The Teacup Chronicles

Category: Winter

A cake of citrus and teff

It feels so nice to sit down at the computer for a moment. To breathe. To sigh. To let things sink in just a little. It’s been a difficult week. I’ve spent most of every day sitting in the hospital with my Dad and my family. Watching him sleep. Watching him trying to eat and not being able to. Cleaning him up when his meals come back up.  Encouraging him to walk, to get out of bed, catching him when he collapses. Wondering what is going through his mind. So many emotions. I wouldn’t k now how to begin to describe them.

I made this cake several weeks ago, before things had gotten bad. It feels like a different time, even a different life when I made it.  It was such a pleasant day, one of those days where everything has a sense of harmony to it, things click along with ease. I woke up to the rain pounding down on the roof and I decided to make a cake. I made coffee, turned on a CD of Garrison Keillor stories and started baking. The falling rain, the smells of burnt sugar and citrus wafting through the house, the warmth of the oven – made everything feel like a happy dream. What I remember most from that day is hearing Garrison say, in one of his many Lake Wobegon stories, that friendship is a thing that comes about when you discover a mutual need in another. It stuck with me.

And now, several weeks later, those words have taken on a deeper meaning for me. In all of those moments when I discover all the ways that I need and am needed – when I hold my Dad’s hand and I know it says more than words; when I walk with my Mom while he’s sleeping and we laugh and vent and comfort each other; when my sister and I stay up until midnight talking – I feel that need that ties us all together.  Because I think that need that Garrison was speaking of – that dependency people feel, the sense that another fills some requirement of your spirit that you just can’t survive without – I think that’s what creates the feeling of family too. Knowing that you are needed, and knowing that you need.

So here is the recipe, a perfect cake for sharing with the people you need (and love) most.

A Cake of Citrus and Teff

I used a few Seville oranges I had left over from marmalade making, but lemon would be perfect too since not everyone has Seville oranges knocking around. This is what I like to call an afternoon cake – not too sweet, a little more on the wholesome side – something you could snack on with a cup of tea.

Topping:

  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly into rounds
  • 2 tbs demerara sugar
  • 4 tbs water

Cake

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup demerara sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 4oo degrees F and line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment. (Or use a 9 inch loaf pan).

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan with the lemon slices. Simmer until most of the liquid has been evaporated (about 5 minutes) and the lemons are sticky and delicious. Set aside.

Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix till combined.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the citrus zest and vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and mix until well combined

Add the flour mixture, the milk and the lemon juice and stir until everything is incorporated.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and arrange the sticky lemon slices over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before taking out of the pan and serving.

 

Update 5/26/12: My mind must truly be more out of it than I thought because someone quietly and sweetly pointed out to me this morning that there was no sugar listed in the ingredients but there was in the directions. Whoops! I’ve fixed that in the recipe now, but I truly apologize for any confusion or unsweet cakes that have resulted from that mistaken omission.

Savory apple crumble with squash, pork and rosemary

Recently I was watching a TED talk about longevity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those who have some insane obsession with living forever. But I am curious about why it is that certain cultures tend to live longer than others. Or more specifically, I should say, I’m interested in how they tend to live better. Because, when it comes down it, these cultures not only tend to have longer lives, but higher quality lives as well.

Quality of life – it’s a concept that we have trouble grasping here in the West, isn’t it?  I remember once a man coming up to me at a party after learning that I’d been studying herbalism and natural health. He nudged me with his drink, spilling some on my shoes, and said,  “You can’t live forever, you know.” When I asked him to explain what he meant, he gave me a knowing wink and said, “Why waste your time on salads and the like just to live a few years longer. Why not enjoy yourself a little before you go!” He held his drink up to make it clear to me just what kind of enjoyments he was endorsing, and wandered off to talk to someone who was not eating a salad.

But what he failed to grasp, and what a lot of people tend to misunderstand – even some who value health themselves – is that being healthy is actually about enjoying yourself. It just involves enjoyment of a deeper and more fulfilling nature than the more distracting sorts of surface enjoyments we tend to value in our modern-day. And despite what this particular man might have thought, being truly healthy has very little to do with pro-longing life either (that just tends to be an added perk).  Health is about valuing the life in front of you. About tending it with the loving care that is given to things that really matter. About celebrating each day in that deep and reverent way that makes your spirit sing and your time sacred.

I was thinking of all of this as I put together this crumble for dinner the other night, inspired by a recipe in Beatrice Peltre’s new cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande, of the same name as her wonderful blog. Her cookbook and her recipes are a true testament of the inspiring, celebratory and deeply gratifying nature that health should embody. They are a celebration of season, of the wisdom of cultural traditions, of simplicity, and of the amazing and profound flavors that come from fresh, wholesome, quality ingredients. It’s the sort of cooking that I love – the happy marriage of wholesomeness and deliciousness.

Because it was cold and snowy, I immediately gravitated towards the idea of a savory crumble (how have I never thought of this before?!?) and because there are only so many more weeks left of squashes and apples, I wanted to incorporate them in too. The crumble is wheat free – as many of her recipes are, but the focus is more on the inclusion of other more nutritious whole grain flours, and less on the absence of wheat, which I like. This is the recipe that was born from it, and as I sat down and ate it with the snow falling gently down outside, quality of life became more than just an esoteric concept. I can’t be sure if eating it added a month or a year to my life, but I can be sure that it added a good deal of joy and contentment to my day. And that is what health is really about.

