For the past several days we've had an Italian cooking in my Kitchen, so today I thought I would run with the European Theme, and show you something that is quite typically French. The French and English share a somewhat tenuous love/hate relationship I think . . . we've come to love their cafe culture and flock over the channel in hordes to partake of their lovely foods and cheeses . . . and yet at the same time . . . we're not quite ready to embrace them as a people . . . nor are they ready to embrace us I don't think. I think perhaps they will always see us a little bit as intruders . . . and more than a little bit crazy.
They think we work too hard . . . we eat too fast . . . we don't know how to relax . . . our cheeses are boring (NOT) and the only thing we know how to cook properly is Roast Beef. We think they have a tendency to be a bit laisser faire about life . . . they take too long to eat . . . they eat far too much garlic, and they are missing cheddar in their cheese shops (only the best cheese in the world, lol) . . . not to mention, they eat some pretty strange things like escargots and frogs legs . . . oh, and all the men have mistresses . . .
(Note . . . these are only random generalizations . . . and not the way I really think. I am merely taking a fun poke at things. My father is French.)
In reality, I love French food and patisserie . . . I always have done . . . especially the rustic country fare . . . and who does bread better than the French??? I don't think anyone can beat their bread . . . the first thing I do when we go across to Calais on the Ferry is to indulge in a fresh Almond Croissant . . . and don't get me started on their Macarons . . . I just adore them. I could quite happily spend a week in a French Patisserie, indulging all of my whims and pastry fantasies.
This cake here today is a recipe which I gleaned from one of my favourite cookery books "Under the Walnut Tree, great recipes from our kitchen" by mother and daughter, Anna and Fanny Bergenstrom. No, they are not French. They're Swedish, but their cooking is a happy mix of all things European, including this lovely cake, entitled "Granny's French Pear and Almond Cake."
It's a lovely cake, gluten free . . . loaded with beautiful ripe pears . . . ground almonds . . . and I added a touch of ground cardamom as pears and cardamom are such a quintessentially beautiful partnership and marriage of flavours.
The end result is a cake that is a beautiful light . . . almost ethereal . . . creation. Simple and yet divine. Feel free to make this in individual dishes if you wish. That would be so sweet upon the table I think . . . for today though, I just baked it in one 8 by 10 porcelain baking dish . . . and it looked every bit as lovely as it tasted.
*French Pear, Almond and Cardamom Cake*
Serves 4 to 5
A light cake, stogged full of lovely sweet pears, ground almonds and just the merest hint of cardamom, which goes so very well with the pear. Serve warm with some pouring cream. If I am not mistaken this is also gluten free.
100g of ground almonds (19 TBS)
2 TBS butter, softened for buttering the dish
4 large firm, ripe pears
100g of butter, at room temperature (7 TBS)
100g of golden caster sugar (8 1/2 TBS)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
2 medium free range eggs
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
icing sugar to dust
pouring cream or vanilla ice cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Butter an oven proof dish with the soft butter.
Peel your pears, core them and then cut them into thick wedges. Arrange the wedges in the prepared baking dish and then pop them into the heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, while you mix together the batter.
Cream together the butter and caster sugar until light. Stir in the ground almonds, cardamom and salt. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the lemon juice until the mixture is smooth and combined. Remove the baking dish from the oven and spread the almond batter over top of the pear wedges.
Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes.
Dust the warm cake with some icing sugar and serve either on it's own, or with some pouring cream or vanilla bean ice cream.