Orange and Cardamom Fig Rolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all the excitement of the article about me in The Telegraph, I completely forgot to post last weekend’s Mint recipe. I’ll confess my head was temporarily turned.

A huge thank you, though, to Telegraph food writer Xanthe Clay  who, along with photographer Heathcliff O’Malley came out from London a few weeks ago to attend one of our Upar Wali Chai tea parties.  They also ventured into Old Delhi to sample some of my favourite street food. Xanthe’s feature is lovely and Heathcliff’s pictures gorgeous – including a sweet one of the whole family – Spike the dog and all.

Anyway, back down to earth.  The fig rolls I wrote about in Mint last week are one of the best things I’ve made recently.  If, like me, you ate the packaged variety as a kid, you’ll wonder why you never tried making this far superior home made version.  The orange and cardamom are perfect partners for the soft sweet figginess.

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Cape Gooseberries Galore

One of the most rewarding aspects of my baking life in India is being able to experiment with exotic fruit without having to take out a second mortgage. At home in Scotland, mangoes, lychees, papayas are the foie gras of the fruit world, flown halfway round the globe to be nibbled and savoured.

Many of these fruits I had never seen in abundance until I came to India. The voluptuous bunches of pink lychees in the Delhi markets are a far cry from the hard brown balls we used to find in our Christmas stockings. In the summer, as well as gorging on mangoes I’ve popped them into muffins. Until recently, I thought the only purpose of cape gooseberries was to pep up lacklustre fruit salads. I now discover their citrusy softness is perfect in cakes, tarts and puddings.

In Scotland, where we tend to buy cape gooseberries by the handful rather than kilo, jam is one of the fruit’s most glorious incarnations, fabulous on toast but positively addictive in these jam tarts. I’ve sneaked some ground almonds and sugar into the pastry, taking them from packed lunch standby to dinner party diva.

Cape gooseberries also make for an unusual, delicious curd, which, on a whim, I made into a meringue pie. It involves a few extra steps but the soothing texture, knockout flavour and vibrant, sunshine colour make it more than worth the effort.

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Locavores and a Recipe for Carrot Halwa Muffins

 

One of my resolutions for 2011 is to join the “locavores”, an international foodie movement urging people to eat food produced “within a leisurely day’s drive of home”. The unpredictable nature of road travel in India notwithstanding, I’m willing to do my bit to reduce the environmental impact of our increasingly globalized food industry; pledging to eat more seasonally and locally and cut out obscenely priced imports.

In the US and Europe, locavorism has led to an upsurge in farmers’ markets, and even supermarket giants urging customers to “buy local”. Here, in India, most people have never been anything but locavores, relying on the local sabziwallah to bring whatever is picked on the farm that morning, but I have noticed a creeping trend towards winter mangoes and year-round salad.

For a slide show on how to make muffins Click here

The science and politics of it all are endlessly debatable but eating local food feels right to me. Beans and peas that arrive on the ghoda gaadi (horse cart) in my neighbourhood every day look and taste far better than those which have been on a dusty truck from Bangalore or a fuel-guzzling plane from Kenya.

I’m kicking off today by turning the beautiful red desi carrots which are in season right now, into these magnificent muffins, using everyone’s winter favourite, gajar ka halwa (carrot halwa).

The process for making muffins differs from other sponge cakes in the mixing of ingredients. Whereas a cupcake is generally made by first creaming the sugar and butter, muffins require the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to be mixed separately before gently folding the two mixtures together. The most important thing to remember when making muffins is not to over-mix, stir only until you can’t see the flour. The batter should look fairly lumpy when it goes into the oven—this is what keeps the muffins light. If you want to skip the egg, just add a little more milk.

The result here is a rich, spicy, creamy marvel; locavore-ish without an ounce of holier-than-thou preachiness. The muffins hint at carrot cake but the halwa gives them a tantalizing and mysterious depth. The carrots are local; I’ve used oil and milk rather than my usual imported unsalted butter and the kwark (Dutch curd cheese) in the icing which is from the innovative Flanders Dairy outside Delhi. Baby steps, I admit—I’m not milling my own flour just yet and this week’s adventure in butter churning was a fiasco—but a start.

