An Afternoon Down the Plot + A Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake

28 August 2013

The end of summer can bring with it some good allotment days. Granted, there are weeds fighting to take over the minute I turn my back, but there is also warm weather and some half decent harvest. I never loose the trill of picking something from the plot, however small or un-perfect its appearance. Our rather scabby looking cucumbers are bursting with flavour and the rainbow chard and curly kale just keep on giving. 

On our most recent visit we came home with a good picking of raspberries and blackberries, which I used to make my new favourite cake: Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom. I love an almond based recipe, adore cardamom and am always up for a blackberry, so this cake really is my cup-of-tea. The recipe is from Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking ... Scandilicious - probably my most thumbed cookbook this summer.

We ate the cake (with a dollop of mascarpone) and polystyrene cups of tea on the beach with friends who had come down to visit at the weekend. Just perfect.

Blackberry, Almond & Cardamom Cake

Serves 6-8

125g butter, softened

200g golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 medium eggs

250g ground almonds

2 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp salt

200g fresh or frozen blackberries

200g summer berries to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas mark 4 and lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoonful of the ground almonds to stop the mixture splitting.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the rest of the ground almonds with the baking powder, cardamom and salt.

Use a large metal spoon to fold these dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Stir until just blended, then add the blackberries and stir once or twice more to incorporate them.

Scoop the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the middle oven shelf for 30-35 minutes, or until the cake is well risen, looks golden brown and feels firm to the touch. Let it cool in its tin on a wire rack before turning out.
Serve the cake either on its own or with mixed summer fruits piled on top and with some sour cream, crème fraiche or mascarpone.

This is quite a moist cake, so it will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight tin or wrapped in foil.

Photographs: Buttercup Days

Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita

19 August 2013

The weather over the weekend was rather blustery, not cold but mild enough to remind us that we're entering the tail end of summer. Time to start wishing for an Indian summer, and maybe still time to make some truly summery recipes.

I made this Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita a few weeks ago during the heatwave. It's summer in a little glass bowl. The recipe is from What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Bobs by Katie Quinn Davies. It takes no time at all to make a batch of this pretty ruby-iced pudding, so seize the opportunity while the sun is still shining. The autumn crumbles will have their moment all in good time.

Blood Orange, Mango & Peach Granita

1 mango, peeled, flesh cut into round pieces
3 ripe yellow peaches, stone removed, cut into chunks
2 cups fresh blood orange juice
Juice 1 lemon

Add all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and whizz until smooth. Hold a sieve over a deep baking tray (approx 42 x 30cm). Pour the granita liquid through the sieve into the tray pressing as much of the pulp through as you can, discard whatever final bits which won’t pass through then carefully transfer the filled tray into a flat shelf in the freezer. Freeze for 2-3 hours or until required then scrape into fluffy granita snow using a fork or two. Serve immediately.

Photography: Buttercup Days.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

13 August 2013

Last week, the children and I went to a (4th) birthday party at the beach. The little gathering took place at one of the beach huts and adults and kids alike enjoyed this cake that I bought along.

I've mentioned before my love of the food blog Green Kitchen Stories. The Banana Granola recipe that a featured not so long ago is one of theirs. So is this one. I'm a fan of using vegetables in cakes: not because I'm some kind of health freak, but because I love the way their addition makes for such delicious moist cakes and it is a pretty good way to use any vegetable gluts we may reap from our allotment. I've paired chocolate and beetroots together in the past, and have always been pleased with the outcome, so I was keen to try out this recipe. The beetroot gives the chocolate a depth, meaning it is not too sweet and the texture is good and fudgy. 

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

100 g sunflower oil (coconut oil or olive oil)
125 ml maple syrup (or honey)
50 g dark chocolate (70%), broken into pieces
250 g (approx 3 - 4 medium) raw beetroots, grated
3 eggs
375 ml spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
a little melted butter and a dusting of flour for preparing your tin.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175°C. Using a pastry brush painted your cake tin with a thin coating of butter. If you are using a fancy shaped tin as I did, ensure you butter all the fluted parts to enable your cake to come out the tin cleanly and easily. Finally give your tin a light dusting of flour and set aside.

Warm the oil in a medium size saucepan on very low heat. Add the maple syrup and chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat. 
Add the grated beets. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then add them to the pan. 
Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt together and stir into the beet mixture. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly dark and crackelated on top and still a little sticky inside. Enjoy!
It is utterly perfect served on its own with a cup of coffee or dress it up with seasonal berries and serve with mascarpone.

Recipe: Green Kitchen Stories
Photography: Buttercup Days