Savory Apple Crumble with Squash, Pork and Rosemary

This recipe can easily omit the pork if you are vegetarian – just add an extra 1/4 cup of grated cheddar. You can make it in 4 individual ramekins or make it one casserole dish, depending on your preference.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 lbs of organic, pasture raised ground pork (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces (I leave the peel on)
  • 1 small kabocha squash (red kuri or butternut would also be good), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • a handful of fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the stems and minced + 4 whole sprigs
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner Cheddar)

For the crumble:

  • 1/3 cup amaranth or millet flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 6 tablespoons organic, unsalted butter, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When its had a chance to warm up, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the pork and the allspice, and stir occasionally until the pork has begun to brown and is pretty much cooked – about 5 minutes. Add the apple, squash, garlic, ginger and rosemary and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the apples begin to soften and caramelize in places. Add the vegetable stock and cider along with the additional rosemary sprigs, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for a further 30 minutes.

While the filling is simmering away, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F and make your crumble topping. Place the flours, nuts and seeds, rosemary and a generous pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl. Add the cheddar and the butter, cut into small cubes, and work it into the flour with your fingertips, until you have a nice pebbly dough with no pebbles bigger than the size of a pea.

Once the vegetable and pork mixture has finished simmering away, take off the heat and stir through the cheddar. Portion the filling into 4 greased oven proof dishes or ramekins or into a casserole dish. Scatter the crumble mixture over the top, and place in the oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top. Serve with a simple green salad.

Kale salad with apple, roasted beet and caraway

I never though I’d say so, but after a winter of nearly no snow and long stretches of mild sunny days, I’m happy tonight to hear the plow scraping up and down the road again, happy to see the snowflakes briefly exposed in his headlights. It’s a nice feeling. I thought I was ready to welcome an early spring and be done with winter, but now I know that I wasn’t. I need a few more days filled with the sort of quiet and stillness that only falling snow can create. Those days are golden. They are what winter is all about.

It’s been a very long week for me – a week of working those sorts of extra long days that make you almost collapse into bed by the time you finally arrive there.  Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot of energy leftover when I get home to invest in cooking. The romanticism of a slowly simmering stew or a long, slow cooked joint of meat is quite lost on me on such days.  Instead, I want something easy to put together, something nourishing and satisfying that will keep my head above water (not like the box of cookies and carton of ice-cream that have so tempted me) . So it’s been a week of winter salads – chunks of brightly colored roots, tender greens, beans, nuts – you name it  (whatever I can find in the fridge or cabinet really) – tossed together and smothered in various dressings. I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying them.  Pairing those sweet earthy roots (which frankly have begun to lose some of their charm) with bright and fresh flavors, with the crisp bite of freshness, seems to reinvigorate the winter larder in a very necessary way.

Last night, I blessed my Sunday self for having the foresight to roast a batch of beets to have on hand throughout the week. Discovering them each wrapped up in their shiny coat of aluminum foil was like discovering a box of treasure hidden away as a child. Rarely do I feel so pleased with myself.  I sliced them up and tossed them with a crisp and juicy apple, tender Red Russian Kale, a scattering of toasted almonds and sharp, tangy cranberries, and topped the whole thing off with toasted caraway and a sweet-sour pomegranate dressing. Just looking at it seemed to make me feel better.

Kale salad with apple, roasted beet and caraway

I love the nutty earthy flavor of caraway and I think it pairs really nicely with the beets, kale and apple. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however, so leave if out if you wish. The beets can be roasted ahead of time, as I have done, which makes the salad preparation much speedier. 

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale
  • 3 smallish sized beets or 1 large beet
  • 1 apple (granny smith or another more tart variety would be a good choice), cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium-sized or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 good handful dried cranberries (about 1/3 -1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/8 cup walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap each of your beets individually in aluminum foil (seems wasteful, but you can save the foil for future beet roasting) and place on a baking tray in the oven. Check them after about 40 minutes for doneness. When done, you should be able to easily pierce a knife through the center of the beet (which is rather like plunging a knife through a heart, if you are so morbidly inclined as I am). Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use your thumb and forefinger and rub the outer skin off.

To toast your walnuts, place in a baking tray or dish in a single layer and put them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. They should be fragrant and turning golden. Be sure to set a timer as there is nothing worse than discovering a tray of charcoal black nuts in the oven!

While your beets are roasting and your nuts are toasting, prepare the kale. De-stem the leaves and tear them roughly into bite sized pieces. Place them in a bowl and add a drizzle of walnut oil and a little salt and pepper, massaging the oil into the leaves to slightly wilt them.

Mix together the ingredients of your dressing in a small jar with a lid. Place the lid on and shake vigorously to incorporate the ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.

Once all of your ingredients are prepared, assemble the salad. Add the sliced roasted beets, the shallots, apples, cranberries and dressing, and lightly toss a few times with your hands (which will turn them a lovely oily carmine). Place a good heap onto each plate and top with a scattering of walnuts and caraway.