Orange and Date Cake

This is another recipe came from ‘Baked in America‘ book. I liked the flavour combination of candied orange peel and dates, and I thought it is a good alternative to fruit cake or Panettone type of cake. I’ve reduced the amount of flour (used 2 cups instead of 3) and used less than half the asking amount of sugar (in both batter and icing).

ORANGE AND DATE CAKE

Ingredients:

(Adapted from ‘Baked in America’ book)

225g butter, softened

180g caster sugar

4 eggs

110ml buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking powder

240g plain flour

250g dates, pitted and finely chopped

150g orange peel, chopped

150g pecans or walnuts, chopped

80g desiccated coconut

150ml orange juice

150g icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly grease and flour cake tin.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Mix flour and baking powder in a large bowl, then add dates, orange peel, nuts and desiccated coconut. Stir to coat each piece. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture. This makes a rather stiff dough, so it will be necessary to stir with a wooden spoon.
  4. Transfer mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the wooden stick comes out clean when inserted. As soon as cake comes from oven, combine the orange juice and icing sugar and pour over hot cake. Let stand in tin overnight.

Insalata di Arance / Orange Salad

We had a few versions of this salad when we visited Sicily. Because oranges were in season, this salad was available pretty much everywhere. One version had oranges and fennel, another had oranges, onion, cheese and mint. Even all of the above plus olives. The list goes on. All of them were refreshing, palate cleansing, very simple but delicious.

Since I brought back with me a few oranges, I also made a several versions of this salad at home. Here is one:

INSALATA DI ARANCE

Ingredients:

2 oranges, skin removed and cut into rounds

2-3 spring onions, ends removed and finely sliced

50g mild cheese (sorry, I know it’s not authentic, but I used Edam)

extra virgin oil to dress, to taste

1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients together and serve.

 

Ortigia, Sicily

Ortigia island is the oldest part of the beautiful city of Syracuse in Sicily. It is rather small and best enjoyed by foot. Perfect for strolling through the narrow lanes, admiring the buildings and sea views, dropping into churches, stopping for a drink or a great meal. There is so much to see over there, the place is packed with hidden gems and usual finds. The layers of history are everywhere  – Greek & Roman ruins, the great Duomo, ancient baths below ground, Baroque buildings and some modern addition architectural pieces are fun to explore.

We stayed in a district of Guidecca, with very narrow streets, typical medieval houses and clothes hanging from the balconies. This district used to be a home of Jewish community. Many buildings were built around a courtyard, which had a palm and citrus tree in the center. You can still see someone of it. The local people of Ortigia are very friendly and welcoming, the tourist traffic this time of year was light and the experiences were unforgettable!

Be aware: pictures overload!

 

Taormina, Sicily

‘Taormina’s past is Sicily’s history in a microcosm: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, the French and the Spanish all came, saw, conquered and left.’

Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for a couple of hundred years.  Although normally, we try to avoid too touristy places, this time we couldn’t possibly miss this little place. If it was worth visiting for Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Alexander Dumas, Truman Copote, Greta Garbo and many others, it should be worth visiting for us too. So we did, we visited and liked it a lot.

Taormina is home to one of the most famous Greek Theatres in the world. Here, in summertime the main events of the International Film, Music, Dance and Theatre Festival of Taormina Arte take place. Hence so many celebrities gather here. Besides the ancient Greek Theatre, it has many old churches, lively bars, fine restaurants and all sort of shops(mainly expensive!).

Taormina is not by the sea, it is above the sea, at 200 meters. You can walk up to the top or take a cable- car. To be honest, it is usual to find an absence of any signs in Sicily, here was the same. So we didn’t see the cable-car straight away and decided to take a walk. Luckily it wasn’t a mid summer day, however, it still was rather warm and it took us nearly an hour to climb up there. We recuperated after with a large drink… Aperol Spritz. 🙂

Catania, Sicily

We’ve just returned after our week-long holiday exploring the east coast of Sicily. What a great country, full of surprises. Before we even left, we had a surprise – Etna started to erupt the day before our departure. Luckily, it didn’t affect out flights. Actually it was just a bonus for us, to see it quietly bubbling away, spitting the lava it was something magical. (Note: it wasn’t bad eruption, no-one injured, so it’s all good!)

Our trip started in Catania, Sicily’s second city. Catania is vibrant, loud, full of traffic, shabby but beautiful! It is like ginormous hot pot, with Etna on top, literally bubbling at the time we were there.

I read somewhere an interesting fact that Ancient Greeks believed Mount Etna to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. To the Ancient Greeks, every time Mount Etna erupted, it was merely a sign that their god of fire Vulcan was creating weapons for their God of War, Mars. Despite the frequent volcanic activity, people still choose to live in the vicinity of Mount Etna though.

 

 

 

Green Chicken Curry

With its delicious mix of flavours – mint, spinach, coriander, it is a great curry, which will keep you wanting more. Not only is it packed with all of the wonderful herbs and spices, but it has a punch of fibre, iron and vitamins from the dose of spinach.

Green Chicken curry

GREEN CHICKEN CURRY

(Adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe)

Ingredients:

3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

about 200g potatoes, cut into cubes, blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained

3 tablespoons frozen peas

lime wedges, to garnish

rice or naan bread, to serve

curry paste:

1 onion

3 green bird’s eye chillies

3 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons tamarind paste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

green sauce:

400g spinach leaves

1 bunch of fresh coriander

good handful of mint

400ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. To make a curry paste, in a food processor, blend the onion, chillies, garlic, sugar, tamarind paste and ground coriander to a fine paste.
  2. In a large saucepan heat the oil, add the curry paste and gently fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. To make the sauce, in a food processor, mix the spinach, fresh coriander, mint and coconut milk. Add this sauce to saucepan with the paste and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes – you may need to add a little water or stock to thin it down – then season with salt.
  4. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked through, adding the blanched potatoes about 10 minutes in and cooking them until tender and cooked. Add the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.
  5. Serve with rice or naan bread, garnished with limes and more fresh coriander, if you wish.

Winter Slaw with Herbs and Pomegranate

Fresh, bright, full of goodness salad to brighten up your winter dinner.

Winter Slaw with Pomegranate

WINTER SLAW WITH HERBS AND POMEGRANATE

Ingredients:

1/2 medium head of white cabbage, finely shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of 1 lemon

1 small batch of parsley, finely chopped

even smaller batch of mint, finely chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

seeds from 1/2 – 1 head of pomegranate (depends on the size, optional)

Method:

Place the shredded cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle the salt on it, mix and allow to sit for 15 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the lemon juice, herbs, oil and mix well. Taste, season well with salt and adjust to taste. It should be sharp and lemony. At the end, sprinkle the pomegranate seed on top, if using. Enjoy!