Muffins need to be eaten on the day you make them, ideally still a little warm. I can’t think of a good reason not to eat a whole batch of these muffins at one sitting but if you do, freeze them, un-iced, until you need them.

At the risk of teaching grannies to suck eggs, I’m also including my recipe for carrot halwa, although you could, if pressed, use shop-bought. I’ve added walnuts because that’s the nut usually found in carrot cake but you could also use pistachios or almonds.

Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka Halwa)

Ingredients

1/2 kg red, desi carrots

1 litre full-cream milk

6 dessertspoons caster sugar (or to taste)

4 dessertspoons ghee

Seeds of 4 green cardamom (elaichi) pods, ground

A handful of sultanas

A handful of chopped walnuts

100g khoya (milk solids), finely grated

Method

Finely grate the carrots and place in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat until the milk has evaporated and the carrots are soft and dry. Stir regularly so the carrots don’t stick to the pan. This can take an hour or so.

Add the sugar and ghee and cook again until the sugar has dissolved and the carrots are bright reddish orange.

Stir in the cardamom, sultanas and walnuts and leave to cool slightly before stirring in the khoya.

Carrot Halwa Muffins

Makes about 12 large muffins

Ingredients

250g plain flour (maida)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml milk

100ml sunflower oil

100g vanilla or caster sugar

400g carrot halwa

For cream cheese frosting

50g cream cheese or kwark

100g sifted icing sugar

A squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line a large muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg with the vanilla, milk and sunflower oil. Stir in the sugar.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir gently until there is no visible flour. For the last few strokes, lightly stir in the carrot halwa until the mixture is just combined. Gently spoon the mixture into the paper cases.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the surface of the muffins springs back when pressed.

For the cream cheese icing, beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice until soft but not runny. When the muffins are cool, spread a generous teaspoonful of icing on top.

Read  previous Lounge columns at www.livemint.com/pieceofcake

Birthdays, a food fair and how to make the perfect scone

Busy times in the Eat and Dust household.  We’ve had  two significant birthdays – our eldest son turned 18 last week, our daughter 16 yesterday.  The former involved tent-wallahs, champagne and sushi courtesy of the Yum Yum Tree. For our daughter, dinner at Sidewok, a mountain of butterfly cakes and an impromptu serenading by a wedding band organised by her Dad.

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A Recipe For Tamarind Madeleines

Many years ago, when I first arrived in Paris as a young and foolish student, my means were low but my pretensions grand. I had recently skim-read the first volume of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu and believed I was ready to take the salons of the French capital by storm. While I waited for literary recognition I decided to get into the spirit of things and have my very own proustian, madeleine-related revelation at the earliest opportunity.

I rushed to the nearest Monoprix—a kind of Gallic Big Bazaar but more depressing—grabbed a bag of madeleines and dashed back to my dingy little garret. I rustled up a lime flower tisane and sat down to dunk. Carefully, reverentially—I probably closed my eyes in silent contemplation of the great literary genius I was surely about to become—I dipped the dainty shell-shaped sponge into the tea and waited. Nothing. Or perhaps worse than nothing: soggy cake. For Proust’s narrator—“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake…a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place”—the memories released by the taste of his tea-soaked madeleine were powerful enough to fill seven volumes. I tried and tried to feel something important but was eventually forced to concede there was only faint disgust at a sweet little cake rapidly disintegrating into a greenish liquid.

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Caveman Cake

For some time now, I’ve been living with Fred Flintstone and although I’ve yet to be dragged back to the cave by my hair,  since my husband discovered The Caveman Diet, he’s been eating huge quantities of meat, developed an unnaturally close relationship with cashew nuts and looks at carbs as if, well, they hadn’t yet been invented.

