Yesterday was my Grandpa’s 90th birthday. Tonight is the big fancy-pants celebration at The Boathouse (and the food is most certainly fancy-pants… I still get smiley when I remember the dessert I had last time I was there), but for the day of the birthday itself, my mother and I cooked for those of the family who could make it for Friday lunch. (That is to say, the three grandparents and the three relatives up from Tasmania, and not my dad [at work] or brother [in the wrong state].)
Let me tell you this: you know it’s going to be a good lunch when it involves two entirely separate dessert courses.
First up we had various cheeses, chips, dips, and antipasto nibblies, then we twirled ourselves over to the table for a platter of Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes, a green salad with walnuts, and what was without a doubt the star dish of the savouries, Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Cumin. Did I mention this was the dish I had sole control of? And that it was the star dish? Me? Star dish?
Just so we’re clear on that.
What’s that you say? That pumpkin is all well and good, but two desserts are even better? Well, I suppose I could tell you about that part of the meal too.
The first dessert was the birthday boy’s request, and was cooked by my grandma. Sadly, I cannot give you the recipe for her baked apples with honey, cloves, and dates, as without seeing it being cooked I can’t be sure it wasn’t made by magical apple fairies working through the night à la the elves in that shoemaker fairytale.
The second dessert was also, I must admit, not cooked by me, but I did eat it. That’s something, right? The recipe was created by my late aunt, who published several cookbooks in her time but sadly passed away before I was old enough to hold onto memories of her. This cake was to be in her new cookbook, and my mother chose to bake it so that my aunt, my grandpa’s daughter, could be with us, in a sense, at the celebration.
This Cherry and Brazil Nut Cake is simple and quick-to-prepare, and culminates in a densely-nutty cake highlighted by bursts of cherry sweetness. Because the recipe uses brazil nuts for its base, it has a unique texture quite different to the softness of a cake made with, say, almond meal. With a few minor adaptations (which we partook in) the cake can be gluten- and dairy-free.
The cake received very positive reviews from its audience, and while I did enjoy it, I think I’d make a few changes in the future. I’d love to try it with Morello cherries for a contrasting flavour zing, and would consider adding in some ground cinnamon. I do love spices.
My aunt’s recipe notes also suggest serving it with marsala-flavoured cream, which might be a nice way to gussy it up, if you go for gussying.
Cherry and Brazil Nut Cake
– 1 cup wholemeal flour (Mum used a mix of 2/3rds rye flour and 1/3rd cornflour)
– 125g coarsely ground brazil nuts (ground in food processor – can also use macadamias)
– ½ cup raw sugar
– 2 tsp baking powder
– pinch salt
– 3 eggs
– 3 tbs Marsala (Australian tablespoons = 20ml)
– 250g pitted cherries (if fresh are not in season, use drained canned cherries, or other berries)
– 2 tbs melted butter (we used Nuttelex)
- Preheat oven to 190C (375F).
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Beat the eggs and Marsala with electric beaters until thick and creamy. Fold this into the dry ingredients with the cherries and slightly-cooled melted butter.
- Spoon into a well-greased 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin, and bake for 35-40m.
Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Cumin
– 1kg pumpkin (we used Kent, but it turned out perhaps a little too soft. Next time, I’d try with Butternut.)
– 1 tb olive oil
– 2 tsp honey
– 2 tsp cumin
- Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
- Peel and deseed pumpkin, then cut into 1cm-thick slices. Place in a baking dish.
- Mix together oil, honey, and cumin, then pour over pumpkin and mix well. To be honest, the honey and cumin tended to clump together, put don’t worry about that. Stirring it during cooking disperses everything.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until cooked through and delicious.