Wednesday, 31 October 2012

P's Delicious Heymische Lunch

It was A's birthday recently, and among the treats which various people stored up for him, A's mum P cooked up a wonderful traditional Jewish lunch for A & C (and A's dad J). P is a great cook and, frankly, it was too good not to write about.

Salt beef

P really pushed the boat out, starting the meal off with a couple of home-made starters. First off, she made baba ganoush - a Middle Eastern paste made up of aubergines, garlic and spices. P added a couple of extras to her version in the form of fresh pomegranate seeds and a bit of tahini, and the results were fantastic; the two extras gave the dip an extra depth of flavour, with slightly stronger tart and bitter notes than A's version, and it was certainly lighter on the garlic too. We definitely approved.

Delicious starters

P also made egg and onion, a traditional Ashkenazi dish made with hard boiled eggs and onions. As with many traditional Jewish recipes, there are about as many ways to make this as there are Jewish families, and P has developed her own recipe. Unusually, P fries white onion in simulated chicken fat (a kosher product which is used in milky dishes to replace real meat fat), before adding the egg. This stands in stark contrast to the way A's grandmother, S, prepares the dish; she uses raw spring onion, which produces a wholly different result to that of P's version. 
While this stuff doesn't leave one's breath smelling the freshest, the egg and onion combination is a Jewish classic and is certainly very tasty. C, who had never tried egg and onion before, was extremely impressed and is looking forward to the next round (not that she's hinting at all, P...!). This was served up with Matzo, the traditional unleavened bread eaten at Passover to remind Jews of the exodus, but available all year round.

The main event

The main event was salt beef with red cabbage, peas and mash. Again a Jewish classic, and well known to many inhabitants of the East End due to the popular bagel bakeries on brick lane (we're particular fans of the 24 hour bagel shop), P gets her salt beef from an Italian butcher in Cricklewood who is well used to supplying meat to a Jewish clientele. Essentially a piece of pickled brisket, which is slow boiled in water, the dish is as classic as it comes and especially when served with chrayne, a purple beetroot and horseradish paste which replaces mustard on many Jewish tables. The flavour of salt beef is truly fantastic, and when properly slow cooked it comes out beautifully soft and flaky.

C is still a newbie to this kind of food (although she once had a salt beef bagel with A, and has also sampled the excellent salt beef dish at Smiths of Smithfield) and couldn't get enough of the stuff; the large piece of meat was seriously depleted by the time everybody had had their seconds.

And dessert

For dessert, P served up a white chocolate and raspberry brownie, with fresh fruit and fruit sorbet: the brownie was gooey and delicious, and were complemented perfectly by the sharp fresh flavours of the fruit and the sorbet. Though not a traditional Jewish dessert, it rounded of the meal perfectly. P's baking was outstanding, and the choice of elements to the dessert was not only among A's favourites, but as ever with P's cooking, was of the highest order.

Nom nom nom

Thanks P, from A & C!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A & C Cook: Pomegranate-Infused Persian Lamb

A few weeks ago, C invited a number of her friends over for a casual Sunday lunch. It had been a while since she'd seen this group of people, so she and A really pushed the boat out and made something truly scrumptious. We wanted to do a Sunday roast with a bit of a twist, and, as we're both huge fans of Middle Eastern food, we looked to the dishes of that part of the world for inspiration (some would say we're nothing if not predictable...). Once again, the region didn't let us down, and we managed to present a slow-cooked joint of lamb, roasted in pomegranate and cumin marinade, as the centrepiece of the meal. Mmm.

Unusually for us, this recipe doesn't come from our old favourite Pomegranates and Roses - A's Persian cookbook and our go-to resource for Middle Eastern recipes. Instead, C actually scoped out this dish from the BBC website; while A was initially skeptical (he's not a huge fan), even he had to admit that this recipe is a real winner.

