THere was the coolest storm last night, no doubt the first of many, with rain hitting the kitchen ceiling lights and winds shaking the door. A proper thunder and lightning worked with winds so strong that they toppled the leaves of the fig tree. Leaves that now lie deep in the snowdrifts. The kind of weather that demands a dinner of bright, cheerful food.
A pile of mashed herbs with roasted vegetables wasn’t what I intended to bring to the table, but the weather dictated otherwise. Almost transformed from the fall tomato and chickpea salad you had planned. This kind of quick thinking is essential when the weather changes when a wool hat falls. The planned brown lentil and ham salad might now become a cold-weather soup stew and mozzarella and eggplant could become melanzane alla parmigiana.
Cake boxes came out again. Bread of the season started enough simply with an almond loaf cake, marmalade scented and crunchy with poppy seeds—the kind you can serve with the last of fall blackberries or perhaps a salad of snap apples and a drizzle of Calvados. I could have made it in halves, like a classic sponge cake, and then smeared the two together with marmalade and mascarpone cream, but I tend to keep these types of cake-fork for days when someone comes over for tea. However, there is now a cake in the tin, and that’s what matters.
Grilled tomatoes with chickpea puree and thyme
And aside from meat tomatoes, you can use almost any kind here. Small cherry tomatoes can be left whole. The rest should be cut in half so that their juices flow out and are concentrated in the oven. Roasted tomatoes and their juices can be served on thick toast (greased with basil pesto or roasted garlic paste) or used as a rustic pasta sauce. It’s also particularly good with soft piles of polenta or, as I had it this week, mashed beans sprinkled with herbs. Serves 4
Tomatoes 1 kilo, assorted sizes and items
garlic 3 soft cloves
olive oil 4 tablespoons
red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons
chickpeas 3 x 400 g cans
bay leaves 2
thyme leaves 1 tablespoon
olive oil 175 ml
chickpea cooking water 100 ml
Set oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Remove stems from tomatoes, cut each slice in half and set aside on a roasting pan. Put the unpeeled garlic between the tomatoes. Drip oil over them, season with salt and black pepper and toss gently to coat the tomatoes and garlic with the oil and spices.
Roast the tomatoes for 40 minutes until they begin to color and are surrounded by their juices. Peel the garlic cloves. Sprinkle the red wine vinegar over the tomatoes and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, drain and stir the chickpeas in a saucepan, pour enough water to cover them, then add the bay leaves and thyme leaves and bring to a boil. Let them cook for 10 minutes until they are completely heated up.
Drain the chickpeas, reserving 100ml of the cooking water, remove the bay leaves and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Mix until smooth, pouring the oil in a steady stream, followed by the reserved chickpea water. Check the seasoning, add more salt or black pepper as you see fit. Squeeze enough lemon juice to give it a light citrus kick (my suggestion is about 4-5 tablespoons).
Place the chickpea purée in a serving dish, then remove the tomatoes from the oven and place them on the purée and spoon over the juices.
Orange and Poppy Seed Cake
Cake keeps beautifully in an airtight container to slice whenever needed. The syrup will soak in more effectively if set within 10 minutes of the cake coming out of the oven. Serves 8
butter 225g loosened
golden fine sugar 225g
orange Grated flavor from 1
Lemon Grated flavor from 1
pure flour 110 grams
Baking powder Generous ½ teaspoon
ground almonds 115 g
poppy seed 20 grams
Orange jam 150 grams
Lemon juice 1
orange juice 1
You will need a rectangular cake pan, 22cm x 12cm x 7cm deep, lined with baking paper and the base and sides. Set oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.
Cut the butter into small pieces, and place them in the bowl of a food mixer with the sugar and cream for 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Finely grate the orange and lemon peel and stir. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, then stir in the ground almonds.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl, then beat them briefly with a fork. Set the mixer to moderate speed, then introduce the beaten eggs, a little at a time, into the butter and sugar. The mixture may start to curdle, in which case add a spoonful of flour to bring it together. Keep adding flour until completely creamy. Mix the poppy seeds.
Transfer the mixture to a lined cake pan, to smooth the surface. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out, inserted into the cake, without any raw batter. Remove the cake from the oven and leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes.
When the cake is left in the tin, make about 20 holes in the surface with a skewer. Put the orange marmalade in a small saucepan. Cut the orange and lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the marmalade, bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour over the surface, letting it fall into the holes and into the cake crumbs. Leave to cool before slicing.
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