If you’re in your thirties, live in Australia and like to cook, odds are that prominent in your kitchen is a fat orange tome. Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion is the cookbook of my generation. Arranged by ingredient, it goes from A-Z with more recipes and cooking advice than you can possibly imagine. Got a surfeit of asparagus and no idea what to do with it? Ask Stephanie. Want instructions for how to roast lamb? Look under L. Wondering what dill goes with? You know the answer. I’ve made many things from it over the years, but none more than this cake. Maybe because in colour it matches the book. Or maybe because it’s so effortless (apart from the boiling of the oranges, which you can do ahead of time, it's merely a matter of combining a small number of ingredients). Maybe it’s because it’s made with almond meal, and therefore able to be served to my growing number of gluten-free friends and family. Maybe just because it’s so good.
So from an Australian classic, a Middle Eastern recipe that made two Americans very happy when I made it as their wedding cake last year. Amy and Ewan, this one’s for you.
Middle Eastern orange cake
From The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander, who, in turn, credits Claudia Roden for the recipe.
The whole orange gives a full-bodied flavour and gorgeous colour to this cake, which is not only gluten-free (just be sure your baking powder fits the bill if you have this particular dietary restriction or preference) but dairy-free too. I like to boil the oranges the night before so that, on the day of cooking, the batter comes together in no more than five minutes.
2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds (almond meal)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Boil oranges in a little water in a covered saucepan for two hours. Allow to cool, then cut open, remove pips (if you're clever you'll buy Navel oranges and skip this step) and chop roughly.
Preheat oven to 190 deg C and grease a springform tin.
Blend oranges and remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for one hour. If cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in tin before gently turning out.
Dust with icing sugar to serve, if desired.