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Tag Archives: Middle Eastern

Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake

This is such a well known cake – I guess every cafe in Sydney makes a version and every other home baker makes it too.

Claudia Rosen wrote about it in “A Book of Middle Eastern Food”, first published in 1968. My family have been making it for almost as long, way before it became a cafe staple.

So I thought I’d post the recipe, with Claudia’s pared down instructions as well as my tips. Here’s a little bit of background from Claudia about the cake:

This is a Sephardic Jewish cake, brought to the Middle East by the Sephardic Jews when they migrated from Spain and Portugal in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It’s a cake that is served at Passover, as it’s made with ground almonds instead of flour.

This is a food processor cake, as I mix the whole thing in the food processor. Very easy and it saves on washing up!

Recently I had an online baking session where I made the cake with a friend, with some great results! I’ve included some photos of both of our cakes.

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

Cake

2 large oranges

6 free-range eggs

250g caster sugar

250g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

Glaze

200g icing sugar

Juice of half of an additional orange

Method

Put the 2 whole oranges into a saucepan large enough to hold the oranges. Cover completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cook the oranges for 1 1/2 hours or longer until soft.

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced. Grease a 21cm or 22cm spring form pan. Line the base of the tin with baking paper.

When the oranges are cool, remove from the water. Cut in half and remove any pips. Put into a food processor and blitz to a rough purée. It’s ok if there are a few small lumps in the purée, you just don’t want any big lumps.

Beat the eggs with a fork to break them up. Add the beaten eggs to the food processor, with the sugar. Pulse until the eggs and sugar are really well combined. Add the ground almonds and baking powder and pulse to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan into the pre-heated oven and bake for 1 – 1/4 hours or until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. This cake is very moist, so it will take at least 1 hour or longer to bake.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. After 10 minutes carefully run a palette knife round the edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake. When the cake is completely cool, remove from the pan and place on a serving plate.

To make the glaze, mix the icing sugar with enough of the orange juice to make an icing of dripping consistency. Using a palette knife, spread the glaze over the top of the cake. You could decorate with fresh flowers or herbs if you like.

Serve on its own, in large slices, for morning or afternoon tea or as a dessert. Lovely with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt.

Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

Cakes where orange or lemon are predominant flavours are an important part of a baker’s repertoire. They make wonderful afternoon tea cakes and can be dressed up for dessert.

This is a lovely cake from Middle Eastern inspired cook Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m revisiting it in autumn in Sydney, as we are enjoying long warm days, perfect for cake and coffee in the sunshine!

The cake itself is flavoured with rosemary, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake.

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

Here is Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Ingredients

Cake
30g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240g plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130g sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Crystallised Rosemary
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size
1 free range egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Orange Icing
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150g sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary. Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Generously grease a 23cm bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, caster sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for one minute.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

To make the icing, in a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

Persian Love Cake – Lemon and Rose

I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.

And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.

This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.

This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.

Ingredients

150g butter

330g caster sugar

zest of 1 1/2 lemon

6 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour

165g ground almonds *

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

300g Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons rosewater

*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.

Syrup

125g caster sugar

125g water

Juice of a lemon

1-2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – any of these are great!

1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios

Cardamom pistachio sugar**

Edible dried rose petals

Crystallised rose petals

Glacé fruit as decoration

** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.

Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.

Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.

Place on a serving plate.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.

Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.

Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.

Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

Lamb Tagine with Middle Eastern Flavours




Tagines, like casseroles and stews, are great dishes to cook meat long and slow. And slow cooking is fantastic for our Southern Hemisphere chilly nights!

This tagine is made with lamb shoulder and some lovely Middle Eastern spices and fruits. The shoulder needs to be boned and diced – my butcher does that for me. Less labour intensive than doing it for yourself.

The tagine itself is the star – just serve it with couscous or rice or homemade flatbread to soak up the juice.

I make my tagine in a heavy based casserole. You could do this and serve in a tagine if you like.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet or smoked

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice and rind of a mandarin or orange

1 kg diced lamb shoulder

2 eshallots

1 clove of garlic

1  x 425g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 x tins of water (use the chopped tomatoes tin for this)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

125g dried apricots

125g pitted prunes

Method

Combine spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl.  Add the oil, rind and juice of the mandarin/orange and stir to form a paste. Add lamb and stir until well coated in the paste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Tip in the lamb and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned, then tip onto a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the casserole and stir in the the eshallots, and then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned.

Return the browned meat to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried apricots and prunes, roughly chopped. Cook, covered for a further 40 minutes or until lamb is tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the lamb you can cook for a further 15 minutes.

Serve with the aforementioned couscous, rice or flatbread. A spoonful of yoghurt is nice too, and some chopped coriander.

Ottolenghi’s Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

 

This is a lovely cake from the wonderful Middle Eastern inspired food impresario Yotam Ottolenghi.

It’s fragrant with rosemary inside the cake, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake!

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

I made the recipe with unusually, no tweaks of my own, so here is Yotam’s recipe largely unaltered.

