Lemon Berry Pound Cake

Holy smokes,  I guess I do bake. There are now three baking recipes on this blog, more than I ever imagined possible. This afternoon my friend Holly came over to make Good Neighbor cake for Enrique’s birthday, and I had come across a recipe online that looked good, so we made both! We made the chocolate cake with a cream cheese & maple glaze, and then we also made this amazing pound cake. It’s so good I think I’ll be substituting cake for a proper dinner tonight. Oops!

I’ve adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Ina Garten who probably adapted it from her granny or something. Tinker away, as you wish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour + 1 TB flour, separated
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt (not fat-free! you want fat-free, don’t eat pound cake.)
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup demerara (granulated brown) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (yield from 2 small lemons, approx.)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 cup fresh (or defrosted) mixed berries (I used fresh blueberries & raspberries)
  • 2 TB poppy seeds – if you don’t like poppy seeds, omit them and increase berries to 1 1/2 cups
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 TB confectioner’s sugar

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 177ºC/350°F. Grease and flour a small rectangular loaf pan or prepare 12 cupcake molds. (Just use the silicone ones and make your life easier.)

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In another bigger bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugars, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the berries and poppy seeds with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or cupcake molds  and bake for about 50 minutes (in a loaf pan, much less time for the cupcakes), or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, whisk the 1/3 cup lemon juice and confectioners sugar in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool for 10 minutes. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool. Try not to eat it all at once.

Servings: 12, approx. 256 calories.

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Pomegranate & Fennel Salad

We eat quite a bit of salad, particularly because produce is so good (and cheap) here. I’m not too keen on plain lettuce salads, so our salads are normally heavy on veg and light on lettuce. I also like mixing sweet and savoury, which means we use a lot of fruit and nuts as well. This salad uses seasonal autumn/winter ingredients. It’s also quite light and the flavors are bright, so it’s a nice balance to something heavier.

Ingredients:

  • one pomegranate, de-seeded
  • one bulb of fennel, trimmed, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 2 mandarins, peeled and sliced thinly
  • a bag of mixed salad greens (bitter greens like escarole, arugula, radicchio work best)
  • 20 grams of shelled pistachios, crushed lightly
  • 100 grams soft goat’s cheese (chèvre), crumbled or cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 TB cold-pressed olive oil
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced finely
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and ground pepper

Instructions:

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, shallots, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper until it emulsifies. In a larger bowl, add the lettuce and pour the salad dressing over it, then gently mix the dressing into the lettuce using your hands. You think I’m joking, I’m not. If you use your hands the salad dressing distributes more evenly. Wash your oily hands. Finally, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds (called arils, word of the day!), fennel, mandarin, pistachios and goat’s cheese over the top of the lettuce. The salad is very pretty so don’t toss it until just about to serve.

Servings: Four. 225 calories.

Good Neighbor Cake

What’s in a name? Does a good neighbor bring you a cake? Or do you bring someone a cake to be a good neighbor? Either way, this cake is simple and scrummy. It’s a family recipe, from my mother’s aunt Fern. As previously stated I’m not that great of a baker, but you can’t ignore your family heritage! This is my go-to cake for a birthday or special occasion. I especially love the dark chocolate flavor, and the cake stays nice and moist for up to a few days, if it lasts that long! As a final note, this is just a half recipe, if you want to use a rectangular 9×13 cake pan (3.5 liter for my metric friends) just double the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (155 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 g) caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sunflower or other light vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 177ºC/350ºF and grease and flour a square cake pan. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. I use a whisk to make sure everything’s thoroughly mixed. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and vanilla extract until you achieve a smooth mixture. Pour the egg mixture and boiling water into the dry ingredients and stir together just enough until the mixture is uniform. Pour into the cake pan and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve cake dusted with icing sugar (powdered sugar) or with whipped cream. Or ice cream. Or eat it furtively in the kitchen when no one is looking. Ahem.

Vegan variation: Increase baking powder to 1/2 tsp  in the dry ingredients and substitute the egg for one very ripe banana. Whisk (or even better, use a hand blender) together the banana, oil and vanilla until you achieve a smooth mixture, almost like an emulsion. Proceed as instructed above.

Servings: Nine squares. 204 calories per square.

