Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A Cake for the Boss and Another Celebration

Recently the Ewing and I got got hitched again. Well, more accurately, we had our civil partnership converted into a 'marriage'. Of course it would have been rude not to celebrate - despite originally choosing the 29th February as the 'big day', in the mistaken wisdom we would have less anniversaries to forget.

This second bite of the cherry, as it were, conveniently happened to commemorate exactly 2556 days since we first got together, which also lent itself nicely to the #sevenyearhitch hashtag. Any reason to dress up, cavort about town and drink pink fizz before lunch.

With all the merrymaking I've been distracted from blogging; although not enough to forget about the cake I made for the Ewing's lovely boss when she and her husband recently came for dinner. Yes, I really am a grown up now - although I did feel slightly like Reggie Perrin, minus the hippopotamus.

As well as a chance to impress it was an opportunity to utilise the good old Nutibullet - which, on a tangent, I have discovered is also perfect for making houmous and frozen strawberry daiquiris (although sadly not at the same time). Top hostess tip - add plenty of rum to the cocktails and no one really seems to care what the rest of the food tastes like.

This time I used it for  the far more prosiac task of grinding pistachios to make an adaption of Jose Pizarro's almond bizcocho, a dead easy Spanish-influenced loaf cake with none of your usual tiresome creaming, folding and whisking nonsense. Perfect for showing off on a special occasion, or just scoffing alongside a cuppa while nestled under a blanket on the sofa. If you don't have pistachios almonds will work just as well, although you're batter won't have that same ectoplasm hue before baking.

In keeping in with the anniversary theme, I used some flashy Italian olive oil I found buried at the back of my completely impractical kitchen cupboards (60 Minute Makeover, if you're listening...). The oil came from the olive groves on the estate where my Sister and brother-in-law got married exactly three years ago this week. (They celebrated with a bottle of vino from the estate vineyards and their first evening out without the Gingerbread.) A rather fitting use, although any light/medium bodied olive oil (or nut oil) would work equally well. 

To serve we went back to the 70's with a dish of classic caramel oranges; slices of citrus bathed in a brick red sugar syrup with plenty of Portuguese firewater and served icy cold. Yes it's a faff peeling and de-pithing, but make extra and you'll have something to liven up your breakfast yoghurt for the rest of the week.

Pistachio Bizcocho with Caramel Brandy Oranges 
(adapted from Jose Pizarro's Spanish Flavours)

For the caramel oranges
8 small, juicy oranges, 200g caster sugar, 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice, strained.

For the caramel oranges, cut a slice off the top and bottom of each orange, then slice away all the skin, ensuring the white pith is completely removed. Cut each orange across the segments into slices, reserving all the juices. Put the sugar into a large pan with 120ml cold water. Leave over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until the syrup has turned into a brick-red caramel. Don't lose your nerve!
Remove from the heat and plunge the base of the pan into cold water to stop it cooking any further. Stand back (as it will splutter) and add the orange juice. The caramel will form a lump in the bottom of the pan. Return to a low heat and stir until it dissolves again. Leave to cool very slightly then, while it is still liquid, pour over the sliced oranges and chill for at least 1 hour.

For the cake
200ml olive oil, 175g plain flour, 2tsp baking powder, pinch of salt, 100g ground pistachios (or almonds) 175g caster sugar, 3 large, free-range eggs, finely grated zest of an orange, 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice.  

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 1kg loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper. 
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and stir in ground almonds and caster sugar. 
Make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs, olive oil, orange zest and juice. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet to make a smooth batter. 
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 hour, covering the surface loosely with a sheet of foil if it is browning too quickly. When it's ready a skewer, pushed into the centre of the cake, should come away clean.
Remove the cake from the tin and peel off the lining paper. Leave to cool on a wire rack. 
Serve with the caramel oranges and some lightly (not like mine, which went decidedly lumpy) whipped cream and a little ground cinnamon.

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