, I like them fairly coarse, to give the batter a bit of extra texture.
  • Sift flour and combine with almonds and salt.
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, 1 egg at a time, beating until incorportated.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mix,  followed by half the milk, another 1/3 of flour mix, the remaining milk and finally the last third of flour mix. Incorporate each ingredient gently, careful not to overmix the batter. It will be slightly moist and sticky.
  • Spread batter in one 9-inch springform pan or divide into two small baking pans.
  • Top with red currants and gently press down into batter.
  • Mix extra sugar and ground almonds and sprinkle over cake.
  • Bake large cake for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. If you made 2 small cakes, bake for 40 minutes.
  • Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a healthy food blog, but here is comes… Serve with lightly sweetened, freshly whipped CREAM! 

Chickpea, Tomato, Zucchini and Spelt Soup

I found this recipe on the ‘whole living’ website and was very excited about another soup recipe that is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner. The soup is packed with lots of goodness;  it’s got protein, whole grains, lot’s of vegetables and tastes great. Spelt grain is nutty and a nice change, but it could easily be substituted with brown rice or barley. If zucchinis are out of season, substitute with cauliflower, chard or kale or use more carrots.

Ingredients

Serves 4 (makes 6 cups)

  • 1 cup spelt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Basil stalks, shopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Place spelt in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for 1 hour; drain.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add spelt and cook for 30 minutes or until spelt is tender, but still has a little bite to it.
  3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, bay leaves, paprika, cumin and cook for another 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add cooked spelt and chickpeas and warm through (5 min). Season with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve with grated cheese.

Warm Lentil Salad with Rocket and Goats Cheese

This recipe is an adaptation from Martha Stewart’s recipe. I have made it so many times, and depending on my garden used rocket, spinach or Swiss chard with it. With some crusty bread, it is delicious for lunch or on a buffet table. You can find Puy lentils at any good grocery store. They are dark green and have a nutty texture, which is perfect for this salad.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup green (Puy) lentils (4.75 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise and separated into rings
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups rocket or spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese

Directions

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add lentils, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and bell pepper; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in parsley, vinegar, and remaining tablespoon oil.
  3. Drain lentils, and add to vegetables. Stir in rocket or spinach, and season generously with salt and black pepper. Crumble goat cheese on top and toss gently to combine.