 

Pasta Falsa Carbonara

Today is our one-year anniversary and I’ve decided to make one of our favorite dishes, falsa carbonara. Why is it false? Because there’s no raw egg that you stir in the hot pasta to par-cook it. There’s nothing I hate more than runny egg yolk. I know that makes me a bit of a weirdo, but there you go. You can make this dish anytime you want to impress people or have a big favor to ask. The following recipe is only for two people but it can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams bacon in tacos (diced)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 150 grams sliced mushrooms
  • 80 grams frozen peas
  • 250 ml (one small bottle) “nata para cocinar” which I believe is half-and-half in the US or single cream in the UK
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper or paprika
  • 100 grams linguine or fettuccine

Instructions:

In a large, deep frying pan brown the bacon. When it’s browned, add the sliced mushrooms, onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat. Meanwhile, start water to boil for the pasta and cook the pasta until al dente. When the mushrooms and onions are soft add the frozen peas and stir. Let them cook for a couple of minutes then add the cream and add salt/pepper/paprika to taste, stirring occasionally. By this time the pasta should be done cooking so drain it and set it aside. Do NOT rinse freshly cooked pasta, that is an insult to pasta. The cream sauce should be thickening by now, grate about a tablespoon of Parmesan over it and stir in.  Check to make sure the peas are cooked through. If they are you’re ready to go. Divide the pasta in two plates and divide the cream sauce over the pasta. Grate a bit more Parmesan over each and serve. With wine.

Servings: Two. 740 calories.

Sweet Potato & Leek Soup

It’s October, so I can start making autumn/winter food now if I want, even if the temperatures don’t really match (the high today was 25º C / 77º F). This time of year you start seeing little huts all over town near the metro stations and at major intersections where they roast sweet potatoes and chestnuts and sell them in paper cones. The first time you buy a roasted sweet potato it looks pretty dubious, as it’s sort of blackened and shriveled and not at all appetizing to look at. The attendant wraps it in paper and lops off the top with a sharp knife, and inside the sweet potato is bright orange, steamy and soft and you eat it with a spoon.

I’m a big fan of the sweet potato in nearly all its incarnations (save the sickeningly sweet marshmallow topped version you see at Thanksgiving) and the flavor and nutritional value far outshines that of regular potatoes. This soup is a twist on traditional potato & leek soup and it can be spicy or not depending on your tastes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg sweet potatoes*, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, washed and trimmed (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 tsp raw ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 liter of chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this recipe vegetarian-friendly)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • fresh cilantro and smoked paprika for garnish

* If sweet potatoes aren’t in season or you’re looking for a little variety in your life, you can substitute 1 kg of any mixture of orange vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, etc.)

Instructions:

In a large soup pot, sauté leeks, onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, broth and spices. If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables add a bit more water. Simmer over medium heat until the sweet potatoes are soft, approximately 20-25 minutes. Purée the soup using an immersion blender (or mini-pimer as we call it here) until it’s smooth. Serve immediately with a bit of smoked paprika sprinkled on top and some freshly chopped cilantro.

Servings: Six, approx. 206 calories.

Sopa Lusicana

Flat-sharing is an integral part of the Barcelona experience. Very rarely does anyone live on their own right off the bat, as the city takes some time to get used to and it’s rather expensive living on your own. I shared a flat for four years until Joel and I moved in together. I made some lifelong friends and met some interesting characters. One of those interesting characters was a Portuguese woman called Iris. She could be alternatively very generous and caring or moody and sanctimonious. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. The best thing about Iris is that she could cook her socks off and she liked to share. This recipe comes from her and it’s the best cold remedy I’ve ever found. Joel’s at home with a stuffed-up head so this is what we’re having for dinner tonight.

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams (about half a pound) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 slices of fresh ginger
  • as many slices of canned jalapeños as you can stand
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into 1″ chunks – you can also sub more potatoes for chicken to make this a vegetarian recipe
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • one avocado
  • fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

This soup couldn’t be easier. Put the raw chicken, onions, potatoes, garlic, ginger, jalapeños and salt in a stock pot. Cover with water. Bring mix to a boil and then simmer until chicken is cooked through. (Approx 20-25 minutes.) In the meantime, slice the avocado and divide between two bowls. Throw a handful of chopped cilantro in each bowl and squeeze the juice of one big slice of lemon over the top. When the soup is finished cooking, carefully ladle the soup over the top of the avocado mix in each bowl. Keep Kleenex on hand as this will clear out your sinuses. Whee!

Servings: Four bowls, approx. 210 calories per bowl.