‘The kitchen is an enduring place of comfort and the food which comes out of it provides essential sustenance not just for the body, but for the soul too’.
(Nigella Lawson, Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home
On my 18th birthday my parents presented me with a copy of Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, the first of many cookbooks that now occupy at least a third of my bookcase. As you can imagine, Nigellas’ introductory statements are full of expressive adjectives and a lot of rather long words, ‘disingenuousness’ and ‘dynamism’ are but a couple of examples. But, underneath all the flowery language I connected with what she says about running away and finding solace in the kitchen. An immense satisfaction can be found in making something from nothing. In turning a few simple ingredients into a feast enough for the family. Cooking yields, it rewards with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of achievement and that cannot be a bad thing for anyone. Food has the ability to heal, body and soul, it is capable of nourishing the entire self.
These words resonate with me now, just as much as they did 5 years ago. Re-reading them could not have come at a better time for as winter dwindles, so too do my hopes of getting an actual career. I’ve faced a record number of application rejections this week and despite trying to stay positive about my future prospects, I’m finding it hard to remain resilient.
In spite of this abounding disappointment though, I’m staying the glass half full gal that I am. This week I’ve decided to make my Carrot & Pistachio Cake to re-gain that gusto, zest and umphhh. To help me return to my desk and bash out yet another cover letter.
The large quantity of carrot and use of rapeseed oil give this cake a wholesome and earthy quality, making a country gal like me feel right at home. It’s vibrant, it’s fresh and it’s my little ray of sunshine on this very February day. I know there are plenty of good carrot cakes out there but this one rocks the boat!
Note: I’ve trailed this recipe numerous times and need to point out that it’s important to use actual Philadelphia for the icing. And yes, for all you health bunny slim beans out there, that means the full-fat version. Soft or reduced fat cream cheese doesn’t have the same fluffy thickness and so won’t hold well. And no one wants a sloshy sloppy carroty nutty mess for a cake!
Carrot & Pistachio Cake
adapted from Sarah Randell’s recipe for Sainsbury’s Magazine
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground clove
4 large eggs
275g light muscovado sugar
250ml rapeseed oil
400g grated carrots
100g chopped pistachio kernels
zest of 1 lime
handful of blueberries to decorate
75g very soft butter
200g full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, chilled
100g Greek yoghurt, chilled
175g icing sugar, sifted.
preheat your oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Grease three 20cm x 4cm sandwich cake tins but if you don’t have 3 of the same tin, cook two of the three layers then wash and re-use a tin for the third and final layer.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground cloves into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, sugar and oil then whisk together. In a separate bowl mix together the grated carrots, pistachios, sultanas and lime zest then fold this into the egg mixture.
Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins and bake on the middle shelf for 25 minutes. Leave the cakes to cool then turn out onto a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the icing…Whisk the butter for a minute or so, until its pale and creamy. Add the chilled cream cheese and Greek yoghurt then sift in the icing sugar. Once properly cooled, begin icing and stacking the cakes.
The original recipe calls for icing the entire outside of the cake. I prefer to leave the outside exposed, finishing the cake with a layer of icing and decorating with blueberry’s, lime zest and a bit of cinnamon.
Thursday 11th February 2016