Click here to view a slideshow on the ‘Caveman’man Cake

The Caveman Diet is basically Atkins for he-men, its devotees part of a Stone Age subculture who believe carbs, as well as being for sissies, are at the root of most paunch-related problems. These latter-day hunter-gatherers eat only food that was available before the invention of agriculture—essentially anything you can catch or forage—so no pasta, rice, bread, chips, wheat, dairy and definitely no sugar. You are also required to skip meals—it’s good to starve a little between hunts—and exercise furiously but sporadically as if being pursued by a woolly mammoth.

One for the Caveman: Eggs and nuts make Sephardic Jewish cakes  rich but don’t compromise on the health quotient. Priyanka Parashar /  Mint

One for the Caveman: Eggs and nuts make Sephardic Jewish cakes rich but don’t compromise on the health quotient. Priyanka Parashar / Mint

According to Caveman.com, this state of fight or flight “activates your animal instincts for hunting and gathering…. embrace it for what it is”. And if you end up with rickets or osteoporosis from lack of calcium or are eaten by a tiger, well, at least you’ll be seriously buff. Arthur de Vany, the Caveman founder, who is 72 but admittedly has a body Shah Rukh Khan would kill for, lives his life as though it is “a very long camping trip with no camp stove or energy bars to get us through”. De Vany also believes the diet can have a beneficial effect on the modern blight of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. He’s not alone, the paleolithic regime has some high-profile devotees. It helped Liz Hurley sashay in her wedding sari and saw Peter Andre through the worst of being married to Katie Price.

Last week, my daughter, a once-staunch ally in the carb-rich lifestyle, announced she was joining Dad in the cave in a bid to shed the evidence of recent holiday fish suppers and deep-fried Mars bar excess before school starts again in August. A week in, though, Pebbles was cake-crazed and begging me for carb-free goodies. I’m normally intolerant of fad diets but I could feel her pain. So overcoming my natural aversion to “healthy” baking, I decided to rise to the challenge of baking a cake containing no flour or sugar.

These restrictions pointed to the great tradition of Sephardic Jewish cakes which rely for their richness on eggs and nuts, both of which were easily foraged by early man. I first encountered these cakes, made at Passover, in Claudia Roden’s 1968 A Book of Middle Eastern Food. This version, made with oranges, dates back to the 14th century when Jews fled from Spain and Portugal where these cakes, somewhere between a cake and a pudding, can still be found. Don’t be fooled by the cake’s plain looks—it’s a blowout rich enough to help any modern-day primitive man or woman live to hunt another day.

I was pretty pleased with this Caveman version, the almonds give a decadent richness and the eggs soothe away any concerns about the “sugar-free” component. One of the things I love most about this is the novelty of boiling, then blending, whole fruit—frugal cave-folk would surely have approved—which gives the finished cake a wonderful speckled orange effect. Fred and Pebbles were certainly delighted and the glazed and replete look on their faces reassured me they wouldn’t be chasing wild boar anytime soon. Wilma would definitely have won the Bedrock bake-off with this.

‘Caveman’ Cake

Ingredients

2 oranges, about 375g (in season, mandarins, tangerines and clementines make a delicious variation)

6 eggs

200g almonds, blanched and finely ground

20g Natura or other sucralose-based sweetener, which is equivalent to 200g of caster sugar

2 tbsp orange flower water (optional)

1 tsp baking powder

Method

Carefully wash the oranges, place in a pan then cover with water and boil for about 2 hours. Take out the fruit and leave to cool. Remove all pips then put the whole fruit, skin and all, into a food processor and blend to a pulp.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (you could try it on the campfire, but I can’t be held responsible for the outcome) and grease a 21cm loose-bottomed tin.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs, then beat in the almonds, sugar, baking powder, pulped orange and orange flower water. Beat well until everything is thoroughly mixed, then pour into the tin.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Leave the cake until cool and preferably for at least a day—it keeps well for a few days.

For non-cavemen, these cakes are sometimes served with an orange sugar syrup; we ate ours with fresh cream (malai) and raspberries.

