Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone

Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone | Selma's TableIt’s Part 2 of the Fiesta Friday Anniversary Block Party Celebrations which I am thrilled to be co-hosting with the talented Nancy of Feasting with Friends. If you are a long time reader, you will know that the lovely Angie of The Novice Gardener hosts a virtual party every Friday where bloggers swap recipes and stories. It’s been a whole year since Angie grew the amazing community that is Fiesta Friday so it was only fitting to celebrate with a 2 week long party!  Last week was all about cocktails, canapés and appetisers – and there certainly was no dearth of creative and delicious recipes made specially to celebrate Angie’s fabulous party by the appreciative Fiesta Friday crowd. In fact the submissions were just so fabulous that Angie is going to write a post specifically to highlight the best ones.

This week, Fiesta Friday is about special occasion main courses and desserts and I can’t wait to see what everyone brings to the party. You are most welcome if this is your first time visiting  Fiesta Friday – here are a few guidelines to get you started. To join the party, all you have to do is click on the purple “Fiesta Friday” badge just before the printable recipe, below. Please don’t be shy and drop and dash – we would love to get you know you, so mix and mingle by visiting the other blogs and leaving some likes and comments!

Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone | Selma's TableTo mark this special event, this week I wanted to make something that would look elegant, taste spectacular but also not be too heavy. After cocktails, canapés, appetisers and a main course there may not be much room for a heavy dessert. And, not that I am greedy or anything, but I will want a few slivers of cheese to round off this special meal! So the ingredients had to be light but luxurious and to fit in with busy lifestyles, the dessert should be able to be made a day earlier. Pears have been calling my name for a few months now – I have a real thing for them in the winter and I love poached pears. So I decided to poach the in a orange and lemon juice mixture, warmed up by bay leaves, cardamoms and the haunting flavour of saffron. A little honey took the edge off the sauce. The mascarpone tastes just like vanilla ice-cream when a little vanilla paste is beaten into it, and the crunchy pistachio nuts add a much need crunchy texture to each blissful mouthful.

Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone | Selma's TableThese Poached Pears with Saffron Mascarpone are an elegant sweet course that can be served warm or cold depending on the weather and your time constraints. Either way, they can be prepared the day before and plated just before serving. Gently heat through the pears in the poaching syrup if you are serving this warm and then plate them up. To make this an even more healthy option, substitute greek yoghurt for the mascarpone. If you don’t want to fan slice the pears, then you could just cut the in quarters too. They are very easy to make and to eat! Angie has opened the party so let’s the festivities begin!

Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone | Selma's Table

Please click on the Fiesta Friday badge below, to either take a look at all the other submissions or to enter your specially created main course or dessert recipe post to the party.

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Poached Saffron and Citrus Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x oranges
  • 4 x lemons
  • 400 ml sweet dessert wine
  • 3 bruised cardamom pods –
  • 4 bay leaves
  • pinch of saffron strands
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 4 ripe Conference pears
  • 200 g mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or the seeds from one pod
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pistachio nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Juice the oranges and lemons – the juices should come to about 700ml and pour into a large shallow pan together with the sweet wine, cardamom, bay leaves and the saffron. Heat gently for 20 minutes or so – don’t let it boil as the froth spoils the appearance of the sauce. Stir in the honey and taste – the honey should soften the sharp citrus notes. Let this heat for another 10 minutes or until the mixture is nice and syrupy but not too thick.
  2. In the mean time, peel the pears and slice in half. Remove the cores with a teaspoon. Lay each half, face down and slice 4 or 5 times without going all the way to the top.
  3. Beat the mascarpone with the vanilla paste until it is smooth and set aside.
  4. Add the pears to the pan and poach for 5-10 minutes; spooning the syrup over them from time to time. The poaching time will depend on how ripe the pears are.
  5. Remove the pears once they are soft and set aside.
  6. The poaching liquid should be thick and syrupy. If it’s not, keep heating it until it reduces but don’t let the liquid boil. Fish out the bay leaves and the cardamom pods.
  7. Spoon some of the sauce onto 4 plates, Top with a good spoonful of the vanilla mascarpone. Drape two pear halves on top of the vanilla mascarpone on each plate and scatter over the chopped pistachios.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Cook the Books – Demerara Lemon Cake

