Almond, Pear and Olive Oil Cake

The seasonal change has hit our southern shores, swapping the warm breeze for a crisp chill. I have packed away my summer dresses and sandals to wrap myself in wooly layers, scarves and boots. To accompany the cooler weather, the stalls now abound with glorious winter produce, whose main purpose is to nourish and comfort. As I type this I’m embracing this sunny yet cool day, sipping tea and indulging in my second slice of this incredibly moist pear and almond cake, lightly scented by cinnamon and mandarine. Cold months to come, I fear you not! INGREDIENTS, makes1

3 small pears

3 eggs

1 cup of brown sugar (plus 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the pears)

Cinnamon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of buttermilk

juice of 1 mandarine

1 cup of almond flour (almond meal)

1-1/2 cup of self-raising flour (gluten free flour will also work)

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F)

2. Line a round cake tin with baking paper. Sprinkle the base with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a little cinnamon

3. Cut the pears into two, scoop out the core, then cut each half into two, lenghtways. Line the base of the cake tin with the pears.

4. Beat the eggs with sugar until fluffy, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, oil, buttermilk and mandarine juice and whisk well. Add the almond flour and the sifted self-raising flour and gently incorporate them into the batter without over mixing. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

5. Turn up side down and leave to cool on a rack for 30-45 minutes before serving. Enjoy as it is or with vanilla gelato, cream or thick Greek yoghurt.

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Carbonara (Egg and Bacon Pasta, Carbonara Style)

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Carbonara is told to have been created by the Carbonari, groups of secret revolutionary societies founded in early 19th-century who sought the creation of a liberal, unified Italy. Members of the Carbonari, and those influenced by them took part in crucial events in the Italian Risorgimento. Others say that it was first invented by some Italian charcoal burners, Carbonari. Whether you fancy attributing a romantic and heroic origin to this dish or a more rustic one, it doesn’t change the fact that Pasta alla Carbonara is one of the most delicious and morish combination of four ingredients: eggs, pork, black pepper and pecorino cheese. Because of the simplicity of the recipe, outside of Italy, home cooks and chefs alike are often tempted to add extraneous ingredients such as garlic, onion, parsley or, alas, cream. Please, resist this temptation! Carbonari knew what they were doing back in 1820.

The dish has remained unchanged in Italy since then.  The reason being that the dish is perfect as it is.

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This will feed 4 hungry people.

150 gr (1/2 cup) or diced Pancetta or Guanciale

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

400 gr (3/4 lb) of Rigatoni or Spaghetti

4 whole eggs+ 2 yolks

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper

200 gr (1/2 cup) of grated Pecorino cheese

How to

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

2. In the meantime, slowly pan-fry the pancetta or guanciale in a little olive oil until it renders its fat and it turns crispy and a sun-burnt pink colour. Discard the fat for a healthier option. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, drop the pasta in and stir.

3. While the pasta cooks and the salty and sweet aroma of the pancetta starts to make you salivate, prepare your egg mix.

4. Beat eggs with a good sprinkling of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add the grated pecorino and combine together.

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5. Once the pasta is cooked to a perfect al dente, toss it in with the pancetta and allow for the flavours to combine. Reserve a few table spoons of the pasta cooking water

6. Off the heat, add your egg and cheese mix and stir though very quickly, to avoid over cooking the eggs, add a little acqua di cottura  (pasta cooking water) if it looks like it’s drying. Add a little more cheese to bring the temperature down and amalgamate. The residual heat of the pan and of the rigatoni, along with the pasta cooking liquor, will cook the eggs, but will keep it creamy in texture.

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Crack a bit more black pepper if you like and raise your glass to passionate Carbonari Giuseppe Mazzini, Silvio Pellico, Lord Byron & co.

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