‘Old Delhi’ Cheesecake

Along with railways and a mind-boggling bureaucracy, the British are also assumed to be responsible for India’s unbridled passion for biscuits. In fact biscuits were spotted in India as early as 1660 when French traveller Francois Bernier tasted “sweet biscuits flavoured with anise”: It wasn’t until 1847 that British firm Huntley and Palmers began to ship the colonialists’ favourite tea-time treats.

One of the first desi biscuits was the nan khatai which, despite tasting like a crumbly, buttery Scottish shortbread laced with cardamom, is actually a legacy of early Dutch settlers in Surat who introduced bakeries to the town. When the Dutch left, Indian bakers continued to turn out fresh loaves but as the colonial custom dwindled, so did the sales; locals never acquired a taste for European bread and it invariably went stale on the shelves. Happily, customers discovered slices of these “crunchy” loaves were perfect for dipping in tea and bread started to be made purely to be turned into biscuits, a process which survives today at the Diamond Bakery in Old Delhi where a delicious brioche-style loaf is made into rusks.

When the Surat bakers started to experiment with Dutch Butter Biscuits, nan khatai, meaning “bread with six ingredients” (typically flour, semolina, butter, sugar, cardamom and nuts), was born, soon travelling on to Mumbai and almost every tea stall in India.

I first tasted nan khatai, hot off the pan, in Old Delhi and I never return from my frequent jaunts there without a big bag of warm, crumbly delights under my arm. I recently had a surplus and decided to turn them into a cheesecake base.

Cheesecakes aren’t difficult to make but there are a few cardinal rules. First, a real cheesecake does not contain gelatine. Second, and this might sound obvious but I’m constantly amazed at what passes for cheesecake, there has to be cheese, preferably Philadelphia. You also need a good quality cream or mascarpone and I’ve also added malai for an additional sour note. I’m happy to report that the humble nan khatai continues to surprise—it gave the cheesecake a tantalizing other-worldly flavour, a semolina crunch and a spicy hint of the bazaar in every bite: If I’d been asked to bake a tribute to Old Delhi, this would undoubtedly be it.

Incidentally, the last time I went to get nan khatai, I was a little early and the sellers I normally buy from hadn’t yet rolled out their carts. I would have returned home empty-handed if my enterprising rickshaw driver hadn’t managed to track down the nan khatai wallah—whose family has been baking biscuits in the backstreets longer than Britannia— in one of the more obscure gullies. If you want a good dollop of Old Delhi in your cheesecake, and I can think of no good reason why you wouldn’t, look him up in Roshanpura, off Nai Sarak, Old Delhi.

Old Delhi Cheesecake

Ingredients

300g plus a few extra nan khatai biscuits

80g Amul (what else?) butter, melted

400g mascarpone cheese

300g cream cheese

150g caster sugar

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

150ml cream (malai)

Zest of 1 orange

Zest and juice of 2 lemons (nimbu)

1 tsp real vanilla extract (not essence)

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. You will need a 22cm, loose-bottomed baking tin (the springform variety is ideal here) and a large roasting tin which the baking tin can fit into. Fill a kettle with water and bring to the boil.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Crush 300g nan khatai either in a food processor or put them in a plastic bag and bash away with a rolling pin. Mix the biscuit crumbs into the butter then tip into the baking tin. Press the nan khatai to cover the bottom and provide a smooth base. Put the tin in the freezer to harden while you make the topping.

Put the mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, orange and lemon zest into a bowl, then beat either with a handheld mixer or wooden spoon and strong arm until the mixture is completely smooth. Then gently fold in the lemon juice, malai and vanilla extract.

Take the tin out of the freezer and wrap two layers of aluminium foil around the outside—this step is important as the cheesecake tin will be baked in water, so the tin has to be completely sealed. Pour the creamy mixture on to the nan khatai base and place the tin on the roasting tray. Slide the tray into the oven then carefully pour enough boiling water into the tray to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Baking over water in this way keeps the cheesecake smooth and moist.

Leave the cheesecake to bake for about 1 hour. The top will be firm with still a bit of a wobble in the middle. Switch off the heat but leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven.

When completely cool, gently remove the cheesecake from the tin and use the remaining crushed nan khatai to press on the sides.