The Best Lamb Baa None

Essentially the dish is a roast lamb shoulder, done more or less in the old traditional English fashion, but with a fancy marinade to boot. The tricky ingredient to find is the pomegranate molasses, but with a little perseverance you can find it around. After having a middle-class breakdown when he realised that Waitrose failed to stock the stuff, A could breathe easy once again when he discovered it in the artisanal foods section of a local Sainsbury's, tucked next to the preserved lemons and the dried porcini mushrooms (darling).

Sheep thrills

The results were excellent: because the lamb is slow roasted, and sealed in silver foil with a bit of water, the meat came out beautifully moist and flaking off the bone. Both tart and warming due to the combination of the pomegranate molasses and the cumin, the flavours were intense but not overpowering, and the lamb was succulent. The juices with the onion left at the end can then be reduced and thickened with flour or corn flour to make a luxurious and slightly sharp gravy to serve over the meat and any accompaniments.

Bleating the competition
That's good meat for ewe...

A shoulder of lamb will more than do for eight, and we found that with our extra mini-joint both of us had food parcels to keep us going for a couple of days. Ralph, C's cat, was also very pleased as he got many a tasty morsel in his food bowl as well. The cat, as it turned out, actually did very well for himself; C stored some leftovers in the fridge for herself for dinner the next day, which mistakenly got fed to the cat in a bit of a mix-up. It's safe to say that he didn't mind, though...

We served our lamb with a basic saffron rice dish (essentially fried rice cooked in saffron-infused water) and an Iranian mint salad, which did in fact predictably come from Pomegranates and Roses and is one of our favourite dishes to serve up at short notice at home.

Bowled over by the rice

This doesn't break the bank, either; using lamb shoulder from Sainsbury's, the dish cost less than £3.50 a head, which we felt was excellent value for a roast.

Normally we provide a recipe on the blog, but as this one is already neatly typed up for us on BBC Food, here's the link instead.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Queen's Park Farmer's Market: Here's to a lazy Sunday afternoon...

Though A and C now spend a lot of their time hanging out in the Docklands, A is still a north London boy at heart and needs to go back every once and a while for a fix of his old haunts. Given that many of his friends still live in the area, there is generally no shortage of opportunities to return to an NW postcode. A little while ago, A's friends T and E invited A and C up for a visit Queen's Park farmer's market and a spot of lunch at their flat in Kilburn, so A coaxed Surrey-girl C into venturing north into the polar wastes of NW6 find out what all the fuss was about.

The big cheese

A and C are believers in farmer's markers - we've written about them before - as we like the idea of buying organic and local. As Queen's Park's has often won awards, we were particularly keen to check it out; and, as T and E live in the area and go all the time, they were happy to show the rookies the ropes. The market takes over a primary school's playground on Sunday mornings, and there is a huge range of stuff on offer: amazing organic veggies, splendid bread and cheese and hot food stands make sure the goods on offer are fresh and varied.

The spread

We came back with quite a haul: fresh tomatoes from the tomato punnet man, some English charcuterie (such things exist, but apparently come with quite a price tag!), fresh bread and a Bath soft cheese. The latter was really the stand-out item of the day: soft, creamy and incredibly moreish, it disappeared quicker than you could say Jack Robinson, with C making short shrift of a quarter of it about as soon as we'd taken it out of its wrapper. 

The quality of everything we had was excellent, though Queen's Park does suffer from the malaise of some of London's farmer's markets: outrageous pricing. For some reason, organic farmers think that middle class Londoners will pay silly money for even the most basic ingredients. A caught sight of bottles of passata for a fiver and the small salami A purchased cost £8.50; a fact which we only found once we'd agreed to buy it as no price was displayed. 

A fine lunch

The trick of not giving a price and then asking for an arm and a leg once you'd agreed to take an item was repeated in several parts of the market and it means that if you're not careful you can part with a significant portion of your pay cheque in a very short space of time. Oddly, this doesn't seem to happen beyond the M25: such silliness was not in evidence in Stroud, nor has A seen it at Yorkshire farmer's markets near his grandparents, uncle and brother. We suspect it's a London thing.

T and E contributed some salad ingredients (all off shot), more bread, fruit, some Indian delicacies, and hobnobs (from Sainsbury's, not the farmer's market). The pair clearly knew their way around the market; everything they'd picked out was great, and the hobnobs went down a treat too.

