and eat it.
Oh dear, Christmas, I’m like a pendulum, one minute I’m all festive, twinkly lights, Stilton and hot chestnuts and the next I’m a bit bah humbug, mildly annoyed and wonky. It’s alright though, I’m used to it, it’s an annual thing and I try not to inflict either state on anyone in the other state if you get my meaning. I deal with my seasonal schizophrenia by endeavouring to keep things – the festivities, food, drink, presents, decorations, socializing – quite simple, as my wise dad would say, it’s about keeping expectations flexible. If I set out simply, when Christmas explodes, which it usually does, like one of those table poppers, into something surprising and wonderful or something difficult, I manage slightly better.
So this morning with simple in mind I managed stop myself panic cooking the English christmas cake I’ve been promising myself and then berating myself for not making for the whole of December. It wasn’t easy, I had my coat on and I was writing a ridiculous list for a cake that should have been made in November (and then given weekly injections of brandy) whilst chastising myself for not being the magazine spread-christmas-perfect-gift-wrapped kind-of-person I claim to loathe. I took my coat off, screwed up the list and decided this year we can manage without both English Christmas cake and guilt and that being in Rome we should do as the Romans do and buy a very large panettone.
I still had cake on my mind though and a very large bowlful of clementines….
I love this cake, I’ve posted about it before, it’s Nigella Lawson’s recipe from her book ‘How to Eat’ which is in turn inspired by Claudia Roden’s Sephardic orange and almond cake from her wonderful book ‘Middle Eastern Food’. It’s simple – just clementines, ground almonds, caster sugar, eggs and a teaspoon of baking powder – and beautiful, flecked with orange, dense with almonds, it’s moist and aromatic, half pudding, half cake. I’m partial to a slice when it’s freshly baked, just warm, but maybe it’s even nicer if you wrap it in foil and keep it for a day or two, its flavours intensify and it becomes even more deliciously moist and fragrant. I suggest you make two so you can confirm this theory.
It’s simple to make, you need a bit of patience while the clementines simmer away for a couple of hours, but you’re rewarded for it by the most delightful, sweet scent pervading your kitchen. Once the clementines are soft, you half them, de-seed them and blend everything, skin, pith, fruit into a thick orange pulp which you then mix with 6 eggs, ground almonds, sugar and a generous teaspoon of baking powder. An hour on the oven, lovely baking smells and all that.
I like this cake as pudding with a big blob of creme fraiche or even better Barbados cream; a mixture of heavy cream, greek yogurt and dark, soft muscavado sugar and beside it a glass of dessert wine.
From Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to Eat’
- 4 – 5 clementines (about 375g total weight)
- 6 eggs
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 250g ground almonds
- 1 generous teaspoon of baking powder.
Put the clementines in a pan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a lively simmer. Leave the clementines bobbing away for 2 hours.
Drain and cool the clementines. Once cool enough to handle, cut the clementines in half and remove the pips and then mash everything, skin, pith, fruit into a pulp, I use an immersion blender to do this.
Heat the oven to 180° and butter and line a 21cm cake tin.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder and stir everything together with a metal spoon.
Fold the clementine pulp carefully but firmly into the other ingredients using a metal spoon.
Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for about 50mins to 1 hour, when a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover the cake with baking parchment or foil for the last 20mins if looks like the top is browning too quickly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin. When the cake is cool, slide it out of the tin.
We didn’t wait.