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cakeNigel Slater’s recipes seem to have a resonance that are simultaneously timeless and on trend. It was his ‘Real Fast Food’ to which I first turned when I would come home from a long day at work and it is his ‘Kitchen Diaries” today to which I will always flip through to get inspiration. The cake below is another syrup soaked affair, full of zingy lemon flavour and dense with almonds and eggs. It is perfect as a light pudding with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and some strawberries or raspberries.  I been making it since 2010, initially for Jake’s lunch box but now, to occasionally have for unexpected visitors as it also keeps extremely well.

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

 

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

It’s not a difficult cake to make as long as you get everything measured out and ready to go. The first thing to do is to make the topping which is merely a matter of  slicing a lemon and simmering it for 5 or 6 minutes in a little water and sugar. This cools as you get on with the cake. Beat the butter and the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If the batter starts to look curdled you can either add a spoonful of the flour mix with every egg or just ignore it as it all comes together in the end.  Fold in the flour mixture and scrape it into a lined loaf tin. Top with the lemon slices and bake. While it is baking, make the syrup which is just a little water and sugar and pour it over the spiked cake while it is still warm out of the oven. This is the first time I have made it in a conventional oven (as opposed to a fan oven) and the lemon slices sank – this has happened with other bakes too so the next time I try a topped cake, I will be turning the fan on to see if it makes a difference…

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

Lemon slices after simmering

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

Ready for the oven

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cake

For those of you who have been asking about Demerara sugar, it is a golden, raw cane, large crystal sugar, similar to Turbinado sugar. This is what BBC Food have to say about it;

This pale-coloured and mild-tasting raw cane sugar is named after its place of origin – Demerara, in Guyana – but it is now imported from various other countries, such as Jamaica, Malawi and Mauritius. It has large sparkling golden crystals and a crunchy texture. Traditionally used to sweeten coffee, it’s perfect for sprinkling but can also be used for baking, particularly in things that need extra crunchiness such as crumbles, cheesecake bases, flapjacks and biscuits.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about brown sugar;

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. It is either an unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content, or it is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar (so-called Molasses Sugar).

Brown sugar contains from 3.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar) based on total volume. Based on total weight, regular brown sugar contains up to 10% molasses. The product is naturally moist from the hygroscopic nature of the molasses and is often labelled as “soft.” The product may undergo processing to give a product that flows better for industrial handling. The addition of dyes and/or other chemicals may be permitted in some areas or for industrial products.

And finally, this is what Wikipedia has to say about white sugar;

White refined sugar is typically sold as granulated sugar, which has been dried to prevent clumping and comes in various crystal sizes for home and industrial use:

  • Coarse-grain, such as sanding sugar (also called “pearl sugar”, “decorating sugar”, nibbed sugar or sugar nibs) is a coarse grain sugar used to add sparkle and flavor atop baked goods and candies. Its large reflective crystals will not dissolve when subjected to heat.
  • Granulated, familiar as table sugar, with a grain size about 0.5 mm across.”Sugar cubes” are lumps for convenient consumption produced by mixing granulated sugar with sugar syrup.
  •  Caster (or castor) (0.35 mm), a very fine sugar in Britain, so-named because the grains are small enough to fit through a castor, a form of sieve. Commonly used in baking and mixed drinks, it is sold as “superfine” sugar in the United States. Because of its fineness it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar and is thus especially useful in meringues and cold liquids. Castor sugar can be prepared at home by grinding granulated sugar for a couple of minutes in a food processor.
  • Powdered, 10X sugar, confectioner’s sugar (0.060 mm), or icing sugar (0.024 mm), produced by grinding sugar to a fine powder.