And now for dessert...

The result was a wonderful, if decadent, lunch, which left all four of us feeling full and happy. We discussed going for a swim to burn the food off, but by the time we'd got around to deciding anything, we'd all hit a post-prandial slump and all we wanted to do was loaf about.

All hail the lazy Sunday afternoon and here's to the next farmer's market Sunday lunch...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Mooli's: Soho Indian Street Food Heaven

Street food is huge at the moment; so big, in fact, that even Britain's most successful supermarkets are planning to start stocking it in store. While we're a little confused as to how the freshness, spontaneity and individuality of street food buys would translate to a mega-store, the fact still remains: the street food scene is massive, and it's only set to get bigger.

Before turning freelance, C worked in Soho for a good while and rapidly learnt two very important things: one, that tourists always walk incredibly slowly and bring even the calmest Londoners out in uncontrollable rages; and two, that there are an abundance of excellent places to go for lunch (hence the rise of blogs such as What’s For Lunch Soho). C regrets to say that she didn’t truly appreciate this when she actually worked in the area, and it was only after turning freelance and working in other bits of London that the realisation occurred (“What? There aren’t at least 30 possible independent eateries for me to buy a good quality lunch under £5 within a 5 minute walking radius of my desk?”).

Nowadays, she really misses the variety of cafés and takeaways on offer in Soho; and so, finding herself near Piccadilly Circus one lunchtime this week, she popped in to one of her old and confirmed favourites – Indian street food joint Moolis.

It's a wrap

The concept of the food at Moolis is really quite simple: for the uninitiated, Moolis are wraps, filled with meat such as chicken, beef or goat or a veggie option such as paneer cheese or chickpeas. Along with the main element of the wrap, you also get a variety of other delicious fillings - such as lentils, coconut, raita, pomegranate salsas, coriander, red onions, tamarind, chutney, mango, cumin and more.
One of C's old work colleagues once described Moolis as "Like a burrito, but better", and C would tend to agree: think of it like the Indian equivalent, and you more or less get the picture.

C's tirelessly worked her way through the menu over the years in her attempt to ascertain The Best Mooli (it's a hard task, but someone has to do it) and, while it's a tough call, her favourite is still the first she tried, and probably the simplest: the chicken. Subtly spiced, the chicken comes with lentils, pickled turnips, fenugreek and raita. Simple enough, but amazing.

Going to the Moolis

Moolis isn't just great for the food: the venue itself is brilliant. Put simply, the place doesn't take itself too seriously: think bright colours, fun furniture, friendly staff and fun interactive pin boards and you begin to get the idea.

And finally, a word of warning: Moolis website opens with the line “Warning: Moolis are seriously addictive.” This is not an idle threat: they really are. Grab just one Mooli one day and you’ll be spoiled for life – you’ll even get cravings. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Soho good

Thursday, 25 October 2012

İki Çay Lütfen

One of the many things that A and C loved about their trip around Eastern Turkey was the tea - and we're not talking the tourist-trap apple stuff. Oh no. We're talking real  tea. 

For C, the day doesn't start without a cuppa (very strong, two sugars and just a dash of milk), and so it was was great pleasure that she quickly discovered Turkey's unique tea culture. A can usually take or leave tea, preferring to kick his day off with a coffee - but even he developed a weakness for the stuff during our time in Anatolia. It's that  good.

Rosie lee, Turkish style

Turkey is actually a pretty large producer of tea, with the mountains of the north east near Rize providing excellent conditions for the plant's cultivation. The climate's mild and humid here, and the shrub thrives on the foothills by the sea - driving through the winding paths on hair-raising roadtrips, rows and rows of tea plantations grow on the mountainsides as far as the eye can see. Traditionally, women undertake the backbreaking task of picking the delicate leaves off the plants and in season many women can be seen plucking leaves off the plants before the stuff's transported for processing. 

