Our friends Christophe and Heli came to visit this past week. They were driving south to the city after spending Christmas along the north coast and stopped in overnight to break up the gruelling ten hour drive.
When they pulled into the driveway I was in the process of removing a moist orange, almond and polenta cake from the oven. I then greeted them outside on the grassy lawn and as they hauled their overnight bags inside they were met with my citrus infused kitchen and one seriously excited puppy.
We went surfing for a couple of hours and Christophe was helpful in pushing me onto some of the waves as I'm not very skilled when it comes to paddling onto my own. Byron and I are enjoying surfing and I was pleased B could join us as he'd only just arrived home following a 14 hour non-stop direct flight from Dubai to Sydney. Jet lagged but happy he persevered and I could see improvements in both of our surfing techniques in the short time we were in the water. We laughed and splashed about until we had goosebumps from being in the sea for so long, then came home to shower and enjoy an apéritif on the steps of our veranda before the mosquitoes joined us.
L-R: Christophe, Bella, Heli, Byron.
L-R: (By country) France, Australia, Finland, Malaysia.
We dined on poached salmon, sweet corn on the cob, potatoes and salad for dinner, then Heli prepared for us a Scandinavian nightcap called Glögg. Glögg is generally prepared in the wintry evenings at Christmas time in Nordic and northern European kitchens as it is a hot, spiced mulled wine. We enjoyed ours on a cool Summer evening from large mugs as we strolled along the beach under a full moon. It was incredible to walk along the beach at night under such bright moonlight and although our dark brown puppy was a mere black ball of shadow that excitedly darted along the sand, I could clearly make out my friends faces and the glitter-tipped edges of the small waves.
One bottle of Glögg (750 mL)
(Alternatively you can use a bottle of red wine, but you must also add 3/4 cup of sugar to a 1L bottle of wine)
250-500 mL of vodka (depending on how strong you prefer your drink)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of almonds
1/2 cup raisins
peel from half an orange
Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and stir over low heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble for ten minutes. Strain the fruit and cinnamon sticks from the Glögg and pour into mugs to serve. They're are many different variations of Glögg, including the addition of cardamon pods, dried figs and cloves but it's entirely up to personal taste. However, one thing is for certain when you use a bottle of Glögg, the undeniable Christmas scent of cinnamon as the mulled wine simmers.
Moist Orange, Almond and Polenta Cake with Citrus Glaze (Gluten Free)
2 small oranges or one large orange and 2 mandarines
3/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs brandy or orange liqueur
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup finely grained polenta
1/2 cup almond meal*
110g unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
*(Instead of almond meal, you can process 1/2 cup almonds, leaving some large chopped almond pieces for texture)
1 orange (strained juice)
1 lemon (rind and strained juice)
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs brandy
1 Tbs sugar
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit), grease a 22cm cake tin with butter and line the base with greaseproof paper. Wash and cut oranges and mandarines into pieces, leaving the peel on. Remove pips and process the fruit in a food processor or Thermo Chef blender until you achieve a thick pulpy purée. Transfer the purée to a sauce pan with the boiling water, add the 3/4 cup sugar and brandy and boil for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the purée from sticking to the base of the pan. Make sure you wear an apron because the purée may spit, which I discovered when wearing a white t-shirt (Hmmm... Not so white anymore). Remove from heat after the liquid has mostly evaporated and allow to cool.
Into a clean bowl, sift the brown rice flour and polenta together, add the almond meal and stir together. Set aside.
In your new red Kitchen Aid (Oh. My. Goodness. Was Santa aka Mum kind to us this year?!) cream the butter and caster sugar. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time.
Stir in the sifted dry ingredients, then the orange purée. Spoon the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for five minute before transferring to a wire rack.
For the glaze, carefully cut the rind from the lemon, remove any white pith from the fruit and rind, then slice the rind into long, thin strips. Strain the juice from the orange and lemon into a saucepan, add the lemon rind, honey, brandy and sugar and boil to reduce the mixture slightly. The glaze should be thick and syrupy.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly before serving the warm glossy syrup over a generous wedge of cake, whipped cream optional. I skipped the cream and enjoyed this moist orange cake on our veranda in the late afternoon sun with a cup of hot tea and Maxi cat curled up on my lap.
Did I mention I love the Summer time?