Clementine, cardamom and almond cake

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Seasonality is one of the most important elements of my cooking. I want the food  I eat to change with the seasons, and to enjoy ingredients at their very best.

That said, there are times when this doesn’t fit with life. Having been given a net of clementines by a relative recently, I wasn’t feeling that enthused to eat them. With a fridge groaning with fresh berries and cherries, all of which with a short shelf-life, we just didn’t get round to eating them. And so, I turned to one of my all-time favourite cake recipes to use them up – with a slight twist.

The addition of cardamom gives this cake a slightly different feel – a lean away from Europe. It makes a fantastic pudding, at any time of the year. Even in the summer months, it is fantastic served with some fresh raspberries, and maybe even some softly whipped cream and slithers of pistachio. It is equally lovely on it’s own with a cup of coffee.

Although it may seem a faff, I recommend you cooking and pureeing the clementines before you weigh them. 6-8 clementines should yield the quantity you require for the recipe. Any excess freezes well to use next time. I should also add that the tin used is a very useful one to have, if you don’t have one already. The ones I use are made by Silverwood.

 Clementine, cardamom and almond cake

Makes 16 slices

Ingredients

450g clementines, cooked and pureed and then weighed.

250g caster sugar

100g butter

3 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed

Method 

1)   Start with the clementines. Remove the calyx, and place the fruit into a large saucepan. Cover fully with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around two hours until the fruit is soft.

2)   Drain and allow to cool. Blitz in a food processor until it becomes a smooth puree.

3)   Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 12 x 8 inch traybake tin with greaseproof paper and set aside.

4)   In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together well until fluffy.

5)   Gradually add the egg, a third of the mixture at a time, beating well between each addition.

6)   Finally, fold in the cooled clementine mixture and cardamom seeds.

7)   Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

8)   Cool fully on a wire rack before slicing, as this cake will be soft.

Day Thirteen – Cod, lamb and blasted tomato fondue

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I came in even earlier than usual this morning to get my mise en place done, as I had five recipes to make this morning. Even so, I didn’t manage to do very well – the fish dish I made just took so long to make, and we had to fillet the fish together, which took ages, too.

Something seems to happen to me in the kitchen. I go in all organized, on time and know what I need to do, and then throughout the course of the morning, no matter how hard I work, I seem to get further and further behind and struggle to get my food out on time and manage all the clearing up, too. I’m trying not to rush so that I do things properly along the way, but I seem to get more and more out of control as the morning progresses. I’m not really too sure how to put that right, but there we go.

I find the equipment is taking a while to get used to. As I started making the tomato fondue, I placed my carefully sliced onions in the pan on the lowest temperature on the smallest ring to sweat, but I still managed to burn them within 5 minutes. I know full well how best to cook them and can manage them perfectly at home, but I just don’t seem to be able to manage it at Ballymaloe.

My marks were OK – generally 7s, but the teacher said it all tasted good. I think I got an 8 or 9 for my marmalade, although I’m not sure how it could have been improved.

I did manage to have lunch, get changed and ready for my flight in the break. We had Rory for the afternoon’s demo and we spent some time learning how best to butcher half a lamb carcass. By this time though, I must admit, I was struggling to stay awake after the hectic week. It’s not only physically tiring, but mentally, too as we have long mornings in the kitchen followed by a huge amount of information to assimilate every day.

I managed to get off on time after demo and catch my flight back, arriving back just before midnight. It’s been really nice to come back and relax this weekend. I’ve started to psyche myself up for Monday morning already though, as I have another 5 recipes to do on the day, too. Hopefully Monday will be a better day…

Day Twelve – I never want to see a Crème caramel again…

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Today has been a funny old day. The kitchens seemed to be a bit stressful today and I don’t think cooking was enjoyable for a lot of people. I certainly didn’t do a great job today. It certainly feels as though people feeling stressed rubs off, and can affect the whole kitchen. The teachers are just amazing though. They are all so nice and really go out of their way to help.

If I’ve learnt one thing today, it’s that I don’t like crème caramel. I didn’t think I liked them, I didn’t enjoy making them, and they were the bane of most people’s lives today, I reckon. Still, lesson learnt!

I made quesadillas for lunch (easy peasy, even have recipes for them in my books), but managed to burn most of my batch which I put in the oven (without checking the temperature (it was on 250C!)) to keep warm when Darina unexpectedly came over to taste my food and I panicked. Oh dear.

Still, at least I managed to have lunch, and I even managed to change my library books, which is progress.

This afternoon’s demo was with Rachel and we focused on fish. It was an interesting demo, although I sensed that I was not the only one starting to feel the effects of the week catching up on them.  After demo, I went to check on the adorable chicks, turn my cheese, prep my marmalade and head to the gym.  Tomorrow I am making bread as my duty, marmalade as an extra and a fish dish, plus a potato dish and a vegetable dish. I think I’ll have to get in quite early as I actually have a lot of prep to do. I also need to manage to change at lunch time, as I’m whizzing straight to the airport after demo.

I’m off home tomorrow for the weekend, so I will be back blogging in a day or two. I’ve had so many lovely comments and emails this week. Thank you all so much. It means a lot.