Sadly, most of the vast quantities of harvested tea never leave Turkey, as domestic demand is so high that it all but outstrips supply. This is a real shame because, generally speaking, the quality's very good, and certainly better than the traditional English builder's tea. C, the massive tea drinker she is, pointed this out on more than one occasion.

Özçay billboard close their factory outside Rize

Visit anywhere outside of the tourist traps, and it's not difficult to see why so little Turkish tea makes it out of the country: locals take any excuse for a tea break, and it accompanies all kinds of social interactions. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all accompanied by tea, and it's used as a social lubricant as well as something to simply pass the time. Where it's available to buy, tea is extremely cheap (a few pence per cup) and often it's available for free. 

By way of example, A and C were sitting in a bus company office at the end of the earth (not a huge exaggeration) in Kars waiting for our ride. As the bus delay got longer (common in Anatolia - we once waited in a Trabzon bus terminal for several hours for a delayed bus, but happily made a collection of friends who kept assuring us that the bus would come, no problem - "problem yok"), we were plied with tea by the staff. While it may have been done in part to placate us, tea drinking is just part of everyday culture here - even customers who had buses arriving on time were served more than their fill of tea as they waited. Tea is deeply ingrained in the culture here, in a way that's strongly reminiscent of the Southern Cone's culture of yerba mate.

Even if you don't have a taste for Turkish tea when you first arrive in Anatolia, you better make sure you develop one pretty quickly - it's not really the 'done thing' to decline an offer for a cup of Çay and certainly, by the time you get out to Eastern Anatolian around Trabzon, Kars and down further to Van and beyond, it could easily cause offence if you repeatedly decline offers from locals.

Taking tea in Safranbolu
The tea itself is black (although as the pictures show it comes out a russet red) and is made in a samovar, a method of tea imported from Russia. A samovar is essentially a stove-top contraption made of a pair of tea pots: the larger teapot underneath contains simmering water, while a small one above contains a highly concentrated tea. A small amount of the tea concentrate is poured through a strainer into the bottom of a tulip-shaped glass and diluted using the water from the large pot. Turks also have a pretty bit sweet tooth and a 125ml teacup is usually sweetened with one or two large sugar lumps to finish (this appeals to C's sweet tooth). A small Turkish samovar will easily produce 15 to 20 cups of tea and keep people going for a good couple of hours. Refills are pretty easily done, by adding more water (and tea leaves as necessary) to the two pots, meaning you can go all day with the samovar if you really want to. Turks often do, leaving it on for hours to simmer.

And, briefly, a word of warning about the apple tea that so many western visitors enthuse about when they return from a trip to tourist-heavy Turkey: there's a reason that only tourists drink it. While people will try and sell you 'apple tea' in the Southwestern areas of Turkey and in Istanbul, it's hardly traditional, and is essentially just a granular form of concentrated apple juice produced specifically for the tourist market.

When C was buying jewellery at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, she was offered a choice of black or apple tea when she entered into negotiations - a customary practice in Turkey, where, like in the UK, everything is discussed over tea. When the proprietor found out where we'd been immediately before Istanbul (that is to say, all over the depths of Anotolia), he apologised profusely for even asking, and had the tea boy run off through the Bazaar to bring us some black tea immediately; he knew we'd seen enough of the culture to be in the know. 

Dark tea: tea in Turkey is drunk "dark" or "clear"

Many other teas are on sale in the Bazaars of Istanbul, but the only real stuff is the black tea from Rize. The biggest player in the market is the state-owned Çaykur, though other brands such as Özçay and Doğadan are also easily found.

Touristy teas for sale in Istanbul

By way of translation, the title of this post means "Two teas, please" in Turkish.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Melrose and Morgan: Of Tea, Boho Delis and NW3

A was suffering from a fit of nostalgia this weekend, and begged C to go with him up to Hampstead for an afternoon drifting around his old schoolboy haunts. Fortunately, C always is happy to visit the area as she loves poking around the second hand bookshop on Flask Walk, and knows that the pastries available in the Village are of the highest order (and the crépes - but that's for another post). There are all the usual chains and a host of wonderful independent places scattered along the High Street, down Rosslyn Hill and in the surrounding streets.

