01 February 2007

Three Courses from Cocina Nueva (Part 3) - The Nutty Professor

Rabbit food. At some point in my life, I adored eating muesli, nuts, cereals and could have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At that time, I felt that it was quick to prepare (what preparation??), filling, and was available in a huge array of flavours (right.). That's when friends used to tease me about surviving on 'rabbit food'. Thank goodness I'm over all that now. But while I'm pretty much sick of muesli and cereals for perhaps the rest of my life, I've never quite lost my adoration for nuts.

Macadamia nuts, Hazelnuts, Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, Almonds and Peanuts are my top five favourites in decreasing order of preference. The bottom line really is, that I love nuts in all its form, even naked - unroasted, unsalted.

So when flipping through the dessert section in Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva, in light of my profession of love for nuts, it should be no surprise that I flagged the Almond Cake recipe. I decided to attempt this cake for the Sunday lunch with Val and Addy because the recipe sounded quick enough to complete in the limited time I had left. And I'm mighty glad I did, as everyone who tried it, loved it.

It was incredibly soft, moist and fluffy, with slightly crunchy caramelised mahogany exteriors. Since I had a whole bag of roasted ground peanuts lying around, I decided to substitute half of the almond powder with peanut powder, resulting in something perhaps a little more aromatic and strong flavoured than otherwise. It was truly proof that the most simplest of dishes can still be out of this world.

In fact, I was so satisfied with the outcome that I made it again today to share with some friends from my previous work place. This time, adding mandarin orange zest instead of zest of a Sunkist orange, and using only peanut powder rather than a combination of both. The texture remained but it took on a slightly tanner shade while the flavour was decidedly more oriental, for lack of a better word. Truth be told, it reminded me a little of one of my favourite snacks, Min Chiang Kuey (Peanut Pancake). The mandarin orange zest was really haunting, there but not quite there - a flavour that is so familiar yet exceedingly difficult to pinpoint for the untrained palate.

This won't be the last I attempt anything from this cookbook, as I've fallen head over heels in love with it. Three attempts and already a perfect record of three successes. Simply prepared, delicious and still gorgeous food - that just about sums up the recipes from this cookbook.

Almond and Peanut Cake
Adapted from Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva

250g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 mandarin orange
310g icing sugar, sifted
4 egg yolks
125ml milk
200g almond powder
200g peanut powder
4 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Cream butter, vanilla, lemon zest, orange zest and 250g icing sugar with an electric mixer until creamy and pale.
Gradually add in 4 egg yolks and beat until well combined.
Add in milk and almond/peanut powder and beat until well combined.
In another clean, dry bowl, whisk egg whites with remaining 60g icing sugar until firm peaks (I was not sure what firm peaks constituted, but I whisked until the peaks held when I lifted my beaters from the egg whites, but the tips of the peaks flopped over a little).
Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Pour into a 9 inch round cake tin that has been greased and lined with baking paper.
Bake for 30 minutes in the oven then cover with a piece of aluminium foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes.
Leave to cool then invert the cake onto a tray and dust a layer of icing sugar over the top then serve.


Mark said...

Looks delicious!
I wish I had the skills to make it ;)
Greets, Mark
My blog.. I guess

J. L said...

Hi Daffy, I have been watching your last few posts with keen interest. Jane L here - I am so happy you have enjoyed cooking from my book - I get a little warm and fuzzy when I see people ( i don't know!) have fun with one of my books. It is very important to me that anyone can make the recipes with success so you have been, without knowing it, another recipe tester for me! Cheers!! Plus its fun for me to see you substituting/adding your own flavours, ingredients etc and I do understand your dislike olives and manchego but can I please urge your readers to try the original version of the butter for the steak as the flavours are very carefully balanced, paricularly with the combination of the sauce and personally I think it is a recipe really worth trying! IF you like olives and manchego of course ;) - but be aware that none of those flavours really jump out of you - it is the blended flavour that really works - earthy and lots of umami! Try it on a veal cutlet too. Or even on chicken - without the sauce.
anyway, thanks again - I love to see people cooking from my books. And thanks for your lovely comments. Cheers! Jane

Anonymous said...

mark> The recipes really aren't very challenging, give them a go if you can :)

J.L> I feel extremely honoured yet embarassed at the same time. I'm just glad that you don't feel offended by the ingredient substitutions, as that's just a habit of mine. You have however, definitely convinced me to try the manchego and olive butter one day. Thank you for all the tips as well, I'll bear them in mind. Keep the cookbooks coming! :)

JL said...

Gosh, I'm the one who's honoured!! And thanks, I will keep the books coming for a while - there are another 2 on the horizon as we speak!
Happy Cooking!