Ingredients

FOR THE CRYSTALLIZED ROSEMARY:
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size (see note)
1 egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar
FOR THE CAKE:
About 30 grams unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240 grams plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120 grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons/7 grams packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130 grams sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
FOR THE ORANGE ICING:
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150 grams sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary: Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Make the cake: Heat oven to 160 degree C. Generously grease a 9 inch/23 cm Bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, superfine sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for 1 minute.

Scrape batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top with a small spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. (You may want to trim the cake at this stage, if it rises unevenly, to allow it to sit flat on the plate.)

Prepare the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

PS Spot the Quirky Cat!

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Jamie Oliver’s Pomegranate and Chicken Stew

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A beautiful, fragrant and easy dish to prepare. The pomegranate molasses gives it a really spicy and rich flavour. Somewhere between a stew and a tagine.

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The dish has all those wonderful Middle Eastern flavours, but unlike a tagine, cooks in less than an hour in a cast iron casserole or heavy bottomed pan on the stove top.

Here is the original: http://www.jamieoliver.com/magazine/recipes-view.php?title=pomegranate-aamp-chicken-stew

As usual I have tweaked a couple of things in my version.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 higher-welfare whole chicken, jointed  (I removed the skin from the pieces for a more healthy dish)

2 tsp paprika

2 onions, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp sambal oelek

2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped, plus extra for the rice

300 ml tomato passata

4 tbsp pomegranate molasses

200 ml pomegranate juice (use store bought + the juice from the pomegranate from which you derived the seeds)

Coconut rice*

Pomegranate seeds

3 fresh figs, quartered

Method

Heat the oil in a casserole over a medium heat. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, then brown in the hot oil for 7–8 minutes. Remove the pieces to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, add another splash of oil with the onions. Stir well, being sure to catch the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan. Cook slowly for 15 minutes, till onions are soft, adding the garlic, chilli and the coriander for the last 5 minutes. Stir in the passata, molasses and pomegranate juice, season well, then bring to the boil.

Return the chicken with any juices to the pan, cover and lower heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, checking often that it’s not sticking.Toss in a handful of pomegranate seeds.

Scatter the rice with the extra coriander, then place the chicken on top and scatter with the remaining pomegranate seeds.

I served the dish with fresh figs on the side as a refreshing taste to offset the pungency of the sauce.

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*Coconut rice

1 cup basmati rice

1 cup light coconut milk

1 cup boiling water

1/2 lemon

Method

To make rice, combine the rice, coconut milk, boiling water and lemon in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn down heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost cooked. Turn off heat and leave rice to finish cooking.

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Moroccan Fish with Couscous and Harissa Yoghurt

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This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s Moroccan Bream from his 15 Minute Meals. It’s a simple dish, although it took me a little longer than 15 minutes to prepare…
Some wonderful Middle Eastern flavours, with a heady mix of fiery hot harissa, sweet pomegranate and apricot, tart preserved lemon and cool yoghurt.
Jamie uses bream. I’m not sure if bream in the UK is the same fish as in Australia. Visiting the fabulous Sydney Fish Markets, http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au/, I bought some yellow tail bream which looked perfect for the recipe. They certainly tasted delicious.
Jamie’s recipe calls for whole fish, heads and tails removed, but obviously still on the bone. I would recommend fish fillets, preferably with the skin on, if you don’t like picking out the bones…

Ingredients
Salsa
1/2-1 preserved lemon (be careful that the brand you choose isn’t too bitter – if possible make your own)
A handful of dried apricots
A couple of strips of preserved red pepper
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 pomegranate
Fish
2 whole bream, heads and tails removed, scaled and gutted OR 4 fish fillets of choice, preferably skin on
Rock salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 spring onions
A few sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon or to taste of harissa
3-6 saffron threads covered with 100 mls boiling water and left to infuse for a couple of minutes
Couscous
1 cup couscous
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon butter
Salt to taste
To serve
1/2 cup fat free yoghurt
A  handful of pistachios

Method
To make the salsa, blitz the lemon, apricots, peppers and the parsley in a food processor until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze in the juice of half the pomegranate. Mix, season to taste.
For the fish: score the the fish in a crisscross fashion on both sides, down to the bone if using whole fish rather than fillets. Season all over with rock salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan and add the fish, cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes each side for whole fish, 2 minutes for fillets.
Add finely sliced spring onions, thyme sprigs, harissa to taste and saffron threads and their soaking water. Scrunch up and wet a sheet of greaseproof paper and tuck it around the fish. Cook on low heat for the time it takes to prepare the couscous or until the liquid is half evaporated from the frying pan.
To make the couscous, add couscous to the boiling water in a small saucepan. Add salt, cover and stand for about 3 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the butter, fluffing up the couscous as you stir.

To serve:
Pile the couscous onto a serving platter and spoon the salsa over the couscous. Lay the fish on top, spoon over some of the pan juices, and scatter over the pistachios. Hold the other pomegranate half in your hand and bash it with a spoon to release the seeds and juice. Serve with a bowl of yoghurt on the side with a little harissa swirled through for a pretty colour.

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