Pie and grinders

While we usually go to Hampstead cafés Ginger and White or Louis, we decided to break with tradition and stopped into Melrose and Morgan, a modern take on an old fashioned English provender shop and tea room. Set on a back alley in the heart of the Village and selling lots of fresh goodies, the place is a delight. We settled in on their mezzanine cafe for a cup of tea and a rest. 

M&M's interior, stuffed to the gunnels with goodies

While C usually goes straight for the sweeties, she fancied something more substantial this time and ordered a sweet potato pie and a cup of tea, in what was possibly the most feminine and middle-class football lunch imaginable. The pie was excellent: the pastry was crisp and tasty (no Mary Berry-esque soggy bottoms here, we're pleased to report) and the filling was delicious - sweet potato, small new potatoes, spring onions, red onions, a variety of herbs and a crunchy, cheesy topping.

They don't serve it like this at Selhurst Park...

A wasn't hungry at all, so settled on a pot of white tea, which came attractively presented in a little purple teapot with a minature mug. White tea is one of A's favourites, and he can drink gallons of the delicately flavoured stuff. Melrose and Morgan's really hit the spot, and there was many an audible mmm and aaah as A worked his way through the pot. Pleasingly, there is a hot water cistern at the back of the mezzanine, and customers are free to keep refilling their water until the leaves are spent. This seems like a very good idea; perhaps more cafés should offer this kind of service where loose leaf teas are available.

Apple cake - we think...

While we didn't eat any of them, we did poke around the sweet treats section of the provender shop downstairs: there seemed to be a whole variety of things on offer, as the pictures show. They change their fillings daily, and we can't quite remember the specifics of the cakes on the day we went, but there were certainly apple cakes and lemon curd mini-pies on offer (which C wished she had room for - old problem of eyes and stomachs, though). While we can't vouch for the taste, they certainly looked and smelled amazing.

Mmmm: M&M's delicious-looking sweet pies

While this place isn't a Hampstead café classic like Ginger and White or Louis, it's certainly well worth checking out. The place is doubly attractive as you can pick up some scrumptious stuff without having to amble down to the Rosslyn Deli (or whatever its successor institution is now called) to get any treats for the fridge or larder.

A small selection of the massive range of honey available

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

C Cooks: Baked Camembert with Homemade Garlic Bread

Baked camembert - is there actually anything more enjoyable to eat? C has spent some time pondering this question (yes, really) and can only come up with a handful of things she likes as much as this. For the uninitiated, camembert is wonderfully gooey, soft, runny cheese which is just perfect baked in the oven until the top puffs up a little and starts oozing. Particularly good infused with rosemary, it's perfect served up with fresh crusty bread - and what could be more French than authentic, homemade garlic bread? Mmm.

With this in mind, here's C's little guide to how to make delicious baked camembert and garlic bread. Trust us, it's worth having a go...

A slice of heaven?
First things first: select your camembert. It's not the cheapest cheese and is likely to set you back a few quid, but it's not horrendously expensive either and is generally easy to come across in supermarkets. In C's opinion, Coeur de Lion from near Le Mont St Michel in Normandy is always a good bet (although the best camembert is usually found at farmer's markets and specialist cheese shops rather than large stores, of course).

A soft heart

As mentioned, Camembert is best served baked in the oven and extremely gooey; before you put it in, though, grab a handful of fresh rosemary and a garlic clove. While the oven is heating up (200c/Gas Mark 6), unwrap the camembert from the plastic and place it back in its wooden box. Next, take a garlic clove and run it over the top of the camembert to give it a little hint of garlic. Finally, make several small incisions on top of the camembert and place sprigs of rosemary in each little hole. If you're feeling especially naughty (!), now is the time to drizzle olive oil over the cheese too (C refrained from this level of decadence this time though!).

Pop into the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, or until the cheese is starting to brown on top, puffing up slightly and cheese is starting to ooze out of the little rosemary gaps.

