Monthly Archives: March 2018

Today’s cake – plum and vanilla cake

I’ve had some really delicious plums this season, juicy and with varying degrees of sweetness, depending on the variety.  When my friend Francesca over at Almost Italian posted a plum cake recipe, and The Marito started dropping not so subtle “I haven’t had cake for a while” hints, I knew it was time for  plum cake in the Napoli household. I remembered a good Bill Granger recipe I had made a long time ago, and hoped it wasn’t in one of the cookbooks I’d boxed up in the renovation move (one of the reasons for the lack of cake making is the very ordinary oven in our cheap and nasty rental while we renovate, but needs do as needs must).  Lucky day, the book was in the unboxed stash.  It’s a simple cake with plenty of flavour, and I’m sure the homemade vanilla extract helps. You may need 4 or 6 plums, depending on how big they are.  I must make this again before the autumn plums finish, it really is delicious.

Cake
180g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature plus a little extra for greasing
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
185g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 plums, cut in half and seed removed

Topping
90g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter
90g caster sugar

Making it
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced and grease a 24cm springform cake tin with butter

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition, then add vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and baking powder until well combined. Spread the mixture evenly into the cake tin then gently press in the plums cut side up.

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To make the topping, place the flour, butter and sugar in a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly. You can also do this in a food processor (I used my mini whizz for this small quantity).

Sprinkle the topping over the top of the cake and bake for one hour or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean. The top should be nice and golden. Remove from oven and cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing. Yum.

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Torta Pasqualina – Savoury Easter Cake

This savoury Easter cake, which is really more like a pie, hails from the Northern Italian region of Liguria.  It is traditionally served on Easter Monday, and once upon a time it used to be made using 33 sheets of ultra thin pastry, each layer representing a year that Jesus was alive.  These days most recipes make it with four, which is what I did (and if you really don’t want to make pastry, store bought will do).  I needed five bunches of silverbeet to get to one kilo of leaves, it will depend on how big your bunches are; the stalks can be used for stock or soup, they are tasty and often get discarded. A lot of eggs are required here, so it was lucky that the girls had had a prolific laying week. Like lots of old recipes, you’ll see variations on the theme – some combine the spinach and ricotta, as I did, and others do them as separate layers. There are also artichoke versions.

Pastry
600g Tipo 00 flour
350ml water
1 teaspoon salt
35ml olive oil

Place the flour in a bowl, add the salt, water and olive oil and mix gently with a fork until it comes together. Tip onto a floured surface and kneed until smooth. Divide the dough into four balls – two of 300g each and the other two approx. 170-180g each. Place on a tray, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for one hour.

Filling
1kg silverbeet leaves
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 twigs marjoram
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
250g of well drained ricotta
7 eggs
1 egg extra, lightly beaten for brushing pastry

While the pastry is resting, make the filling. Blanch the silverbeet in boiling water for five minutes and drain. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can and chop finely.

Place the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and saute the onion with a pinch of salt until softened, add the chopped silverbeet and combine and cook for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat. Season. Add the marjoram, nutmeg, ricotta and parmesan and combine well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Take one of the seven eggs, lightly beat, then add to the mixture and combine well. Set aside.

Assembly
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 26cm springform tin with butter or olive oil.

Take one of the 300g balls of dough, and roll out thinly on a floured surface so that it is big enough for the cake tin. Gently lift it into the tin and line. Repeat with the second 300g ball, so that you now have two layers in the base. Gently spoon the silverbeet mixture into the cake tin and smooth out. Then take a spoon (I used an icecream scoop) and make seven round impressions in the silverbeet mixture. Into each one crack one of the seven eggs. Season the eggs lightly.

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Now take a 180g ball of dough and roll out big enough to form a lid, and gently place on top of the cake tin. Repeat with the second ball. Trim the excess pastry around the edge of the cake tin, and then curl into a crust to seal (I probably made it a bit too thick, I would do it thinner next time by trimming the pastry a bit more). Take the extra beaten egg and using a pastry brush, brush over the pasty and season the top lightly. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes or until nice and golden. Remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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In My Kitchen, March 2018

Autumn has begun but it’s still warm and balmy in Sydney, after an exceptionally dry Summer.   The weather has meant that lots of salads, grilled fish, and omelettes with fresh herbs have been coming out of the kitchen.

In My Kitchen is a monthly link up of kitchens around the world, currently hosted by Sherry at Sherry’s pickings. It has been going for eight years now, started by the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. A few things to share from the Napoli kitchen over the last few weeks:

With the new year in full swing it was time to wrestle control of the pantry.  A lot of the containers I bought sixteen years ago as a newlywed (sixteen years!) were worse for wear or no longer sealing properly, so it was time for some new containers, and also labels to make it easy to find everything.  I ordered a standard pack from Pretty Pantry Labels (product certainly as described!) and a handful of custom ones from The Pantry Label Shop, and we were good to go.

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On a recent trip to Carriageworks Markets, I liked the sound of these eggplant ravioli from Pasta Gallery and bought some to try.  I served them simply, some baby spinach, semi dried tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil and shaved parmesan.  They were delicious.

I also bought these carrots – aren’t the colours glorious?

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In my kitchen is a new apron, butcher style, that a generous friend bought for me at a recent cooking night.

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I mentioned recently that Mamma Rosa has discovered technology.  In her sixties, Mamma Rosa is texting, emailing and YouTubing with the best of them. She loves watching recipe videos in Italian. I discovered that Mamma Rosa and the Small People are now texting each other – pretty much exclusively about food.  Mamma Rosa writes in Italian, and the Small People text back in a combination of Italian and English.  Their funny little conversations are often about special menu requests (“can you please make us arancini”).  One of them was for a batch of “biscotto”, or what the Small People call “crunchy bread”.  Mamma Rosa’s feather light biscotto – also often called freselle – is ideal for a snack with any topping – avocado, cheese, ricotta, tomato.  We all love it.

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Our chooks have been laying well in this warm weather, although we have encountered a couple of stubborn brooders.  The girls are over a year old now, so officially “hens” rather than “pullets” and the eggs are getting noticeably bigger.  We get a consistent stream of 70 gram plus eggs, except for petite and dainty Grace, who produces corresponding cute petite and dainty eggs.  I do have to be careful when I am baking because of the size as it can result in distorted proportions. Don’t tell the others, but I think Rosie’s eggs are my favourite.

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I’ve been spending a good bit of time thinking about kitchen layout and other cabinetry for the renovation and build, which is slowly making progress.  Hafele have some really clever storage solutions for internal cupboards.

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In my kitchen is a great buy from Aldi recently – dual lemon and lime pack! They will be making their way to our new garden.  They also had fig plants but these disappeared too quickly.

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I hope you all have a lovely March!