Tag Archives: New York

Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

cake with wineThe best-worst thing I have been asked since being in NYC so far? “Excuse me, how do I get to ground zero?” I don’t have to explain the issue with that one. Other than that it is great. Weather is gorgeous, the food is great, and the people aren’t too cranky. My favorite bite so far was a really simple but beyond delicious Sicilian Panel Sandwich (i’m pretty sure the sandwich bit is the Italian American twist)– fried chickpea fritters  with a dollop of fresh ricotta and grated pecorino on a crispy light bun. I certainly couldn’t get away with a meal like that on a regular basis, but when I do eat something blatantly unhealthy, I go all in. And it’s not so often I get to spend time with my dad, who is a bit of an expert on the truly great yet hipsterless grub spots in Brooklyn. So when I am home, almost anything goes in the food category if I’m out for a meal.

Like I said though, I can’t or rather know I shouldn’t eat like that all the time, but I still crave the “naughty foods.” But you know my theory– If it’s gonna have bad stuff in it, make sure to add the extra good stuff too. And it’s just starting to get chilly enough to turn on the oven in NYC, which is the perfect reason to make this next recipe.

This is a Flourless Pistachio cake based on a recipe from Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette. It’s a massive book and although it’s not particularly original–it’s more abut comfort food, with extra spice thrown in– it’s great way to get inspired in the kitchen. There are some cool spice-based health remedies in there as well.

Of course I healthied up their recipe a bit. I started by cutting the sugar in half (trust me, you won’t miss it). I also used coconut oil instead of butter and added cardamom to the recipe. I baked it in a much smaller cake pan than the one the recipe calls for (which i have provided measurements for below) and the result was a much taller cake with a crunchy outside and a slightly undercooked inside. This actually translated into a beautiful creamy texture on the inside and a nice firm shell with the called-for layer of pistachio crunch on the bottom. It worked. That being said, I am sure it is just as delicious when done in the original pan.

The original recipe is served with greek yogurt with orange zest. I have added those to the ingredient list below, but we all like it on it’s own (about 6 different people demolished tasted this cake).

pistachio cakeThis would go great with some fresh mint tea or even a bit of desert wine…

Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

Adapted from: Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams ground pistachios, and 75 grams coarsely chopped pistachios
  • 200 grams almond meal
  • 120 grams coconut oil, soft but not melted (or softened butter)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 110 grams brown sugar (about 1/2 cup packed)
  • 250 grams Greek yogurt (extra to serve)
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground in mortar and pestle.
  • Orange zest for yogurt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease and line an 8″ (20 cm) spring form pan with baking paper (I use a 6″ pan). You can use a smaller cake tin to make a higher cake as in the photo above. Just adjust baking time appropriately.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat coconut oil with an electric beater until smooth. Add ground pistachios, almond meal, and salt, and beat to blend. If chunks of coconut oil form, just work mixture with your hands to knead out any lumps. Press half of the mixture evenly into the pan.
  3. To the remainder of the mixture, add eggs, sugar, yogurt, and spices and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture into cake tin and scatter chopped pistachios on top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is fairly firm if you press the top. If you make a higher cake in a smaller cake pan, make sure to cover the top of the cake after 45 minutes with foil so the top doesn’t brown too much.
  5. Allow to cool and serve with greek yogurt mixed with orange zest (optional). Keep leftovers refrigerated (I actually prefer this cake cold from the fridge).

Apricot Lavender Jam in January? It’s just not right…

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This last month was tough. Even though I had wonderful people to spend the holidays with here, being away from my family and friends in the US over the holiday took it’s toll, and I felt quite homesick. Heading into the New Year of course is always a good time to reset the mind and kind of start fresh, especially after all the stress the holidays tends to bring, but for me, a big part of that reset is the brutal cold of New York that makes you feel hollowed out and ready to rebuild with whatever. So I’m having some technical difficulties resetting in Brisbane, where the weather has pretty much been the same all year : warm and pleasant with occasional rain, a.ka. Florida, and that has been another trigger of homesickness– seasonsickness if you will. Even in “winter,” which spans across what us Americans’ consider summer months: June, July, August– if you are standing in the sun, you don’t need a coat. Anders was able to keep up his “look” throughout the entire year we have been here (yes, it has been over a year!), and by look, I mean shirtless, board shorts, a pair of thongs (also known as flip-flops). Just look at the flowers in the above photo–there are flowers in bloom here people! There should only be barren branches and snow with dog pee in it! Ah the big apple…

I think if you grow up with the seasons, it is something you will always miss when you no longer have them, unless you are an oldie who has upped and moved to Florida to avoid the very idea of seasons. But for me, seasons are like the New Year, an excuse to revamp and start something new. They are refreshing, nostalgic, mini-milestones. So, as I prepare for a journey home to New York for two weeks this month which I am very much looking forward to, I seriously cannot wait to feel like the cold is punching me in the stomach. And it will feel like that, because like the rest of the folk in Brisbane, if the weather dips anywhere below 60F, I find myself bitching and moaning about the freezing weather. Don’t judge! The body acclimatizes quickly!

When January 1st did come, and the day was, as expected, warm, sunny, the same as usual, I needed to do something that felt really productive to kick the year off and distract myself from fantasies of snow and stew. And for me, preserving always feels productive and I get totally in the zone.