This cheesecake really needs nothing else, it’s perfection as it is although I couldn’t resist gilding the lily a little with a few Old Delhi falsa berries. Some sour cream might be nice too.

Desi Shortbread – mouthfuls of toffee, buttery, crumbliness

As I cool off for a few weeks in Scotland, India sometimes doesn’t seem so far away. From my window I can see shops like Bombay Nights, selling sparkly lehengas and Bollywood DVDs; there’s the Mumtaz Mahal sweet shop, purveyors of barfi and gulab jamun to the greedy; and umpteen Indian and Pakistani grocers selling parathas, paneer and ghee.

Edinburgh is a dinky, sleepy capital with a population of less than half a million, but it has embraced its Indian community with a passion. There’s an Indian takeaway on every corner, it’s home to one of Britain’s oldest Sikh communities, and every summer our local park jumps to the bhangra beat when local band Tigerstyle, whose music appeared in the film Singh is Kinng, performs at the city’s annual “Mela”.

We have everything from the cheap and cheerful, flock wallpaper curry houses where chicken tikka masala is still the order of the day, to dosa cafés and a new generation of talented young chefs such as Tony Singh whose Oloroso restaurant is one of Scotland’s most innovative and fashionable eateries.

Scots also have a long, chequered history of trying to export our culinary “specialities” to India. Glasgow comedian and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli recently embarked on a mission to introduce Scottish “cuisine” to India: His attempt to interest a Srinagar boatman in fish and chips made for a hilarious chapter in the resulting book, Indian Takeaway: One Man’s Attempt to Cook his Way Home.

Whilst I accept haggis will probably never make much of an impact, I won’t rest until the fabulous but much derided Deep Fried Mars Bar has found a place in every Indian heart. Early trials have been encouraging—restaurants around Kullu Valley where we stay in July now think nothing of rustling up a “Bar One Pakora” for us.

Nowhere is our shared culinary history more evident than in our mutual love for biscuits; we can match each other crumb for crumb with macaroons, Marie and Bourbon biccies. For today’s recipe, I’ve given Scotland’s national biscuit an Indian makeover. The ubiquitous shortbread, probably a distant relation of India’s nan khatai, is the last word in simple, sweet, butteriness.

I decided to transform the shortie’s natural homeliness into go-get-’em brazenness with the addition of cumin and jaggery. These biscuits are delicious on their own, allowing an uninterrupted appreciation of both sides of their heritage but to complete the transformation from Ma Broon to Bipasha Basu, I filled little chai cups with shrikhand and mango purée for dipping. Oh, did I mention that those grocers across the road are also piled high with boxes of Alphonso mangoes?

Cumin and Jaggery Shortbread Biscuits

Ingredients

250g unsalted butter, softened but not melted

150g caster sugar

Click hereto view a slideshow on how to bake shortbreads

110g cornflour

300g plain flour (maida)

2 tsp roasted and ground cumin (zeera)

50g finely ground almonds

1 egg, lightly beaten

150g powdered jaggery

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Cookie jar: The shortbread is probably a distant cousin of nan  khatai. Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Cookie jar: The shortbread is probably a distant cousin of nan khatai. Priyanka Parashar/Mint

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and soft. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cornflour, almonds and cumin. Add half the flour mixture into the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the remainder and knead gently until the mixture holds together. Form the mixture into a long sausage shape of about 2 inches in diameter. Chill in the fridge or freezer for about 1 hour.

Sprinkle the powdered jaggery evenly on to a large sheet of baking paper. With a pastry brush, paint the outside of the sausage with the beaten egg, then roll the shortbread in the jaggery until completely covered. With a sharp knife, slice off discs about a quarter of an inch thick, then place, well-spaced, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. The biscuits should still be pale and the jaggery will have spread out to form a frill, but be careful not to let the jaggery burn.

To make the shrikhand, hang 1kg of plain yogurt in a muslin cloth for about 4 hours. Mix a good pinch of saffron with some warm milk, then beat into the yogurt along with a teaspoon of ground cardamom and sugar to taste. In a food processor, whiz a couple of peeled mangoes to a pulp. Pile the shrikhand into chai glasses, top with the mango purée and maybe some edible silver leaf (varq).

