Lots of people I have spoken to recently have said they've been in the mood to bake up a storm lately. It's because of our beautiful weather I think. It's not too hot to have the oven on, and with the chilly temps on the way, we know our winter coat of blubber won't need to be bared for a few more months.
How do you improve on a fresh salad of rocket, tomatos and cucumbers with a light simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing?
Why, top it with some grilled crispy skinned salmon and danish feta of course.
I grew that rocket by the way. It's easy peasy. If I can do it, you can too. The little flecks of yellow are marigold petals, I grew them too.
It's the season for citrus. I've been whipping up one orange cake after another. It's a special gift I have, give me a low calorie, healthy food and I'll show you how to add calories, sugar and fat in a jiffy!
This is my latest favourite, it's a whole orange and coconut cake from Miss Donna Hay. Notice, there's a bite taken out of it. I almost devoured this piece before I remembered to take a photo. It's so easy, here's how.
Whole orange and coconut cake
2 navel oranges, (washed or ideally, organic)
185g butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup desicatted coconut
1 1/2 cups s. r. flour, sifted (or not)
Preheat oven to 160 and prepare a 22cm round cake tin with non stick baking paper.
Place the two whole oranges in a bowl with water and microwave for 15 minutes. Tip out the water and roughly chop the oranges so you can scoop out any seeds.
Blend the whole oranges in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Mix in your butter and sugar, eggs, coconut and flour and whisk til smooth.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or double cream and my orange syrup.
In a small saucepan boil a cup fresh orange juice and 1 cup of sugar for about 10 minutes until it becomes thicker and syrupy. Cool and use to pour over pieces of cake before serving.
Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern orange cake
This is the cake I usually make. I'm including the recipe for our ceoliac friends because it's gluten free.
2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds (almond meal)
1 teaspoon baking powder.
Cook the oranges as per the recipe above and blend until smooth. Preheat oven to 190 and prepare a 24cm spring form pan. Blend the oranges and remaining ingredients until smooth in a food processor. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour. If the cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out.
Also on the subject of citrus, here's my recipe for Lemon Butter, you may know it as Lemon Curd, and I have a friend who also calls it Lemon Cheese, which is a bit off putting.
2 large lemons
100g unsalted butter
175g white sugar
3 eggs light whisked and strained (whatever you do, don't skip this step)
Finely zest and juice the two lemons (a good dose of zest is essential for success). In a heavy based saucepan, or double boiler, combine all the ingredients and stir constantly* until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon - usually 10-15 minutes. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour into small, hot sterilised jars.
*I know all recipes say to 'stir constantly' but I think this may be an urban myth. Years ago when I had just started stirring some lemon butter our dog, Charlie, decided to half kill a blue tongue lizard outside the kitchen window. The poor thing was in agony, so I had to leave the lemon butter, run up the road to get 'old Fred' (every street needs one), who promptly came down and put the lizard out of its misery.
When I got back to the lemon butter, it had been unstirred for some time and it was just fine. Whenever I make lemon butter now I still think of Charlie, Fred and the blue tongue lizard, none of whom are with us anymore.
Speaking of lemons, I had a baby shower to go to this morning, and in the spirit of disorganisation, I decided to stop by the Trading Circle in Paddington on the way to pick up a gift. It's meant to open at 10am, but by 10.15am I was still standing outside waiting. I decided to go to a shop close by and get a present instead - this entire shop was on sale, I think they're moving. I picked something out, out of desperation and asked the lady working there if she could gift wrap it. She gave me a look of disdain and said they offered gift wrapping but not on sale items. I left without anything because by now it was nearly 10.30am and I was already half an hour late.
Third time lucky. At another shop further up near the antiques centre (something & something??) I managed to find a little toy car and had it wrapped.
Retailers, come in closer, let me tell you something from this side of the fence, if you don't want people to buy stuff on line (even though it's half the price), then open your shops on time and offer some service - we're a captive audience once we walk through your doors.
Enjoy your oranges and lemons.