Season's finest January/February
by Antony Worrall Thompson
Orange and almond cake
It’s just as easy to eat healthily in the winter as it is in the height of summer. We have some fabulous foods out there just waiting to be tasted: from kale and purple-sprouting broccoli, to sinus-tingling horseradish and luscious shellfish, including clams.
We should eat several servings of dark vegetables each week, with leafy greens so rich in Vitamins A and C and folate. We really are spoilt for choice here – how about some wilted greens as a bed for moist and tender duck? Or add some kale to a soup to give it extra body. Try clams, full of zinc which helps the immune system, served in a light tomato, oregano, chilli and anchovy sauce with some freshly prepared pasta; or clams in a creamy chowder on a cold, dark miserable night.
January and February also herald the arrival of forced rhubarb. Now rhubarb is not as scary as you might think – just remember to cook the stalks, and avoid the leaves which are inedible and mildly poisonous. Rhubarb is so versatile it can be used in sweet or savoury dishes. It goes equally well with pan-fried mackerel or herring fillets as it does in a crumble.
Blood oranges and navel oranges are also good seasonal ingredients at the moment. The former are fantastic in salads as they are seedless and add a very daring dimension to a dish. Below is a superb recipe for navel oranges. To be honest, cakes are not my forte but this one is a doddle to make. I picked up the recipe in Spain and I’ve reworked it a few times until I think it’s one of the best cakes around.
Now I’ve given you this, I want something from you… I want you to try an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable this month. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. At least you have tried it. We have so much beautiful produce out there, packed full of vitamins and minerals, that it’s a crime not to make the effort and find out more.
Orange and almond cake
4 large navel oranges
200g/7oz caster sugar
200g/7oz ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 whole eggs
juice of half a lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Grease and line a 20cm/8” springform cake tin.
2. Put the oranges in a pan and cover with cold water. .Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check the water to ensure they don’t boil dry. After two hours, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
3. Remove the oranges from the water, cut two into chunks and remove any pips. Thinly slice the remaining oranges and lay one on the bottom of your cake tin. Keep the remaining sliced orange for the top of the cake.
4. Place the chopped oranges into a food processor with all of the remaining ingredients and blitz until mixed.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin. Top with the remaining sliced orange and bake for 45 minutes (keep an eye on this – you may need to reduce the temperature depending on your oven). The cake will be soft and moist, the usual ‘dry knife test’ doesn’t work with this cake.
6. Let the cake cool slightly before removing from the cake tin, cool on a cooking rack.