Summer cake with figs, peaches and cardamom

imageIn Rome in June, seasonal means figs and peaches. I had optimistically bought both, as they looked so good, but as it was a little early for those fruits just yet, cake it is. This is a variation on a cake my mother makes, usually with rhubarb or apples or blueberries. Whatever is in season, it is easy to make and very adaptable. And who does not enjoy freshly made cake?

I am bringing this to The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday #20! Joining the party late, but delighted to be here. Please, have a piece of cake while I sample other dishes: they all look amazing! image

Summer cake with figs, peaches and cardamom

2 eggs
100 g sugar
85 g butter, melted and slightly cooled
1.5 decilitres semi-skimmed milk (150 millilitres)
30 g wholewheat flour
150 g plain wheat flour
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tsp baking powder
One or two peaches and five fresh figs

Whisk eggs and sugar. Melt butter gently and cool slightly. Add everything: butter, milk, flours, baking powder, and cardamom if you like that. Cinnamon might be nice too. Whisk well. image Wash and slice the fruit: it can be diced as well, up to you. Pour batter into the tin (24 cm baking tin with removable sides, with baking parchment on the base). Add the pieces of fruit evenly, so it bakes evenly, and bake 40 minutes at 200C, until it looks nicely golden.

Notes: the original recipe uses twice as much sugar and more butter, but I added more milk and some wholewheat flour, and this cake was very tasty as well. I do like a cake where the taste of the fruit gets to shine. I noticed that baking time is often a little bit longer when I reduce the butter and sugar levels, I may try tweaking temperature next time as well. This is good the next day as well, we just enjoyed some with a nice cup of tea. I made some fig-peach jam with cardamom too, as it is blissfully rainy here and we have a little window of cooler weather. Tomorrow, the last of the figs are destined for a pasta with blue cheese, fresh figs and walnuts. Mmmmmm…… image

Peach-nectarine sorbet with Amaretto

imageTuesdays are our TV night. A friend comes over every Tuesday, we have a drink (or two) and catch up, then have dinner while watching TV together. Dinner needs to be a one-plate one-fork affair, no knives, and something not too calorific. That way we have steadily worked our way through Homeland, Community, Forbrydelsen and various other series, though often a year behind everyone else. Dessert also needs to be simple, and ready in advance. On Sundays I usually sort through the fridge and see what needs using up. This time I had some end of summer bruised peaches and nectarines in the fridge, and and thought – hey, maybe a sorbet? With a splash of alcohol? The alcohol should keep it from freezing rock hard, and who does not like a hint of Amaretto?

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Peach-nectarine sorbet with Amaretto
Five chopped peaches and nectarines (about a litre, four cups)
2/3 cups white sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 cups Amaretto
Juice of half a lemon

Halve, pit and peel the peaches and nectarines. You might need to blanch them to peel them; mine were very ripe so it was easy to remove the skin. Chop the fruit, toss in a pot with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, cook for a few minutes. Using an immersion blender, puŕee the fruit until smooth. I added the Amaretto here, as I did not want it to evaporate during cooking. Taste. If you like the flavours, pour it into a container and cool in the fridge for a couple hours. If not quite right, adjust with sugar or more fruit. When the mixture has cooled, move the box to the freezer overnight. Serve when needed. A little goes a long way.

Notes: Ideally the freezing sorbet should be stirred through a couple times with a fork, which prevents big ice crystals from forming, but I totally forgot. And it was fine! Easy to serve without lengthy defrosting, probably due to all the Amaretto…. and very peachy.

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Peach jam with rosemary

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It’s October already, and I could be scraping ice of my car each morning while muttering “Winter is coming…..”, but fortunately I am in Rome, not Norway. Thus, instead of frost we still have 22C daytime here, and the last summer fruit is still available. Exuberant piles of grapes are elbowing in, along with wedges of zucca (pumpkin) and boxes of funghi porcini. But the peaches have had a good, long season this year, as have the melons. So I made a small batch of peach jam with rosemary, just to capture a little more summer in a jar. Later today I will have to put away my summer sandals, and pull out shoes and socks for the first time in months. I have been resisting this, but it is time.

20130817-202436.jpgThis is quite low in sugar, but the peach flavour is intense.

Peach jam with rosemary

1.4 kg peaches (about seven)
100 grammes brown sugar
2 tbs white sugar
1/4 cup water
8 grammes pectin
Three sprigs of fresh rosemary
Juice and zest of half a lemon

Chop up the pitted peaches, no need to peel them. In a wide pot, boil peaches and rosemary sprigs with a little water, and add sugar after five minutes. You can leave jam chunky, or blitz it slightly with an immersion blender (if so, fish the rosemary branches out first). Add lemon zest and juice. Add pectin when the packet tells you to (for some types it is early in the cooking process, for others it is right at the end.)

20130817-202456.jpgPreparing jars. I know Americans often do full-on proper canning, which is probably safer, but this works well for me. Start with clean jars, boil them five-ten minutes. Fish them out with tongs, let them dry (but not sit around too long).

peach jamGolden and fragrant. I tossed in another handful of chopped rosemary at the end. Ladle jam into jars (a funnel helps). Be careful to keep the rim of the jar clean. Put put the lid on the jar (using cloths if necessary to hold it, it will be hot), then turn it upside down and leave to cool upside down. I never have sealed jars go moldy this way, but do what you feel most comfortable with. As this is low in sugar, keep in fridge once opened and eat soon. See also The Guardian this week : The science and magic of jam-making

Now I can enjoy this peach jam on a slice of home-baked bread, while reading the last moose-hunt update from a Norwegian relative.  “…..Jakta er igang. En våt og kald lørdag helt fram til 1400 tiden, da bålet vi og spiste. Men til tross for det dårlige været fikk vi to store dyr, en ungokse på vel 150 kg slaktet og en ku på over 180 kg. Den var nok 2,5 år og hadde ikke kalver. Flott kjøtt.” Summary: Cold and wet day in the woods, but their hunting team shot two big moose.

Some days you feel the cultural distance between a small urban Roman flat and the wilderness expanses of Norway more keenly than others. Both are wonderful, in their own way, just very different.