Apricot and Jaggery Upside Down Cake

For this week’s Mint column, I made a  gooey Jaggery and Apricot Upside Down Cake using the gorgeous Himachal apricots that are in the Delhi markets at the moment.

I got to sneakily take a few pictures while  (Mint photographer) Priyanka had her lights out – love these oranges and greens.

Here’s the Mint column – click on the link in the text to see a step-by-step guide to making the cake:

A Loved-Up Upside-Down Cake

Pamela Timms tells us the recipe of apricot jaggery cake

Piece of cake | Pamela Timms

// My book group is the social highlight of every month: The company is great, the wine flows, the food is always gorgeous and sometimes we even get round to discussing the book. This month we’ve been reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett; a gripping tale of racial discrimination and kitchen drama set in 1960s Mississippi. Of course, I was moved by the plight of the black maids in the story and swept along by the struggle for equality, but for me the real hero of the book is the food. The pies, puddings and roasts of the Deep South are so vividly depicted that you can almost taste Minny’s Caramel Cake, one bite of which, we learn, can “make you feel loved”.

Click here for a slideshow on how to bake caramel cake

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns

Almost, but not quite, so I decided to try and recreate some of that magic in my own kitchen by “caramelizing” an old favourite from my childhood. The “Upside-Down Cake” is a classic from the 1970s where fruit, sugar and butter are put into a cake tin and a cake mixture is then spread on top. When cooked, the cake is inverted and the sticky toffee fruit is on top.

Season’s special: Jaggery drenches the apricots and makes them  soft. Priyanka Parashan/Mint

Season’s special: Jaggery drenches the apricots and makes them soft. Priyanka Parashan/Mint

In the very un-exotic Britain of the time we had to make do with tinned pineapple but one of the great compensations of an Indian summer is that we’re spoilt for choice with all the magnificent soft fruit from Himachal: cherries, apricots, peaches and soon, plums. I chose apricots as they’re particularly plump and flavoursome this year.I also had a hunch that jaggery might provide a more intense caramel hit than the traditional white sugar and butter. The jaggery didn’t disappoint (how could it?), turning this old faithful into a real heart-stopper, drenching the apricots and almondy sponge in what can only be described as a loving spoonful. I’ll never know how it would rate alongside Minny’s Caramel Cake but the look on my daughter’s face when she took her first bite told me she wasn’t thinking about civil rights. And that’s good enough for me.

Apricot Jaggery Cake

Ingredients

650g apricots, the plumpest, ripest you can find

Caramel

175g powdered jaggery

6 tbsp water

Syrup

300g caster sugar

600ml water

Cake

2 large eggs

100g caster sugar

125g unsalted butter, softened

125g plain flour (maida)

2 level tsp baking powder

1 heaped tbsp of peeled and ground almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Line a 25cm round cake tin with aluminium foil—this is important especially if you’re using a loose-bottomed tin, to stop the caramel sauce from seeping out.

Cut all the apricots in half and take out the kernels.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the jaggery and 6 tablespoons of water until the jaggery is completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes until it starts to get syrupy. With jaggery this happens much faster than with white sugar, so keep watching. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then pour into the cake tin.

In a pan large enough to hold all the apricots in a single layer, heat 300g caster sugar and 600ml water until the sugar has dissolved completely, then bring to the boil. Working quickly, slide the apricots into the pan, cut side down. Boil for 1 minute, then turn the apricots over and boil for 1 more minute (don’t poach the apricots for more than 2 minutes in all because you need them to hold their shape). Quickly remove the apricots from the pan and arrange, cut side down, on top of the jaggery caramel.

To make the cake, put the eggs, 100g caster sugar, butter, flour, baking powder and ground almonds into a bowl. Using either a food mixer, hand-held blender or good old wooden spoon, beat until the mixture falls off a spoon tapped on the side of the bowl. If it isn’t soft enough, add a tablespoon or two of the apricot poaching liquid.

