Posts Tagged ‘spice’

Whilst stocking up the fridge after my weekly shop I realised I had a few plums and pears at the back of the fridge that had been there for quite a while.  There was also half a punnet of blackberries that were on the turn and needed using up.

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I didn’t want to waste any of them and throw them away, but there is only so much fruit I can buy without it turning.

After giving it some thought the best and most effective way to use these up was by putting them into a cake.

I went to task, peeling, coring and slicing the pears; washing the plums, removing their stone and picking out the blackberries that had the merest hint of mould on them.  The cake batter was a simple sponge mixture but slightly tweaked to incorporate ground cinnamon and using plain flour instead of self raising flour.  

A standard sponge recipe calls for 2 eggs and some milk but as I can be quite clumsy when it comes to adding milk, I used 3 eggs instead.

Pear, Plum and Blackberry Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

20131006-115529.jpg150g Plain Flour

150g Butter

150g Soft Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

1 1/2 tspns Baking Powder

Vanilla Extract / Almond Essence

1 tspn Cinnamon

Flaked almonds and demerara sugar optional

For the Cake:

1st: Cream the sugar and butter together.

2nd: Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.

3rd: Add a splosh of vanilla extract/almond essence or a dash of both!

4th: Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.  Mix.

5th: Pour into a greased and lined baking tin.  Assemble the fruit as you wish.

6th: Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 25-30mins.

7th: Sprinkle the cake with flaked almonds and demerara sugar and put back into the oven for 10mins.

8th: Allow to cool before serving.

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Delicious as a tea-time cake or equally rewarding with vanilla ice cream as a decadent dessert!

Give this cake a go.  A simple fruit sponge cake with added extras.  Experiment with different fruits.  If you buy out of season fruits the best way to bring out their natural sweetness is to bake them, so why not bake them in a cake?  Members of the plum family are best at taking on spice.  This cake would work with ground ginger, nutmeg, clove but if you want to keep it simple; cinnamon is the direction to go.

Considering they were destined for the bin, the outcome was certainly a resounding success.

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Sitting in the heart of the Medina sipping a mint tea and smelling the scents of the souk, I reminisce over the food memories created during my mini break in Marrakech.

On my first night in Marrakech, I was tantalised by a beef and prune tagine.  Tagine is the quintessential Moroccan dish.  Tagine refers to the succulent dish which is slow-cooked inside the cooking apparatus.  It can be cooked with a variety of ingredients, typically, a tagine is a rich stew of meat, chicken, or fish and most often includes vegetables or fruit.  Vegetables can also be cooked alone.

Tagine refers more to the wide, circular, shallow earthenware container with a distinctively shaped rounded dome or cone that the dish is cooked in rather than the name of the dish.

The Tagine is a humble dish.  As the dish is slow cooked cheaper cuts of meat can be used, maximising on flavour without needing prime cuts of fillet steak to enhance the dish.

The beef and prune tagine; juicy and flavoursome, rich and sweet.  The beef was flaking off the fork and at the same time gelatinous in consistency.  Beautiful.

 Another gorgeous Tagine was the Tagine du Poullet (Chicken Tagine) I had whilst overlooking the Djemaa El-Fna Square with its myriad of alleyways.

No the photo has not been oversaturated, the saffron content of the dish must have been set to psycadellic levels!

Another Moroccan delicacy is couscous.  These baby grains of semolina are sweet but very bland making them a great vehicle to carry bold flavours.  At a restaurant overlooking the Djemaa for 10MAD we ate a Starter: Moroccan Salad, Main: tagine/couscous & Dessert: Oranges.

                   

Unfortunately we were in a rush and the pace of the service at this restaurant was also quintessentially Moroccan!  We had to forgo the oranges.  Priscilla and Henry would be appalled at our total lack of respect but as you can see from the couscous both the need for speed and greed meant that I started attacking the plate before I remembered to take a photo of it!

WARNING: Moroccan food is delicious, yes, but very rich and sweet.  At some point you are going to need a break from all this tagine malarky.  There are two great restaurants outside the Medina in the Ville Nouvelle, La Rue Yougoslavie; Azar and Le Chat Qui Rit (both recommended by Lonely Planet Guides) are a break from all this.

