Guyanese Black Cake

All of a sudden we’re in November and it’s time to start letting ourselves dream about Christmas, even though the global pandemic has everyone rather worried about just how the festive season is going to pan out. At least this is one thing you can control and look forward to enjoying.

The Black Cake is a traditional Christmas treat in Guyana. To ensure this Caribbean fruit cake is rich, moist and delicious, it needs plenty of time to develop and mature. The best time to start making yours is in the first week of November.

Ingredients

  • 700g mixed fruit
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 100g Brazil nuts 
  • 300ml dark rum (plus extra for feeding/drinking)
  • 225g Demerara sugar
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 tbsp black treacle
  • 225g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice (blend of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg) 

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 150°C.

2. Briefly blitz the mixed fruit, peel and nuts in a food processor.

3. Transfer the mix to a bowl and pour over 150ml of rum, cover and leave overnight to soak.

4. Line a 20cm square cake tin.

5. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, and then add in the eggs one at a time. 

6. Stir in the treacle and the soaked fruit mix. 

7. Sift in the flour, spice and baking powder, folding through until you have an even consistency.  

8. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 2 hours. 

9. Before the cake cools completely, poke holes into the top with a skewer and pour over 150ml of rum. 

10. Once cool, store the cake in an airtight container. 

11. Feed your cake occasionally (weekly) by pouring over more rum.

12. Before Christmas, finish the cake in the traditional way by adding a thick layer of marzipan, dried tropical fruits and nuts, and an apricot glaze. Alternatively, you can brush the cake with an apricot glaze and then layer with marzipan and royal icing as shown below.

Guyanese black cake - a rich, dense fruit cake as a Christmas cake

Tomatillo Time

August has brought the first crop of Tomatillos to the UK. Rarely grown here, I eagerly await their arrival and celebrate the short season with the ultimate green salsa that elevates barbecue to ridiculously insane heights of deliciousness.

Repeat after me: [toh-muhtee-oh].

Physalis philadelphica

Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa are part of the nightshade family – similar to the more common Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) found in most supermarkets here, but larger, and green. Think green tomato with a papery husk.

Fresh, zingy and packed with complexity, this classic salsa is like nothing else. If you make your own from scratch, it blows any shop-bought version out of the water. The magic happens when you char the ingredients over fire before blending it all together. If you see tomatillos, buy them. Buy them all.

Ingredients:

  • 400g fresh tomatillos
  • 2 green jalapeños
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos – give them a little wash as you’ll find that the flesh is a little sticky underneath. Pop the fruits on the bbq along with the onion and Jalapeños to blister the skins. (You could or grill them in the oven or colour them in a pan if you don’t have access to a bbq).
  2. Chuck everything in a food processor and blitz it up into a rough salsa. How easy is that!

blistering tomatillo and jalapeno fruits

 

tomatillo salsa

 

Best. Salsa. Ever.

Sourdough Is For Life, Not Just For Lockdown

Like puppies at Christmas, sourdough starter deserves enduring love and care – the starter you made, bought or were gifted during the coronavirus lockdown will actually live on, in perpetuum. I fear that a significant number of those who developed a newfound love of home baking during the unprecedented Covid-19 restrictions will all too quickly revert to mass-produced pappy, low-nutrition loaves from supermarket shelves as people start returning to their hectic working lives. After all, good sourdough is all about the devotion of time and attention to detail.

There’s hope though. If you baked enough sourdough loaves during the lockdown, developed your process and timing, and savoured the unique flavour that’s only achievable to the artisan baker, you’ll be hooked. Once you’ve tasted the good stuff and appreciated the undeniable magic that is transforming flour, water and salt into open, tangy crumb, you’ll no doubt want to persist with your endeavours.

But, alas, my bet is that most of the sourdough cultures that thrived during the height of lockdown, will have now sadly perished; neglected, and simply starved to death.

So how might we be able to save these vulnerable lives? Read on, my flour dusted friends.

  1. Refrigerate – covered over to protect it from the cold, dehydrating air of the fridge, your sourdough starter will easily survive for a couple of weeks without feeding. The cold will slow down the activity of the culture, so if it’s been fed just before going into the fridge then it’ll have enough food to keep it going. It may develop a layer of hooch on the top, but you can just mix it all up and feed it over a couple of days at room temperature to get it back to peak performance. Refrigerated sourdough starter
  2. Freeze – the extreme cryogenic option. Pop some of your starter in a ziplock bag, seal it up, label it and chuck it in the freezer. I’ll admit that I’ve not yet tried to revive any of my own backup starter from the freezer yet, but in theory it’ll just need to be defrosted and then given a good feed, air and warmth (I’ll update this post in due course) Frozen Dave 
  3. Dehydrate – take a little starter and spread it out very thinly on a sheet of greaseproof paper or a silicone mat. Leave it on a wire rack in a warm, airy environment until it has dried out completely. Once it’s brittle you can pop it into a labelled glass jar and store it for ages. This is an ideal option for transporting a starter.