Spread the cake mixture on top of the apricots and jaggery. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for a couple of minutes, loosen the sides by running a knife around the edge, then place a serving plate on top of the tin. Carefully flip the tin over to let the cake rest, jaggery and apricot side up. Serve warm with a huge dollop of cream.

Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at https://eatanddust.wordpress.com

Write to Pamela at pieceofcake@livemint.com

Gateau aux Cerises: A classic cake from a vintage cookbook

First of all, do you love the vintage pic?  Doesn’t it look like I’ve just dragged it out of a box in the attic?  In fact, I’ve just bought a photo app for  my iPhone  – ‘Hipstamatic’, since you ask!  Needless to say it has joined the long line of things I waste time on when I should be working but the crumpled, family-album  vibe fits very well with today’s post as I’ve been rummaging through old cookbooks in search of unusual recipes to make use of all the wonderful soft fruit in the Delhi markets at the moment.

There are a couple of books that I would brave a burning building for – one is my Mum’s handwritten recipe journal which tells the food story of my childhood.  The other is a 1955 edition of  ‘La Cuisine Pour Tous’,  by Ginette Mathiot, the legendary French food bible.  This was the first cookbook I ever owned and has been with me since I was a student in Paris . This is the book I turn to when I want to know the  right way to do things and is particularly dear to me as it was given to me by my old friend Marie-France with whom I lodged as I worked my way through the repertoire of local patisseries.  It is a book, more a comprehensive cooking manual really, first published in 1933, that used to be given to all young  French housewives and was largely responsible for keeping French home cooking alive for so long.  When I returned to Britain, this book was my  secret weapon in the kitchen,  a book I could be certain almost no-one else had.

Until recently, that is.   Last year, Phaidon Books decided to give it big, fat glossy, english-translation makeover, adapted by Chocolate and Zucchini’s  Clotilde Dusoulier. And now everyone knows the secret of my delicious Quiche Lorraine!  I bought a copy of ‘I Know How to Cook’ (how could I not?) but do you know what, I still prefer taxing my rusty French with the original.  I love its utter unpretentiousness, the dearth of pictures, the directness of the instructions;  I love the fact that there are up to 10  recipes crammed onto a page and every one a gem.

Many of Ms Mathiot’s recipes are staples in our home but every time I turn to it, I find something new. This week, I found a Gateau de Cerises (Cherry Cake) and can’t believe I’ve never noticed it before. It’s a stunningly simple combination – just almonds, butter, sugar, eggs and leftover brioche.  I could tell by  licking the bowl it was going to be divine and it was utterly delicious –  fruity, creamy, almondy butteryness doesn’t even begin to cover it. My eldest son had to be restrained from eating the whole thing in one go. Of course there’s the small matter of making some brioche  the day before but I urge you to give it a go – you’ll be the most popular person in the house for 2 days running. Win-win!

Gateau de Cerises

from ‘La Cuisine Pour Tous’

by Ginette Mathiot

600g black cherries, washed, stalks and stones removed

125g butter

125g caster sugar

125g peeled and finely ground almonds

100-150g leftover brioche

100ml milk

4 eggs

Pinch salt

Preheat the oven to ‘four chaud’ ( about 180ºC)

Melt the butter – Ms Mathiot says ‘au coin du feu’, in the corner of the fire, but I think we can safely substitute the microwave. To the melted butter add the sugar, salt and ground almonds.  Beat well to mix. Put the brioche in the milk to break it up then mix it into the butter mixture. Beat in the eggs one by one then mix in the cherries.  Butter a tin (it should be a Charlotte mould but I used a deep rectangular baking tin) then pour in the mixture.  Bake for 30-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

The Gateau should be served cold, sprinkled with Kirsch  but we couldn’t wait and it was pretty good warm too.

‘I Know How to Cook’  by Ginette Mathiot is available at CMYK books in Meher Chand Market, Delhi  but please, I beg of you, don’t all rush out and buy it – I’ll never be able to invite you to dinner ever again!