Posts Tagged 'almonds'

tosca cake

for reasons too many to mention, i no longer have the opportunity to cook with BBC world service on in the background. nor do i have pleasure (and so often pleasure through pain) of the dulcet tones of LNL, as i calmly cream my butter and sugar. good thing too probably. its not necessarily a healthy pastime for a young girl. what this means however, is there is an intellectual void. sometimes its more like a gaping chasm into which, if im not careful, im liable to plummet. in order to avoid (albeit narrowly) this obstacle, i have started to obsess over the task at hand. an unprecedented attention to detail seems to be the fortuitous product of the survival instinct of my brain. an unlikely predicament for someone with acute attention deficit tendencies such as myself…after all, i didnt get asked to leave starlab because i was concentrating too hard. but i have, as always, by default, found a way to focus intently on the task before me. (with the obvious exception of the bit where, realising i had misplaced the base of my existing cake tin, i had to rush out to the understocked and underwhelming supermarket to purchase a lesser 22 inch cake tin…it works but not as well). what got my undivided attention in this particular instance, on this particular evening, was an almond cake. a very special cake on account of it not being at all cake like. because, i ask you, what child of the 21st century really wants to eat cake? but this is to cake what the friand is to the muffin, what the tartlet is to the tart, and what the cupcake is to all the posers in the world. its delicate, its mostly crisp with a soft base that cakens it but doesnt weigh things down. so i bring you an almond cake entitled tosca’s cake. which was given to a very special lady…from whence it was finally liberated by myself, with the help of a very sleepy spoon.


125g softened butter

90g cater sugar

90g self-raising flour

1/2tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 eggs separated

2tbsp milk

topping ingredients

125g flaked almonds

90g butter melted

90g sugar

1tbsp plain flour

preheat the oven to 180 degrees. butter and flour a 26cm springform cake tin. cream the butter and sugar together til soft and fluffy. beat in the egg yolks and then add the milk.

sift in the flour, cinnamon and salt and fold this together

whisk the egg whites til stiff peaks

fold whisked egg whites into the mix

pour into the tin. smooth it over. it wont look like a lot but that is a good thing. bake for 20-30 minutes until cake is just firm.

while the cake is in the oven make the glorious topping. mix almonds, butter and sugar in a small saucepan.

stir in flour and cream. stir this over a gentle heat until amalgamated.

when the cake is ready, it should be just firm to the touch. remove from the oven.

immediately bring the topping to the boil. pour this over the cake and spread in an even layer

bake this for 10-15mins – until the top is golden brown.

let cool in tin for 10 minutes until the top is crisp. then remove and serve.


plum and almond tart

i was struck by a thought recently, as i reached for yet another almond, is there an excess of nut-related, specifically almond-related, material on this site? i was worried that perhaps the repetition, other than getting boring, might indicate a lack of imagination. but according to nietzsches aphorism, ‘if one has character one also has ones typical experience which recurs again and again’; mine therefore, is the almond. and this tart has nothing to do with the mundane. this tart, in all its simplicity is truly world shattering. and i know because everyone who laid teeth to it has said as much. its the tart that makes love and makes friends. its the best advice you can get, in any situation. it will truly blow your hair back.


500g plums (preferably dark skinned but whatever you can get in your ill-seasoned hemisphere)

300g butter

300g sugar

300g ground almonds

3 large organic eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 quantity shortcrust pastry

preheat the oven to 150 degrees. then prepare your plums. cut in half and remove the stones…(they dont go down well…especially if you intend on offloading this tart to an old dithering man – it will cause all kinds of unnecessary hassles)

then in a bowl beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

then add the ground almonds and mix to combine. and finally add the eggs one at a time and beat.

pour the almond filling into the pre-baked tart shell and smooth over. (the mixture this recipe makes is too much for the tart. i realise i should have adjusted the quantities accordingly but a low self estimation makes me wary about doing such things and makes me think the excess was the fault of some mistake i made…but i can tell you with absolute confidence that if it seems like you have too much, dont try fit it all on. you will only end up with an buttery-sugary explosion inside your oven. or, if you are, like myself, wracked with self-doubt and persist in using it all because, after all, “why would the recipe lie”, then at least put a tray at the bottom of the oven onto which mess can safely fall.)

finally, arrange your plums, cut-side up however you wish.

put this into an oven for 45 minutes. (or up to two hours if it all goes plum shaped). remove and cool on a wire rack. there arent many guarantees here. you have to hope and pray it all goes according to the river cafe’s divine plan. but when it does there will be euphoria on the palate, people will flip their beaks…there may even be a few tears of elation. so try it…i urge you.

cod with romesco crust

…for joy (creator of snow) and for tomorrows dinner

dinner proper never looked like this. it was where cooking met chefing met eating and where fish met spain met summertime. and although, as i recently discovered, fish isnt exactly my area of expertise (this moment of clarity came in the market on a fine saturday morning when a stench, a dozen bellowing fishmongers, one boisterous fish man, and a lovely but disgruntled boy, nearly brought this whole operation to its knees), anything topped with this sublime culinary embodiment of the mediterranean will generally be ok. just make sure to cook the fish through. because no, that is correct, we are not japanese.

romesco ingredients

3 red peppers roasted, skins removed

1tbsp rosemary

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

50g blanched almonds roasted

50g dry white breadcrumbs (feel free to toast these off in some olive oil flavoured with rosemary and garlic)

2 portions cod/hake…whatever you can get

to make the romesco crust its best to have a food processor. if you only have your pounding implement then by all means but you are aiming for sandy consistency to make a crust for the fish…with the mortar and pestle i was able to achieve a wet sand but having done this before in a processor dry sand is preferable. first roast your peppers under very hot grill until the skins are black. put them into a plastic bag for a few minutes and then take them out to remove the skins…which should peel away very easily. put them in a bowl with some garlic, rosemary and olive oil and stir to combine. then in processor, or whichever way you choose to go, mix up the peppers, 1 clove of garlic, almonds, bread crumbs and salt and pepper. set this aside while you cook your fish.

put some olive oil in a pan over a high heat. add the fish, skin-side down and cook for 2-3 minutes

then transfer to a baking sheet, skin side up and crumble over the romesco topping. bake this in the oven for 7 minutes or until cooked through.

feelin empty: spiced nuts

Could have been a free form apple and peach tart. but snow was having tea and scones. so i decided to fill the ever expanding void with a version of union square cafe spiced nuts a la nigella lawson. toast nuts in olive oil, sea salt, cumin, hot paprica, maybe a bit of brown sugar and chilli…coat nuts therein thereof until they look like you want one.

Finished product.

Void remains…with occasional stabbing pains in the stomach but mainly thirstiness…All for you ralphie.

hyperlinks and hypercooking: how to blanch an almond

i didnt know… so i looked, i read, i learnt. here are my findings:

get a pot full of boiling water. pour in almonds and leave them in for a minute. absolutely no more. i think even a minute is pushing it but what do i but a humble food fetishist…so i do as im told. take them out and drain them and immediately rinse with cold water. then lay them out on some paper towel and their skin will be very saggy like that of a person who has lived life longer than they probably should. and then just pop them out – they come out quite easily and some swearing and muttering, the stubborner ones should cave too. once all the skins are removed, lay them out flat to air. (i also read that should they be too soggy you can try rehabilitate them by putting them back in the oven briefly to dry out.)