     

  4. Share – keep sharing cuts of your starter with friends and colleagues with instructions on how to look after it (just like the traditional Amish Herman the German friendship cake https://hermanthegermanfriendshipcake.com/). This is the ultimate in offsite backup options – especially if your friends and family keep some in their freezer. dave
  5. Perfect – I’m convinced that once you’ve mastered a routine and timing which you can literally ‘work around’, it makes it so much easier to just keep baking! It’s of course sage to retain a backup starter using one or more of the above methods. 

In an ideal world, we’ll return to a place where the deep knowledge and experience of baking at home is commonplace once again. 

As always, do get in touch if you have any questions. 

Scandi Pear & Cardamom Cakes

Confession: I don’t really like pears. Often hard and grainy; quickly soft and mushy, they do little for me. This recipe is a direct result of receiving yet more pears in our weekly organic delivery and desperately trying to find new ways to ‘use them up’. Necessity is the mother of invention – Fika will never be the same again.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pears
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • Lemon juice
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  2. Grease some small baking tins with butter or line a muffin tray with paper cases.
  3. Pop the butter into a pan and melt it over a low heat. Leave to cool slightly.
  4. Peel and core the pears, then dice them into 5mm cubes. Squeeze the lemon over the pears to stop them oxidising and turning brown.
  5. Beat the eggs and then mix all of the ingredients together to form batter
  6. Fill the tins or cases and bake for around 20 minutes until golden. If you’re making a larger cake it will need a little longer to bake through. 
  7. Cool on a wire rack. 

Scandi styled cakes

These little pear cakes pair perfectly with a perky coffee – they have quite the cardamom kick if you’re using good quality fresh spice.  

Pears. I look forward to the next delivery… 

Sourdough Pizza

Another dangerous path of culinary adventure that requires tightrope level skills to maintain the balance between joyous deliciousness, and an inevitable descent into morbid obesity. Thankfully, unlike flatbreads, this recipe takes many hours to execute, which will hopefully prevent it becoming a regular go-to carb snack.

There are literally thousands of sourdough pizza recipes out there that use wildly different methods, but this is the first time I’ve really been happy with the end product and content that it will give consistent results.

Sourdough pizza

I think it’s fair to say that the cooking method is probably more important than the ingredients for once – controversial, and something I never imagined I’d be writing.. If you’re lucky enough to have a proper wood-fired oven, you’re likely to get great results with literally whatever kind of dough you’ve got going. For me, the little burnt bubbles and flecks around the crust are the holy grail of pizza, and almost impossible to achieve with a crappy conventional oven.

If, like the majority of the population you don’t have access to a fabulous oven, I’d recommend at the very least investing in a decent baking stone and getting it as hot as your conventional domestic oven will possibly take you.

Ingredients:

  • 300g sourdough starter (See HERE if you don’t already have one)
  • 15g salt
  • 500g strong white flour (I particularly like Tipo ’00’ and always use organic)
  • 250g water

Method:

Like anything in the sourdough world, this recipe is all about time.

Make sure your sourdough starter has been fed recently and is raring to go – bubbly, lively and buoyant if you drop a teaspoon of it in water.

Mix together all of your ingredient and then knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and silky.

Split your dough into three (or more) and shape it into tight balls. Pop them into the fridge (covered) until the following day. This is where the sourdough culture really does its thing, developing your dough and taking it from pedestrian to the sublime.

sourdough pizza dough

The following day, your dough is going to need a few hours out of the fridge (still covered) to come back up to room temperature.

Stretch or roll out your dough to the desired thickness using plenty of fine semolina and you’re all set and ready to go.

Add your toppings, bosh it in your super-hot oven and cook until it looks done and on the verge of burning.

sourdough pizza

Toppings:

TOTALLY. UP. TO. YOU – but just don’t overload it, or you’ll end up with a pie. If you’re making a few, you may as well make the first a classic tomato, mozzarella and basil margarita to act as a gauge and really show-off your dough.

Pizza

Alternatively:

If you’re looking for a faster (and slightly less awesome) pizza, click HERE for a non-sourdough version.

Godspeed.

As ever, get in touch via here or social media if you have any questions, suggestions or special requests!

Sourdough pizza