And now for the garlic bread! Camembert can be served with crudités or any good crusty bread - but it's nicest (in C's opinion) served with homemade garlic bread.
If you haven't made garlic bread before, it's really super easy. C has to admit that she cheated this time and didn't make the bread herself, but the filling is from scratch and is super easy. For half a garlic bread loaf, all you need is around 25g of butter, a good helping of parsley and a couple of garlic cloves.

First, leave some butter out of the fridge for a while until it's soft and melty. Next, crush a garlic clove and stir in, along with about half a tablespoon of parsley. Note: if you use one garlic clove, it comes out not quite garlic-y enough for C's tastes, but two and it's overkill, so C always puts in about one and a half.

Make incisions in the bread - just like you're slicing it, but be careful not to cut all the way through - and carefully smear the herby garlic butter mixture between each slice. Wrap in foil, pop into the oven and bake for ten minutes, then open up the foil and cook for another five minutes until the top browns nicely.

Get the bread out of the oven, cut open and serve - it'll be all soft, gooey and delicious. As will be the camembert - remove the rosemary, prod the top with a fork to peel back some of the rind and reveal the soft melted cheese underneath. Mmm! Food Heaven.

Friday, 19 October 2012

A & C Bake: Sablés with Guatamalan Rum

Both A and C like to bake (and not just when the Great British Bake Off is on the telly!), and home-made sablé biscuits are one of their favourites. A used to live in France and developed a bit of thing for these crumbly, shortbread-like biscuits while he was out there. On his return, he set about finding out how to make his own, and these now regularly grace the table at afternoon teas or are fed to his flatmate N (lucky N!)

These biscuits are delicious cookies originating from the Maine area of France, near the Loire valley. Why they are called sablés is unclear, but it could be a reference to their crumbly texture: sablé means "sand". Ultimately though, it's not about the name, it's about the biscuit which is frankly amazing (if we do say so ourselves).

Basically, our sablés are all about the rum. We use the multi-award winning Ron Zacapa from Guatamala: we know it's not very French, but accept no substitutes. The stuff is potent, and wonderfully aromatic and lends the cookies a sweet honey flavour that's really delicious.

These are quite tricky to do though: undercook them and they come out a bit gooey, and overcook them and they blacken and go rock hard. Unfortunately the oven at A's current flat is a little temperamental, but when we've done them at C's place (where the oven actually works!) we get a far more consistent finish.

Here's how you do it; our recipe comes translated from the French cookery bible: Je Sais Cuisiner (I know how to cook).

  • Butter (for greasing)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 250g flour

Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark VI and grease a baking tray with butter. Mix together the eggs, sugar, rum and flour to make a soft dough. Put small piles of dough on the tray, well spaced out (our experience tells us that the mixture gets sticky really quickly so be liberal with flour and water on your hands. If the balls are not perfectly round, they come out funny. Also, try to keep the balls really small to stop the middles remaining undercooked). Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

It is that easy.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Grill at 424

A's parents, P and J, recently arrived back in London after a stint out of the UK, and deciding not to cook for themselves on their first evening back, they invited C and A to dinner with them somewhere in North West London. P and J initially suggested Turkish food, but A and C vetoed the idea after their fortnight in Anotolia. Instead, P and J, mentioned a new Modern European place in Child's Hill which they had heard good things about but not yet tried. As this option didn't necessarily involve another Patlican Kebap (aubergine kebab) or Iskender, A and C were keen so off they went.

Cooked to perfection

The Grill at 424 is an unassuming little place, tucked on a small parade of shops between Golders Green and West Hampstead. The name comes from its location: 424 Finchley Road. Despite it being relatively out of the way, it's a real gem of a place, serving up tasty pan-european food and doing excellent grills.

After avoiding the starters, P and J both opted for the bunless beef burger. These were huge, and according to both, were quite delicious. The mince was tender and flavoursome, and was cooked to perfection: both ordered their burgers medium-rare and it came out pink but not undercooked, leaving P and J as happy customers.

