Apricot and Pistachio Bars

Another bake from ‘Baked in America’ book and another success. To be honest it even exceeded my expectations.

One of the downside of this book is a lack of photographs. I’m not into step-by-step ones, however, I appreciate at least one photo to go with any recipe. Especially if it’s a completely unknown to you recipe, at least to know what this dish should look like. In this case, there was a photo with the recipe, but it was so dark that I presumed the bake included some chocolate or cacao powder. I read the recipe again and again and still couldn’t understand what was added to make the bake so dark. Then I realised, that if you put the required amount of sugar ( a whopping 450g for the filling and another 100g for the base!!!) that anything will turn black, as well as all your taste buds will be numb forever.

Actually, this time I baked with my friend and we decided to follow the recipe precisely, apart from adding only 1/3 of the asking sugar amount. Other than the sugar issue, it is a good bake with a rather short but firm buttery base and wonderful topping, slightly gooey, but full of texture with lovely cardamon aroma.

APRICOT AND PISTACHIO BARS

Ingredients:

For the pastry base:

90g icing sugar

300g plain flour

225g butter, softened

For the filling:

225g dried apricots

115g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 salt

1/2 ground cardamon

4 eggs

190g light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the tin (30x23x5cm), and line with parchment.
  2. Place the dried apricots in a pan, cover with water and simmer for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Drain, cool, chop the apricots, then leave them aside.
  3. For the crust base, using mixer or processor, on a low speed combine the sugar, flour and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Dump the whole lot into the prepared tin, press it on to the bottom and slightly aside (I found the back of the metal spoon is good for that). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just barely browned. Remove from the oven, put aside, let it cool.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamon and set aside. Using the same bowl from the crust mixture, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla until evenly mixed. Then add the flour mixture, until it well incorporated. At the end, fold in the cooled apricots and the pistachios. Pour the batter over the cooled crust and smooth it.
  5. Bake it for another 25-30 minutes, until it evenly browned. Let the bake cool in the tin completely , then cut into squares or triangles, sprinkle icing sugar on top, if you wish.

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Moroccan Lentil and Lamb Stew

It’s a really hearty, earthy, yet fruity light dish. I can’t say it’s the most presentable creation as the red cabbage lends a distinctive monotone colouring to the whole thing. However, if not made for dinner party, it will impress just as well as a mid week supper. This dish is a winner and a budget friendly one too. I served it with a yoghurt and tahini lemon drizzle to top, but it’s just as good on it’s own.

Moroccan Lamb and Lentil Stew

MOROCCAN LENTIL AND LAMB STEW

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves,  finely chopped

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

pinch ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon za’tar (optional)

350 g dried green lentil, rinsed

1.5 litre chicken stock

1/2 small red cabbage, finely shredded

400 g lamb leg steaks, diced

50 g dried apricots, chopped

50 g dried currants, chopped (optional)

1 lemon, for squeezing

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. In a large casserole heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add the diced lamb and brown over a high heat until it just cooked. Set aside.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the casserole and gently cook the onion until softened. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the spices and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the lentil and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cabbage and cook, covered, for 30-35 minutes, until the lentil are tender.
  4. Stir in the apricots, currants and lamb for the final 10 minutes of cooking time.
  5. Check seasoning, squeeze some lemon juice, serve on its own or drizzle with Yoghurt & Tahini dressing.

Yoghurt & Tahini Dressing:

1/4 cup tahini paste, at room temperature

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups plain yogurt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Mix by hand or blend in a food processor everything up and drizzle on top.
  • The tahini sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature.

Moroccan Lentil and Lamb Stew

Eat Cake for Breakfast

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Rich and buttery, yet light and airy, this wonderful loaf-cake captures the essence of the classic with an added twist. Adding cognac gives a depth of flavour should you feel you particularly adventurous. You can even soak the apricots in it too. Also it is one of those cakes which tastes much better next day after baking.

TEA LOAF WITH APRICOTS

Ingredients:

200g plain flour

170l butter room temperature

3 eggs

170g sugar

4 tablespoons cognac

170g dried apricots

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

pinch of salt

Method:

1. Place dried apricots in a separate bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes, then tip the apricots into the colander and let them dry. When they are completely dry from water, chop them into cubes and toss in a little amount of flour – it will prevent the fruit from gathering in one area and distribute evenly throughout the cake. Leave aside until later.

2. Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter the loaf tin and line with the parchment paper.

3. Beat the butter for 5-6 minutes until it’s really fluffy, add sugar, beat another 5 minutes. Slightly beat the eggs with the fork and gradually add into the buttery mixture, along with the cognac, continue mixing
another 5 minutes.

4. In a separate bowl mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the buttery one. The mass will increase in volume, becoming very soft and airy. At the end, add the apricots and carefully mix into the batter, pour into the prepared tin.

5. Bake it for about 55 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean. After the baking leave the cake to cool in the tin because this cake is very fragile. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

P.S: Please do not be confused by my pictures as it looks like the cake has raisins in it, where in my recipe I talk about apricots. The thing is I came across to the DARK variety of dried apricots which I have never tried before and I was keen to try them.  They are very dark and look like raisins when chopped  but I definitely recommend them if you have never tried/seen dark apricots.  Try them next time you see them because they are very soft, juicy and delicious. 🙂

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