Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Feasting in the Med: Better than Gap Yah.

Honey Almond Pistachio Cake

I don't know exactly how the idea came about, but someone (probably me, actually) somehow suggested we have a feast at my house to toast our leaving London just once more (as if I haven't had enough random boozy nights out with the girls by now). That suggestion quickly turned into a potluck Mediterranean-themed dinner involving 4 couples, Cranium, charades, and all with a common goal: to empty our liquor/wine cabinet in the blessed name of "less packing."

You'll be relieved to hear that while the Cranium and charades were inadvertently left on the backburner, we did successfully finish off the household wine-supply of 6 bottles of wine (well minus the bottle of Madeira which it would just have been crass to open given we'd already had dessert by the time we noticed it in the corner), in addition to the other 6 bottles brought over for good measure by guests. 12 bottles for 12 people: 4 precariously-sleeping-babies, 8 adults of which - 1 non-drinker, 1 breast-feeder, and 2 early-duck-outs due to a 1st birthday party the next day.
You do the math.

By the end of the night, I was feeling like maybe - just maybe - I wasn't really doing the Mediterranean's tendency toward moderate social-drinking much justice, but, frankly I didn't care.

There was singing, there was dancing, and much smoking of the hookah. Hugs and smiles and tearful-premature-goodbyes abounded. At some point I also felt it was necessary to pay tribute to my own exaggerated intoxication by bringing up a video Matt recently shared with me via one of the British assistants at his office. It's a little gem that captures some of the absurdity of the nauseating British upper classes while gently reminding us all of our own idiotic tendencies to, every once in a while, and in the name of "good fun," overdrink and, well, chunder every-wah. Ah, good times.

"You're so right - global warming. It really is an insignificant truth."**
Does this count as a douche-baggery post? :)

* * *

But on a tastier note: It was a potluck. And everyone contributed to what has now become a legendary menu in the minds of all our husbands. Unfortunately my ambition to get pictures of everything was quickly forgotten, so I only have a shot of the table beforehand. *sheepish* But here is the menu anyway, along with a recipe for one of my personal favorite contributions to the evening: Honey Almond Cake. Yum.

Mixed Olives

Feta, marinated in avocado oil, lemon oil, and chili oil
Toasted Cashew Nuts

Mains & Sides:
Fritto Misto of Calamari, Prawns & Okra
Greek meat balls with Spicy Tomato & Green Olive Sauce Tabbouleh
Baked Chickpeas and Greens
Chili & Garlic Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms
Chargrilled Cauliflower with Tomato, Dill and Capers
Marinated Romano Peppers with Buffalo Mozzarella
Fennel, Cherry tomato and Crumble Gratin


Pistachio Baklava
Chocolate-chip and Honey Cupcakes
Honey Almond Cake with Greek Yogurt

**If you don't know what a "gap year" is, please read this.

* * *

Honey Almond Cake with Greek Yogurt

Serves 10-12

honey, orange, lemon and nuts: the perfect Mediterranean dessert combo

I was inspired to make this cake after watching Jaime does Athens a couple of weeks ago. This is essentially Jaime's recipe, but I took some inspiration from a cake that I had previously made and written about (see my post Pseudo-Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake) and tweaked it to my taste.

I like this recipe better than the one I got in my Olive Magazine, actually - probably because it involves olive oil instead of butter. I also really prefer the syrup recipe for the cake, which involves lemon juice, no cinnamon and lots of fresh, whole nuts. The best part of this cake is there are no steps. You put everything in one bowl all at once, mix, pour and bake. Boom - done.

This is a huge crowd-pleaser and is a great summer dessert, especially served with a nice cold dollop of thick Greek yogurt on the side.

5 eggs
225g Greek yogurt
225g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
150g plain flour
200g semolina
1tsp baking powder
200ml olive oil

2 lemons, 1 zested and 2 juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup honey
2 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
1- 1 1/2 cups of whole, peeled pistachios and almonds

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

3. Pour mixture into a 9" cake tin that has been rubbed with olive oil and then lightly floured. Bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes or until cake is firm and golden. You can also bake it in a rectangular pan as Jaime did, but I prefer round cakes.

4. Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10-15 minutes, then place it on a large plate and allow to cool completely. Do ahead: You can make this cake 2 days ahead of time. Just wrap in cling film and leave in a cool, dry place.

5. While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining the syrup ingredients (minus the nuts) in a small sauce pan. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer (not a heavy boil) and keep it simmering for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy. Add the nuts at the very last minute and mix well so they are completely coated. Set aside but keep warm.

6. When the cake is completely cooled and up to a day before serving, poke copious amounts of holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer and pour the syrup and nuts all over it. Allow the syrup to soak in completely and only once everything has cooled should you put the cake in a dome.

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  1. This cake look excellent! I like the Greek yogurt and almonds in the recipe! Super delicious!

  2. What a yummy sounding cake and what a great way to make for "less packing" I cannot wait to hear the details on your new home.

  3. Sounds like you had yourself a fabulous despedida, bittersweet though it may have been. 12 bottles of wine in one glorious evening? That's impressive and darn, but I wish I had been there to help! 8-D

    Wishing you, Matt and Roman safe and effortless transition to your new home!