Demerara Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 8 slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

For the topping

  • 1 large lemon
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar

For the cake

  • 200 g soft unsalted butter
  • 200 g demerara sugar (I use 100g caster/superfine and 100g soft light brown)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 90 g ground almonds or almond meal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large lemon, zested

For the syrup

  • The juice from the lemon that has been zested
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

For the topping

  1. Place water and sugar in a small pan.  Slice lemon thinly and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.
  2. Set aside to cool while you get the cake ready.

For the cake

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/ 325F and line a loaf pan with paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take longer with demerara sugar as it is a larger crystal.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled but it will be fine once the dry ingredients are added.
  4. Combine the rest of the (dry)  ingredients in a bowl and whisk to make sure that the mixture is well blended
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter with a large metal spoon to preserve as much of the air as possible.
  6. Scrape into the lined loaf tin and overlap the reserved lemon slices down the middle of the batter.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.
  8. In the mean time, make the syrup by combing the lemon juice and sugar in a pan (I use the one I have cooked the slices in) and leave to dissolve while the cake bakes.
  9. Check the cake, using a skewer or toothpick – if it comes out clean then it is done – if there is some batter clinging to the then it will need a little  extra time.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and spike all over with a toothpick. Pour the syrup (not all of the sugar will have dissolved) over the cake slowly and evenly.
  11. Leave to cool in the pan.
  12. Serve with a thick dollop of  yoghurt, cream fraiche or double cream and possibly some fruit such as raspberries or strawberries to make it more of a pudding course.

This damp cake keeps very well for a few days if it lasts that long.

 

 

 

 

 

Cardamom & Orange Syrup Loaf Cake

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-CakeThe other day I got a little excited to see bags of blood oranges in store and put one in my basket to make a salad with mint, beetroot and fennel. I got home to dejectedly realise that I had picked up a bag of normal oranges. I made the salad anyway as I was craving something crunchy, juicy and light and decided to bake a cake to use up the oranges.

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-Cake

I have been making versions of  this rustic Cardamon & Orange Syrup Loaf Cake for many years. The measurements are easy to memorise, all the ingredients are placed in the bowl and mixed in one go – no creaming, no whipping, no sink full of dirty dishes! The proportion of ingredients are based on the classic sponge cake (equal weights of eggs, flour, sugar and butter) even if the method isn’t. You can substitute limes or lemons for the orange; saffron for the cardamom; sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar before it goes in and use an apple juice syrup – the possibilities are endless. It emerges risen and golden with that characteristic  of Madeira cakes – a crack along the middle which is the perfect place to drizzle the syrup.

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-Cake

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-Cake

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-Cake

Cardamom & Orange Syrup Loaf Cake

  • Servings: 8-10 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Makes one loaf (in a 900g/2 lb tin)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 175 g of plain flour
  • 175 g of golden  caster sugar
  • 175 g of unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75ml milk (5 Tbsp)
  • 1 large orange – zested

For the syrup

  • Juice of the large orange
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 6 cardamom pods

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F
  2. Melt the butter – see my Tips and Tricks page for easy ways to do this – tips 11 and 12.
  3. Prepare the loaf tin with a paper liner or butter the sides and lay a strip of parchment paper to cover the bottom and run up the short sides as handles.
  4. Place your mixing bowl on the scales and measure in the flour and sugar. Add the baking powder and the salt and mix  with a hand whisk to blend and aerate. Zest the orange straight into the bowl.
  5. Add the milk to the melted butter and stir – it also helps to cool the butter down.
  6. Crack the eggs into the bowl, pour in the milk and butter and mix for about 3 or 4 minutes with an electric mixer. It takes no time at all to combine. Do not over beat unless you want a tough crumb!
  7. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 35 – 45 minutes. Poke with a wooden skewer at 35 minutes to be on the safe side.
  8. Give each cardamom pod a gentle bash with something heavy – it will crack open, revealing the seeds inside. In a pestle and mortar pound the seeds to a coarse powder. Or using the bottom of a sturdy glass, press on the seeds to break them down.
  9. Juice the orange and add to the sugar and cardamom seeds in a pan. On a low flame, heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces somewhat – about 3 or 4 minutes. Take off the heat to infuse and cool. If the seeds are a bit on the chunky side, strain the syrup before using.
  10. When the cake is ready, let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then take it out and place on a rack. Gently prise away the sides of the loaf paper so that if the syrup runs down the sides it will be contained inside the wrapper and soak back into the cake.
  11. Poke 15 or so holes in the cake using a toothpick; then slowly and gently, pour over the syrup.
  12. Put it back inside the loaf tin until cold.
  13. Slice and enjoy with a cup of tea or glass of fizz!

