The first Easter following our move to England happened to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This only meant one thing to us – extra holidays! So we set off on a camping trip to Wales where we encountered these yummy things called Welsh cakes. We also encountered some other interesting things like the guy who was into dressing up like Elvis and going to gatherings with other “Elvises” but that’s a story for another day.
What are “Welsh cakes” ? Really, they are a pancake more than a cake – made with flour, raisins/sultanas, spices such as cinnamon, butter,eggs and sugar. There isn’t really any baking time involved as you cook them on the stove in a fry pan. They are a lovely accompaniment to tea and go with any sort of fruit jam/preserve.
Do give it a go as it is incredibly easy to make and takes barely any time to put together. In addition, you can make it gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free if you’d like.
I have made this cake twice – once as a wedding present for a dear friend and once for my huband’s birthday – both in 2013, both decadent as anything and both having gone down an absolute treat with their respective recepients.
Weddings and wedding presents – always a tricky one for me. There are those people that tell me what they want and make my life easy. And then there are others who I care about, but I have no clue as to how my miniscule contribution could make a difference to there generally well set up lives. It is in the latter situation that I usually opt for cooking (usually baking) something for them so that they can remember the taste of it (and perhaps its maker) for many years to come.
I’m not a huge chocolate eater myself but I knew my friend was and I know my husband definitely is. It is his weakness and I often joke that he’d be easily kidnapped if someone dangled dark chocolate on a stick in front of his eyes. So, for me, this cake was a challenge on many levels – coming up with the right texture, appearance and taste for the occasion were very important. So I set about surfing the internet for inspiration and ideas and came across this lovely recipe by Lindsay & Taylor and I decided to give it my own twist.
Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.
All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.
With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!
Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom
WordPress tells me that it is my 100th post. I never thought I’d get here when I started writing on a cold winter’s night in December 2011. I also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the constant support and encouragement of my partner (now husband). To all others who have been with me from the time canwehavesomerasam started, I am eternally grateful. You keep my spirits up, encourage me and make me want to share my kitchen experiments with you. I hope you continue to do so and that I don’t disappoint you.
As this is a landmark post, I’d like to dedicate this post to my paternal grandma, Madras ajji who passed away a year ago. “Ajji” is the Kannada word for grandma and Madras, or Chennai as it is known as today, was where she lived most of her life. Despite being a diabetic for as long as I can remember, she still had a super-soft spot for sweets/pudding. The picture of her smiling in front of a large chocolate cake, on her 80th birthday, is one I will always have in my head when I think of her. While Mysore pak may not have been her favourite dessert, it definitely ranked highly on her list and hence, the dedication.
What is Mysore pak ? Well it is essentially Indian fudge made with just 3 ingredients – chickpea flour (or besan), sugar (white, refined, caster sugar) and ghee (clarified butter). As you can see, none of these ingredients are meant to be healthy. The word “paka” pronounced as you would “parka” means a sticky syrup usually made from sugar or jaggery/palm sugar. Mysore was the capital of Karnataka for nearly six centuries until the end of the British rule in 1947. Legend has it that Mysore pak was invented in the royal kitchens of the Mysore palace and the royalty enjoyed it so much that they got the cook to set up a stall outside the palace so it could be shared with the common people. Today, it is one of the most popular desserts in the state and features on many a wedding, birthday, and anniversary feast.
Note: Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredients – Mysore pak is one of the hardest desserts to get right and timing is everything. I hope to demonstrate it to you with my good and not-so-good versions.
Good version of Mysore pak : Soft and literally melts in the mouth
I promised I’d share this recipe a little while ago on my Orange and lemon curd blog but hadn’t gotten around it until today. I’ve been hanging onto this little bit of paper onto which I scribbled the ingredients for the cake and was overjoyed when I found it today on one of my cleaning missions. I thought I’d better write it up before I lose the bit of paper again.
My partner loves Chocolate-orange together in any form of dessert. So for his birthday, I decided I’d make a chocolate orange cake. Since I didn’t want to mess up on the day, I thought I’d give it a trial run first. The trial run was extremely successful both at home and in the office (yes, I am on a secret mission to fatten my colleagues – shhh….). I didn’t however make it for his birthday as he decided he wanted something different. I will write about the actual birthday cake at a later date.
With most recipes, my first port of call is the interwebs. There are hundreds of recipes for chocolate orange cakes and hundreds more for marbled cake. I looked up so many of them but nothing seemed to match the image I had in my head. Nothing, until this Pumpkin Marbled cake by Sabine from Berry Lovely.
I am not keen on food colouring so I really liked Sabine’s use of pumpkin in this recipe. Unfortunately, the only pumpkins I could buy here were really huge and it isn’t a popular vegetable in the house. So, I decided to use carrots to impart the orange colour to my marbled cake. Here is my take on Sabine’s take on a recipe from Sunset Magazine.
The legend of the Tesco sticky toffee pudding : I happened to stop at a giant Tesco on my way back from work one evening when I was quite hungry. Mistake number one. After shopping for ingredients for dinner (I mean after being side-tracked to buy dinner ingredients), I ventured into the naughty aisles at Tesco. Namely chips (or crisps if you are English), lollies, icecream and eventually the cold dessert section at Tesco. While this isn’t the most attractive section, my eyes were quick to spot the 2 for 1 pudding deals where the one was actually a pack of two puddings. So despite all the angels of health warning me against it, I came back home with 2 packs – one, apple crumble and the other, sticky toffee pudding. My partner surveyed them very suspiciously as he does with most of my “I’m trying something new from Tesco” buys but settled on the sticky toffee for pudding that night.
Gosh, I’ve been in England too long as I find myself replacing the word “dessert” with ‘pudding’ and ‘chips’ with ‘crisps’ ! Anyhow, the story ends with the Tesco pudding being an instant success and several more naughty trips to the mini-Tesco next door to try and find the same. Tesco in the UK seems like McDonald’s in the US. You are never more than 200m from one ?
A few days later, I went into grandma mode and said – If Tesco can do it, so can I and i can do it better. As usual, google had all the recipe answers. What I worked out was that a sticky toffee pud (get with the program!) was very much like my Sticky Date Cake except there was molten caramel underneath it waiting to flow when you turned it over. Looking for recipes for decadent puds such as a sticky toffee pudding, with hundreds of recipes online, only one caught my attention right away. It was by the queen of indulgent puds – Nigella. Once it was ready, I could , in all honesty, put my finger in my mouth and mime Mmmm Mmmmm!
Having lived in Melbourne for a while, I’d become used to the fact that a decent gnocchi was a tram-ride or a short walk away. Now having been in small-town England for a while, this is no longer true. I have to make what I want in my kitchen with what I can find here. It’snot too bad and thanks to food giants like Tesco, raw ingredients are easy to come by.
I came across this recipe one evening. I’d returned home from work as usual and my partner was going to be slightly late coming home so I thought “Why not make something a little more time-consuming?”. I can’t say I’ve eaten a gnocchi since I left Melbourne so I decided to query my fellow word-pressers for a recipe. Silvia’s recipe looked simple, achievable and tasty and that’ s exactly what it turned out to be. I passed it on to a colleague at work and I know she enjoyed it too.
When we were on holiday in France, I saw that we had potatoes and some parsley. It was very easy to find some dry white wine and a can of tomatoes and voilà, dinner was sorted for that evening. Where we were wasn’t parmesan territory so we used the same yummy sheep’s cheese as I did in the Summer spaghetti recipe. My partner’s mum made the sauce and I the gnocchi.