Delicious lasagna stack
C went for the butternut squash lasagne, which came presented in a stack, covered in a cream sauce and covered in parsley. The sweetness of the squash was complemented by the creaminess of the cheese, and C couldn't stop cooing about the presentation, which was fabulous. A however, drew the short straw with the fish and chips. While it was OK: crispy batter and soft fish, and yummy crispy french fries, A got a serious case of food envy when he looked around the table.

Slightly anaemic-looking  fish supper
The dessert however, saved the day for A. Always predictable, he went with an old favourite - tiramisu - and was not disappointed. The mousse was creamy and light, and heavily aromatic with the coffee and masala wine. Given that C will swoon over anything with lemon, the lemon posset was a sure-fire winner, though C made sure to admire it's lovely presentation in a martini glass, garnished with squiggles of lemon zest, before attacking it.

Rockin' good tiramisu
Lemon is an anagram of melon
Generally speaking the food at the Grill at 424 is excellent, but go for the meat or pasta dishes as the fish, while acceptable, really is the poor relation on the menu. Bear in mind that it's not the cheapest place, with mains ranging from £10 to £17.50 but we felt that it was for the most part worth the money and a good place to look up if you are in NW11.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

C Bakes: Persian Yoghurt Cake

We may have mentioned before that C loves cake, being inflicted with a sweet tooth (see here). Regular readers among you may also have observed this blog's fascination with the Middle East (see here, for example). When A recently purchased a Persian cookbook called Pomegranates and Roses (highly recommended) therefore, C leafed through it straight away in search of sweet things, becoming immediately besotted by "Grandmother's Yoghurt Cake". Yoghurt? In a cake? With lemon and many other delicious things? Yes please!

For Goodness Cake!

Somewhat mesmerised, C first made this when she and A hosted a picnic back in August for some of A's friends, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it went down particularly well. With some culprits (not looking at anyone, of course, but A and his friend T might have had something to do with it) eating slice after slice of the stuff, the cake disappeared in no time and before she'd had the chance to take photos for the blog.

Beats me!

When A, with a mouthful of the last few cake crumbs, stated that this simply meant C would need to bake it again, it's fair to say she didn't feel too disheartened. So when A & C invited several of C's friends over to dinner a few Sundays ago and settled on a Persian theme - something they'd experimented with before, but not for C's friends - there was only one dessert she wanted to make: Grandmother's Yoghurt Cake.

Rising to the Occasion
Again, C was pleasantly surprised at the rave reviews from her friends; she was particularly smug when the general consensus proclaimed it the stand-out section of the menu, along with the pomegranate-infused lamb (more on that next week).

What makes Grandmother's Yoghurt Cake so good? While C would like to pretend it's her baking skills (Great British Bake Off, eat your heart out), more realistically she has to admit that it's due to the unusual consistency and the creamy sweetness - not overpowering, but really aromatic.

Ready for a slice of the action

C has just been baking this as below, but is keen to experiment now - she's thinking of adding rosewater (a Persian favourite) or pomegranate (flavour of the month) but would welcome any other suggestions, too...

Flour power

Here's how you do it:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • weenie pinch of salt
  • 250g sugar (caster or granulated)
  • zest of half a lemon (use a zester)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 75g melted butter (or olive oil - C has only ever used butter though)
  • 300g full fat natural yoghurt (you can do it with low fat, but the crumb isn't as good)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark IV. Prepare a 22cm non-stick cake tin by rubbing it with butter, especially the edges. In a large bowl, sift flour with baking powder, bicarb and salt. In another bowl, whisk sugar with lemon zest for a few seconds. Add eggs to the sugar and lemon zest and whisk for 3-4 minutes with an electric beater. Whisk in butter/oil yoghurt and vanilla extract, switching to spatula half way through. Fold batter until just mixed - do not overbeat. Pour batter into tin and bake for 30-35 minutes (C always allows at least 40) or until a knife comes out clean. Leave in tin for 5 minutes to rest but no longer as the cake will go gooey. Turn out and leave on rack to cool fully. Serve sprinkled icing sugar on top or any other preferred garnish.

In all, the cake takes about an hour from start to finish, excluding cooling time.

Guaranteed to Sell Like Hot Cakes!