Orange and Almond Cake

Orange and Almond Cake,

Orange and Almond Cake,

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Variants on this recipe can be found historically all over the mediterranean, Middle East and Northern Africa.  I’ve heard it described as “Moorish”, “Sephardic”, “Persian” or Spanish Orange Cake. Whoever came up with the idea of boiling oranges so that they could be pureed and mixed into sweetened, spiced almond flour was a genius, wherever they came from. The cake is moist, flavourful and packed with nutrition. I like to serve it with a gooey orange syrup and Menya D’Àngels.

Tart in Ymbre Day (Cheese and Onion Tart)

Take and perboile oynouns & erbis & presse out (th)e water & hewe hem smale. Take grene chese & bray it in a morter, and temper it up with ayren. Do (th)erto butter, safroun & salt, & raisouns corauns, & a litel sugur with powdour douce, & bake it in a trap, & serve it forth.

~ Forme of Cury circa 1390

Tart in Ymbre Day

Tart in Ymbre Day

Prior to the 1530’s, England was staunchly Roman Catholic, with all the trappings and rituals of that faith. Even after Henry VIII took control of his own marital affairs (and became a whole lot richer) by appointing himself the Head of the Church of England, Saints’ Festivals, Feasts and Fasts were observed.”Ember Days” were days in the liturgical calendar when the eating of meat was forbidden, but eggs and cheese were acceptable. As a result there are dozens (if not hundreds) of regional variations on this simple tart, the earliest recorded examples dating to the mid 15th century. I have taken two of these medieval recipes¹, sort of mashed them together, added my own twist and produced .. this.

Menya D’Àngels (Angel’s Food)

If you want to eat the fresh curds, put the curds in the mortar and pound with some good white sugar. And when pounded together, blend in some rosewater or orange-flower water, and put it in bowls or dishes or whatever you like; and serve it at table. And if you don’t wish to use sugar, add some good honey. And you can do the same with fresh cheese, which is better, and it is called angel’s food.

Libre de Sent Sovi, Catalan, 14th century.

Menya D’Àngels

Menya D’Àngels

In the Middle Ages, this sweetened cheese was served to accompany fruit platters and/or biscuits. I use it as an adventurous alternative to whipped cream. I love to use fresh strawberries to scoop up rich dollops. It also goes brilliantly with fruit pies, fritters, cakes, pancakes and as a filling for tarts or sponges.

The original recipe calls for “fresh curds”, and was probably very like a sweet, thick junket. I have experimented using cottage cheese, quark, marscapone, fromage frais, even stiffly beaten double cream. The version in the photo is a mixture of double cream and marscapone, the only curd product Beloved will allow past his lips. Ricotta is whey based and (in my opinion anyway) too thin to get the right texture.

makes 2 cups

  • 250g Marscapone
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 teaspoons Rosewater
  • 2 teaspoons Orange Flower Water OR finely grated rind of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup Sugar OR 1 tablespoon honey

Beat the marscapone and cream together until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolves and the mixture is the desired consistency.

Comfrey Cream

Comfrey Cream

Comfrey Cream

The roots and leaves of Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) contain allantoin, rosmarinic acid, and tannins. These have been shown to promote new growth of skin cells, reduce inflammation and keep skin healthy. Historically, a cream or paste made from the plant has been used to treat bone fractures, soft tissue damage and bruising. Due to the presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids however, no part of the plant should be taken internally. Please see the precautions listed below.

As subtle as I get

Strawberries in the Snow

Strawberries in the Snow

One of the challenges I have found writing this blog is keeping it PG rated.  A sort of Disney-sanitised version of reality.  I change names, avoid overt political discussions, and shun taboos like sex or death.  This is difficult with a healthy interest in the former, and a career that has me brushing shadows with the latter.  Today is Eros Day .. er .. St Valentine’s Day so the temptation is high to tell slightly more salacious stories than normal.  Here is a compromise I came up with a couple of years ago.

I cooked an Arthurian-themed Feast for 60 people at Beltaine, so we decided to have an “un-subtlety” competition.  For those who may not be familiar with the concept, a “Subtlety” or “Sotelty” is food that appears to be something else.