Celebration cake

Sometimes, you want to make a special cake that everyone wants to be the first to taste. This is one of those cakes. I’ve made it for my daughter’s birthday party and as a dessert cake for a friend’s wedding and it’s gone down a storm on both occasions. The sponge and the Italian meringue icing is flavoured with maple syrup which gives it a lovely smoky richness; you could decorate it with chopped walnuts or pecans but the edible gold leaf makes it extra-special. Gold candles for a birthday version would look brilliant too.

Serves 12

Cake

  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 225 light muscovado sugar
  • grated rind of an orange
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2 level tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 level tsp ground ginger
  • 50g chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Edible gold leaf for decoration

Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 125ml maple syrup
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

To make…

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  • Grease a 1.75 litre ring mould baking tin and dust thoroughly with a little flour to prevent sticking.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the eggs and then fold in the flour, baking powder, ginger, maple syrup and orange rind. Stir in the nuts.
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and tap it to level the surface. Bake for about 40 minutes until well risen and golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Don’t be tempted to turn it out too early or half the cake will stay in the tin! It’s not the end of the world if a little does stick to the tin though as you’ll be icing it.
  • To make the icing, add everything except the vanilla essence in to a metal or glass bowl that fits over a saucepan to create a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to cover the base but not to touch the bowl. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl of ingredients over the water and, using a hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. Take the bowl off the saucepan and beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Place the cake onto a serving plate or stand.
  • Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment about 8cm wide and arrange in a square along each edge of your cake plate or stand. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the meringue icing. Give it a swirly rather than a smooth effect and then dot the top with the gold leaf. Whip the pieces of baking parchment away to reveal an icing-free serving plate.

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Posted in Cakes & biscuits, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Linguine with sour cream and basil sauce

As we’ve had such a fantastic hot and dry summer, I’ve grown fresh basil outside very successfully. The sunshine has given the basil a distinct and peppery flavour that you don’t get from the shop bought kind but you can use either of course. With the weather about to turn, I thought I’d harvest it and make this linguine dish inspired by a classic pesto recipe but with the addition of a little sour cream I had in the fridge. You could use normal cream but I like the tang the sour cream adds. Dear reader, it’s a keeper!

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 100g fresh basil
  • A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 20g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus a little to drizzle
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 300g linguine

To make…

  • Cook and drain the pasta according to the packet instructions – it’s usually about 10 minutes. Reserve a little of the pasta water once cooked and drained.
  • Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pound the garlic and then the pine nuts with a large pinch of sea salt with a pestle and mortar until it forms a thick paste. Add the olive oil and then the basil leaves. pound to a paste. Add the sour cream to a non-stick pan on a low heat. Add the basil paste, a good pinch of ground black pepper to warm it through and allow the flavours to infuse.
  • Add the sauce to the drained pasta and a tablespoon of pasta water. Stir thoroughly and divide into your serving bowls.
  • To serve, top with black pepper, freshly grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Pea, bean and cucumber salad

This week’s #TheFridayRecipe is a cross between a salad and a vegetable side dish which goes particularly well with fish like pan fried cod, hake or salmon. The cucumber and beans deliver crunch and the peas, sweetness – all in a light dressing of dill, lemon, olive oil and Dijon mustard. Simple and delicious; two of my favourite words.

pea salad

This serves four but you can just scale it up and down pretty easily.

  • 1 whole cucumber
  • 3 tbsps frozen petits pois, thawed but not cooked
  • 1 small pack of fine green beans
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs finely chopped dill
  • Salt and ground white pepper

To make…

  • Halve and then quarter the cucumber lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon or a knife. Cut into 1cm chunks.
  • Top and tail the beans, cut each one into 4 or 5 pieces. Cook in boiling salted water, drain and rinse with cold water, drain again.
  • Thaw the petits pots by covering them in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then drain them.
  • In your salad bowl, add the lemon juice and mustard and a pinch of salt and whisk so it all dissolves together. Add the olive oil and whisk into an emulsion. Check for seasoning and add the finely chopped dill.
  • Add the peas, cucumber and beans to the serving bowl and dress with the dill mixture. Serve chilled.

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Freekeh with caramelised onions

Freekeh is cracked wheat that has been roasted and rubbed for a smoky, nutty flavour. It’s very common in Middle-Eastern dishes and makes a delicious and interesting alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous or rice. I used to only be able to find it in health stores and Asian grocery shops but it’s quite mainstream now as you can buy it in Waitrose! I used to make this dish with basmati rice but try this recipe and you’ll find yourself making it again and again. The key to the base is vegetable stock, cumin and lots of fried onions but I do vary it quite a lot; sometimes I add chickpeas, or brown lentils or even frozen peas if you want to ring the changes. It can be a meal in itself (perfect for vegetarians and vegans) or I serve it with slow roasted shoulder of lamb and sautéed courgettes.

Freekeh pilaf

Serves 4 – 6

  • 200g freekeh
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsps light olive oil
  • 2 large onions – 1 peeled and sliced, 1 peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 x 400g can of chickpeas or 2 tbsps of cooked brown lentils
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander or flat leaf parsley
  • Optional: to garnish – 2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced, yoghurt

To make…

  • First make the fried onions. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on a plate with a couple of layers of kitchen roll on it to absorb the extra oil.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan, add the cumin seeds until they sizzle and then add the diced onion. Stir and fry for 10 minutes until they are softened. Add the tomato puree and fry it off for another 5 minutes. Add the freekeh grains and chilli. Stir and coat the grains with the onion mixture.
  • Add the hot stock and a generous teaspoon of black pepper and salt. Stir. Add the chickpeas or lentils. Stir and mix again. Cover the pan with a tight lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes without disturbing the contents and then remove from the heat. Set it aside for 5 minutes – the grains should be plumped up having completely absorbed all the stock.
  • To serve, stir through the fried onions, the coriander or parsley and top with the sliced tomatoes.

Share, follow, like, enjoy!

  • To get the latest #TheFridayRecipe from the Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog, just add your email address to the subscribe box at the top right-hand column of the website. 
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