Cardamom-Orange-Syrup-Loaf-Cake

Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake

I don’t know about you but I can’t get used to these early evenings especially after the gorgeous summer we’ve had. As much as I love cold weather cooking I am finding myself drawn to sunny colours and citrus flavours in an effort to stretch out that summer feeling. Sunshine and light in a slice is what this Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake is and long may it shine!

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

It is a damp, dense, sticky cake redolent with intense lemon and warm saffron flavours. Don’t be put off by the soaking-it-in-syrup stage – it is supremely easy and lends itself to all sorts of riffs (a dash of limoncello or amaretto or some thyme leaves…)  and is just utterly delicious! I tend to have a little bag of fine semolina in the cupboards for dusting when I make pasta. It is really easy to find in even the smallest of ethnic (Indian or Mediterranean) food provision shops. This could also be made with 1 large juicy orange instead of 2 lemons.

To make it gluten free, use fine polenta or cornmeal instead of semolina and a gluten free baking powder too.

It is not a difficult cake to make and because of it’s weighty ingredients is quite forgiving.

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Beat the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Soak the saffron threads in a tablespoon of kettle hot water

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Zest the unwaxed lemons finely

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Syrup soaked cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon and Saffron Semolina Cake

  • Servings: 12 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Lemon and Polenta Cake

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 200 g soft preferably unsalted butter (and a little smidgen  for greasing)
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 200 g ground almonds
  • 100 g fine semolina  polenta or cornmeal will make it gluten free)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (save lemons to juice for the syrup)
  • pinch of saffron threads dissolved in 1 Tbsp of hot water

For the syrup:

  • juice of 2 lemons (put the whole, zested lemons in a microwave for about 75-90 seconds to maximise the juice output!)
  • 125 grams icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/ 350°F and put the kettle on.
  2. In a little bowl/saucer (I used one one those tiny soy dipping dishes) place the saffron threads giving them a bit of a rub together as you do so. Pour over about 1 Tbsp of hot water from the kettle and leave to steep while you get on with the rest of the recipe.
  3. Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch springform cake tin with a circle of baking paper and grease its sides lightly with butter.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy – this will take about 5 minutes depending on how soft the butter is. Don’t skimp on this step as this not only helps to aerate but also serves to somewhat dissolve the sugar.
  5. Mix together the almonds, semolina and baking powder in a medium sized bowl and beat 2 heaped Tbsp of it into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg. Then alternate with ⅓ of the dry ingredients and the 2 remaining eggs, finishing with the dry ingredients. Beat well after each addition.
  6. Beat in the lemon zest and saffron water and threads.
  7. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared tin and smooth it out evenly.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, checking after 30. Mine was done at 30 minutes but I have a very hot oven. The cake is done when a cake tester  comes out quite clean and the edges of the cake have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin even if it seems a bit tender.
  9. Place onto a wire cooling rack, but leave it in its tin.
  10. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan. When the icing sugar’s dissolved into the juice, it’s ready. Let it cool for 5 minutes or so.
  11. Prick the top of the warm cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick – don’t use anything too big like a skewer as it will punch too-large holes in the cake.
  12. Slowly pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.
  13. Eat as is or serve as a pudding with a spoonful of creme fraiche and a pretty dusting of icing sugar.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake

Lemon Saffron and Semolina Cake