Azar, is a Lebanese restaurant that serves amazing food – I recommend going for one of their Mezzes to share and a bottle of wine.  We tried the Local Vin Gris (Grey wine) which was a great accompaniment to the mezze.

Le Chat Qui Rit is an Italian restaurant – I recommend you share a starter and pick any main off the menu as they were delicious but whatever you do you MUST leave room for dessert.  Pick the Profiteroles!  Choux Pastry wrapped around a huge ball of vanilla ice cream covered in the most decadent chocolate sauce and topped with toasted almonds!  Sorry, no photo, greed, once again is my excuse!

Pack your bags, get yourself over there, have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice on the Djemaa, walk around and eat at the different stalls, establishments and restaurants.  Smell it all in, savour each bite from the slow-cooked tagine to the street food brochettes (pinchitos) then wash it all down with a glass of hot, sweet mint tea.  Marrakech, a crazy city full of mystique, culture but above all, food.

C’est bon – Bon Appetite!

I now understand why everyone, and I literally mean everyone, mentions food as one of the top 10 tourist attractions to see and do in Malaysia! The Lonely Planet guide ranks Malaysia’s food culture as 9th in its list of things to do and see. To quote The Lonely Planet website:

“The atmosphere is electric and the many types of food available will leave the first-time visitor in a daze!”

This enthusiastically caught my attention but dare I say it, 9th is pathetically low – it should be ranked much higher.  There is plenty of touristy stuff to do but apart from the eclectic mix of cultures, it was the food that really stood out for me.  From the street food in Jalan Alor to the exquisite cakes at the KL Tower, everything was delicious (except the evil durian fruit that should not be considered a food!)

When I originally thought about Malaysian food, I immediately assumed Asian cuisine; veering towards Chinese, who wouldn’t? But this was an ignorant assumption! Malaysian cuisine is spicier and hotter than I thought it was going to be. I was also unaware of the strong Muslim influence in everything Malaysian. As our taxi driver jovially told us,

“50% of Malaysia is Muslim, the other 50% is made up of the rest of us!”

Culinarily though, this meant that the vast spread of cultures and subsequently dietary requirements has impacted on the variety of foods at stalls and restaurants throughout KL (I’ll tell you about the Arabic restaurant I went into on another occasion).  There was always a vast selection of foods to choose from: Malaysian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Australian, Italian, Mediterranean, Iranian, Moroccan, etc.  Sadly there  was also a KFC and the omnipresent McDonalds.

Jalan Alor

We asked the concierge at our hotel, The Royale Bintang, where they could recommend for us to go for dinner.  They were very quick to mention several western style restaurants but on exclaiming the words, “We want to eat local.”  They chorused, “Jalan Alor!”
On a parallel street to us was the infamous Jalan Alor. A cacophony of scent and sound, where plastic furniture is laid out in a continuous line on either side of a busy street.  Pedestrian and vehicle weave their way through a throng of diners out for delicious food at ridiculous prices!

As total first-timers in KL and more specifically, Jalan Alor, we decided to play it safe and opted for a Chinese-Malaysian eatery.

Here we dined on soy marinated peanuts, mouthwatering squid rings, buttered prawns, aromatic pork ribs and sweet and sour pork.

Everything was delicious!  The soy marinated peanuts were slightly slimy at first but once the initial hesitation subsides they were actually very moreish.  I’ve tried to recreate these at home; unsuccessfully.

However, the pièce de résistance was the relatively modern malaysian dish: buttered prawns.  This dish combines Malay, Chinese, Indian and western ingredients.  A knockout dish which revealed layer upon layer of complex flavours–buttery, salty, sweet, spicy, and garlicky working off one another seamlessly and perfectly.  It was packed with such amazing flavour that you were not even bothered about peeling the prawns at times so that you could suck the tantalising coating covering them!!

Throughout KL, different restaurants claim to serve the best buttered prawns!

Sadly, as simple as recipes suggest their re-creation ability is, the quality of the ingredients we can buy here is not the same.  Oh well, another trip to Malaysia is going to have to be a must to satisfy my buttered prawns cravings.  

The original finger licking good!

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