Earlier this year I was asked to house sit for my friend while she was on holiday – I watered her garden on designated watering days, checked her mail, turned the light on and off now and then to make it look like someone was home etc etc.
My friend told me that while she was away I could have unlimited access to her cookbook collection. This excited me because while I love buying cookbooks I have to limit myself because I don’t have much room in my unit and I realize that I don’t cook a lot from cookbooks. It was great to have access to someone else’s collection and spend some time going through their cookbooks and discovering new recipes.
One cookbook that I became quite attached to was Breakfast, Lunch and Tea by Rose Carraini who owns Rose Bakery, an Anglo-French bakery and restaurant in Paris. I was drawn to this cookbook as there was a real honesty with the way that Rose approaches cooking. The book begins with an introduction to Rose, the development of her bakery and her rise as a chef. She starts by stating that she is not a trained chef. She informs us that “Everything I have achieved has been a result of learning from other chefs, responding to customers’ desires, reading lots and, most of all, knowing so strongly what I want from foods…their intrinsic health benefits, their taste and look, and ultimately my choice of some foods and rejection of others.”
Rose tries to source as much local organic produce as possible for her food and wanted a restaurant that ranked vegetables above meat or fish, and to offer (if possible) healthier desserts and cakes, without compromising flavour and texture. The recipes in the book are simple to follow and Rose provides good guidance to help you obtain results but she also encourages a flexible approach to cooking and the substitution of ingredients. Rose works with the philosophy that “life is improved by great food and great good can be achieved by everyone”.
I saw a recipe for pistachio cake and noted it down for future reference. I love eating pistachios. There is nothing better than snacking on a bag of pistachios. I think the fact that pistachios come with shells makes it even more satisfying to eat as you have to put in more effort to consume the nut – like it’s ‘playing hard to get’ with you.
The pistachio cake was warmly received by my friends and it goes well with a cup of tea too. The pistachios give the cake a great flavour and also a lovely green colour. While I was making this cake I knew that it would turn out good because I tried the batter before I put it in the oven and I was impressed by the taste of it. I liked it so much that I ended up pretty much licking the bowl – it was that good!
The other thing that I really liked about this cake was the texture. It was moist but not too dense, it was light, buttery and fluffy.
(Recipe from Rose Bakery)
• 250g unsalted butter, softened plus extra for greasing
• 225g caster sugar
• grated zest of 1 lemon
• ½ t vanilla extract
• 4 eggs
• 100g ground almonds
• 100g ground pistachios
• 50g plain flour
• 1t baking powder
• pinch of salt
For the topping
• 50g pistachios, whole or chopped
• 50g caster sugar
• grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
I bought natural pistachios and blanched almonds with I roasted in the oven for 8-10 minutes and then ground with a blender.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Butter a 25cm cake tin and line its base and sides with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugar until they are very light and creamy. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Now fold in the ground almonds, ground pistachios, flour, baking powder and salt.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool in the cake in the tin before taking it out.
To make the topping, gently heat the pistachios, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan and pour over the cake.
The cooking of the pistachios in sugar and lemon juice resulted in candied like pistachios for the top of the cake.
Note: So I realized that after making this cake that I should have removed the brownish layer of skin on the pistachios by blanching the pistachios first in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and cool, and then rubbing the skins off while the nuts are still lukewarm. I don’t think it really makes any difference to the end product except that it would look better appearance wise.