Jane Moss describes the pleasure of cooking in the Rosemerryn kitchen and shares a recipe that’s perfect for Christmas.
One of my favourite moments in our retreats comes near the beginning, when Kath and I arrive and begin to make Rosemerryn our home for the week. It’s the peaceful morning before our guests arrive, when the kitchen is ours and the supplies for the week are all put away, ready to be used.
In those quiet hours we make preparations, so that later in the week our soups, stews and cakes can appear effortlessly, as part of the retreat magic. In November I baked a new dessert, to go with our lamb tagine evening meal; a Spanish orange and almond cake, completely free of dairy produce or flour. It sounds unlikely on the page – oranges, ground almonds, eggs and a little sugar – but I had tasted it before and knew it would be a delicious addition to our autumn menu.
Is there anything more soothing than the scent of two whole oranges, skin, flesh and juice, all simmering away for several hours in the warm kitchen? This is a recipe that requires time; ideally the oranges are cooked in advance of the cake being baked, so the flavour mulls and deepens before the oranges are mixed into the other dessert ingredients before the final baking.
It’s a pleasure to share this recipe. I shall be making making it again for Christmas and serving it with homemade ice cream and a dash of Pedro Ximenez dark sweet sherry. At Rosemerryn we served it warm with Cornish ice cream (of course) and, for our dairy-avoiding guests, Swedish Glace, a delicious alternative that tastes of rich vanilla and feels like velvet on the tongue. Sainsburys and Tesco both stock it.
Here is the recipe for Spanish orange and almond cake.
- 2 oranges, scrubbed and roughly chopped, with the skin on
- 5 eggs, separated
- 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
- 225 g (8 oz) ground almonds
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
- Sifted icing sugar to decorate
- Put the chopped oranges in a small saucepan, discarding any pips. Add 1 tbsp water, then cover and cook gently for an hour or until the oranges are soft and excess liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool overnight, then mash or blend to a soft pulp.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Line the bottom and sides of a 23 cm (9 in) spring form cake tin with baking parchment. Finely chop the oranges in a food processor or blender, or with a large knife.
- Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in half the caster sugar, then whisk for 1 minute.
- Using the same whisk, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar in another bowl for 2–3 minutes or until pale and quite thick. Whisk in the finely chopped oranges, then carefully fold in the ground almonds.
- Stir in 3 spoonfuls of the whisked egg white to loosen the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites with a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
- Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.
- Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn it out, peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate.
- Warm gently before serving, dust with icing sugar and slice into segments with a nice blob of Cornish (of course) ice cream.
Have a wonderful Christmas, from Kath and Jane.