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My friends Kylie and Lachlan Scott at the beautiful Flour & Chocolate Patisserie over in Morningside gifted me the book Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry. As the title suggests it is about curing, preserving, pickling etc. It’s a gorgeous book with fantastic photos and even more exciting recipes. I also received some culinary lavender from Victoria State as a gift from Anders’ sister, Ingrid, and it is stone fruit season here in Queensland, so when I saw a recipe for Apricot Lavender Jam in Salt Sugar Smoke, I knew I had found my New Year’s day calling. Also, it is a fairly basic recipe, and as I really don’t have much jam experience, I thought I would start small and branch out to the more complex recipes like her much more involved Pink Grapefruit Marmalade later.

Dried Lavender Blossoms

Dried Lavender Blossoms

Sweating and swatting away mosquitos as I held a thermometer in the jam, I was briefly reminded of the unacceptable warm weather, but was generally able to keep my mind on task. The jam turned out beautifully, with a brilliant taste of apricots you can only get in a homemade jam and a very subtle essence of lavender ( and I have to point out, less sugar and preservatives than the ones I find at the shops, taking it down a notch from your typical equal parts fruit and sugar ratio). In fact, apart from the lingon berry jam at IKEA that is addictive and we eat with Anders’ Swedish meatballs, we rarely buy jam. But now that I have this wonderful book, I plan to stock our shelves with preserves. Homemade jam also makes great little gifts that don’t require a big occasion, and I gave all but one bottle away. For me, sharing the food is a big part of the fun, and people love getting a jar of the homemade stuff.

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I made a point of being well organized and prepared going into this jam mission and I am happy to report it was a therapeutic experience that left me feeling like I started the year on a good note. I think preserving can be a bit intimidating, but if you have everything set up, it is pretty smooth sailing (although my first few experiences with jam were on a whim and I was a flustered mess by the end, and my kitchen didn’t fare much better). You probably already have most of the equipment in your kitchen, and the fussier bits like a sugar thermometer aren’t a must, so don’t panic if you don’t have one.

Oh, and we are moving to Melbourne next month! We don’t have a place to live, or jobs, but by george, we’ll have seasons! In fact, it isn’t uncommon to experience all four seasons in just one day there. It is incredibly erratic and I can’t bloody wait!

Apricot Lavender Jam

Recipe by Diana Henry/ Salt Sugar Smoke

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo (2.4 lbs.) apricots*
  • 3 sprigs of fresh lavender**
  • 600 grams “jam sugar” (I used CSR brand and it measures out to 2 3/4 cups)
  • juice of one lemon

Equipment:

  • 4 x 225 g (8 oz) jars, or the equivalent
  • wax paper
  • A large heavy pot– preferably something wide. A good rule of thumb is that the jam shouldn’t take up more than 1/3 of the pan
  • Another large pot to sterilize your jars
  • A ladle
  • A sugar thermometer, although if you don’t have one, that’s okay too
  • A small plate

*For the apricots, you want just ripe apricots, or even slightly under-ripe. Fruit contains pectin which is important in the jam thickening process, and when fruit is very ripe, the pectin breaks down and your jam won’t set.

**I used dried “culinary lavender” so essentially just dried lavender blossoms. I used 1 tsp, as Henry warns taking the lavender too far will result in a medicinal taste and dried anything can usually be pretty potent. I will bring it up to 1 1/2 tsp next time if I use dried lavender again, but I wouldn’t venture much further.

  1. Put a small plate into the fridge. You will use this later for a “wrinkle test”.
  2. Sterilize: Wash your jars and lids with warm soapy water and boil for at least 20 minutes. (Update on Januray 16th 2013: I’ve just been gifted another  jam book– Jam On by Laena Mcarthy. She instructs just bringing the water to a boil, then turning it off. So the 20 minute rule is out. Also, with the round lids of ball jars, you should just submerge them in very hot water, as boiling water can cause some melting.) You’ll want these to be a bit warm when you pot your jam, so don’t take them out til your jam is close to ready. Also, before using a ladle to handle the jam, and the sugar thermometer, I give those a 90 second dip in the boiling water after rinsing them well to avoid contamination. And of course, make sure your hands are nice and clean!
  3. Wash and stone your apricots and chop them up. I cut fairly big chunks, as I like a lot of texture, but you can cut them however you like or even just keep them halved, which I think I will try next time. Put them into your jam pot along with the jam sugar, lemon juice, and lavender (if using dried lavender, bundle it in a bit of muslin or cheesecloth. If using whole fresh sprigs as the original recipe calls for, you can throw them in the way they are). Over low heat, cook the mixture until the fruit is very soft and the sugar has dissolved. This takes about 20-25 minutes. Then bring the jam up to a boil over high heat and let it rumble without stirring til the thermometer reach the jam setting point (104.5 C/ 220 F). If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t panic, just follow step four.
  4. The Wrinkle Test: remove your jam from the heat and spoon a small amount across the plate. Let it sit for a moment, then push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles up, it’s ready to be potted. If it is a bit runny or doesn’t form wrinkles, pop it back on the heat. Even though I have a thermometer, I so the wrinkle test as well.
  5. Remove your jam from the heat once it’s ready and allow it to sit for a few minutes in the pot. Pour your jam into warm, dry, sterilized jars. I find a widemouthed funnel helps with this. Of course, if you are using one, make sure to sterilize in the boiling water as well. Placewax paper discs over jam, and seal. Diana Henry advises this will keep for a year. It will probably be fine for longer, but I know my batch will be gone in the next few weeks, so I’m not too concerned. Once opened, keep refrigerated.