A ten-year anniversary is a special occasion in anybody’s book and this year our reading group is a decade old. The food we share each month is the key to our longevity, although our Melbourne member who phones in for the discussion after dinner is able to live on description alone 🙂
Originally we all agreed to restrain ourselves to ‘one-pot-wonders’ and while two courses is generally the go, there do seem to be a lot of reasons why ‘this time’ is a special gathering.
This month was my turn to host and I was keen to start testing the Greg and Lucy Malouf book Turquoise I’ve had for a while and up until recently only looked at. The photography is breathtaking – it’s a great coffee table book. I actually made several dishes from this Turkish themed book a couple of weeks ago for a dinner party and it inspired me to keep going.
So far the dishes I’ve tried are appealingly fragrant with herbs added by the cupful (rather than the measly tablespoon like so many recipes – I do like to use a lot of herbs) and a huge range of dried spice mixes and pastes adding a great depth and intensity of flavour. Texture is also used to great effect from silky dips and blackened eggplant puree to crunchy toasted nuts and fluffy pilavs. I’ll do another post on the book in the near future, once I’ve tried a few more recipes.
The meal this night was preceded by shop bought nibbles (so not really three courses) featuring a fat round of soft brie-like cheese called Nuage Blanc (white cloud) produced by an Adelaide Hills dairy called Paris Creek. I’m not generally a huge brie or camembert fan (although there are several exceptions I’ve found that are sublime) but this is a truly tasty version of this subtly flavoured soft white cheese that also happens to be stocked in our local Woolies. This makes it a great standby cheese if you’ve forgotten the nibbles when shopping at the Central Market! Of course it was accompanied by my Mum’s quince chutney.
Main: Sweet-Sour Lamb Yahni with Blackeyed Peas and Almonds. This dish had a great balance of flavours – the sweet coming from a little honey and several little pearl onions and the sour coming from dried sour cherries (which are also kinda sweet as it happens). The black-eyed peas (or beans) add a robustness to the dish (along with the lamb of course) and the almonds add a satisfying toasted crunch.
Side dish: Pistachio and Spinach Pilav. I didn’t actually add the pistachios to this pilav as there were lots of toasted nuts in the main so it was really a spinach and herb pilaf – an especially tasty and easy way to have your vegetable and starch in one dish.
Dessert: Walnut and Semolina Cake with Cinnamon and Honey, served with thick cream. This was dense from the semolina and nutty from the walnuts fried in melted butter before adding to the cake. It also had a lovely tang of lemon from the syrup poured over part way through the baking. It was even moister the next day.
The syrup was supposed to be a Frangelico syrup but I confess that I just don’t like hazelnuts very much so didn’t use it. I did however have a Croatian liqueur made from walnuts – Orahovac – that Elvin and I bought when visiting the Dalmatian coast a couple of years ago. So I used this instead and it worked a treat.
And of course our discussion always needs to be lubricated in style.
So what was the book this month? It probably doesn’t matter (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian as it happens). What’s on for next month? I’ll have to start planning the menu as I know I’m cooking again.
Walnut and Semolina Cake with Honey and Cinnamon – from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf (reprinted with permission)
225g unsalted butter
200g thick natural yoghurt
100g caster sugar
100g mild honey
270g fine semolina
1tsp ground cinnamon
1&1/2 tsp baking powder
50ml mild honey
150g caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon
3 cardamom pods, lightly pounded
1 stick cinnamon
Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin.
Chop the walnuts roughly by hand. Melt the butter in a heavy -based frying pan, then add the walnuts and fry for a few minutes to allow some of their oil to flavour the butter.
Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the yoghurt, sugar and honey. Add the walnut mixture and whisk to combine, then whisk in the semolina, cinnamon and baking powder. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Combine all the ingredients except the Frangelico in a heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and strain.
When the 20 minutes baking time is up, remove the cake from the oven. Add the Frangelico to the syrup and ladle it over the cake. It seems like a lot of syrup, but the semolina cake will drink it up!
Return the cake to the oven and bake for a further 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When cold, cut the cake into squares and serve.
As I have a fan forced oven I preheated to only 150°C but I’m not sure in this instance that it was the right thing to do as the cake was very uncooked at the 20 minute mark. I let it bake for 30 minutes before pouring over the syrup and the surface was still only just set.
I only used 100g caster sugar in the syrup as I tend to err on the side of less sweet and this seemed just right.
Don’t be too impatient eager when pouring over the syrup (like I was) otherwise you will be likely to disturb the just-set crust (you can see the result of this in my photo above). Ladle it over gently.
Finally as there are no notes about how to test for ‘doneness’ in the recipe I did leave it in the oven for while longer than specified and I think it may have resulted in a slightly crumblier result than it should have. I suspect this is a cake that doesn’t seem completely done when it comes out of the oven.