Tag: weekend baking

Spongy, spicy, dried-fruit-and-rum cake

Last Sunday, I was itching to bake something. A few days earlier I’d made Jamie Oliver’s hot toddy from the latest number of delicious. magazine and the rum-soaked raisins tasted like more, so I figured I’d do something with dried fruit and rum (how can you ever go wrong with something that’s soaked in rum?). I ended up tweaking another delicious. recipe from a piece they did on Surinamese food in February 2011. In the article, the cake is called keksi and made with Dutch gin (jenever) and amaretto. Since I had neither of these, I used rum instead. In addition to raisins, I added dried abricots and dates. I also split the recipe in half, since it was originally for 20 servings and there’s just two of us. As a last addition, I substituted the regular sugar for coarse cane sugar (in the spirit of Jamie Oliver’s fantastic toddy).

The result was very nice. The cake is very fluffy, sponge-like even. To reach this effect, it’s important to use many eggs and beat them long enough, as instructed. The earthy spices, rum and dried fruit make it a very autumn-worthy cake. Since the recipe was still fit for 10 servings, we both took some to share at work, where it disappeared quickly.

This is the recipe I ended up using:

125 grams of butter (+ extra for buttering the cake tin)

125 grams of regular flour (+ extra for the cake tin)

6 large eggs

150 grams of cane sugar

1 tbsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 tbsp of ground nutmeg (I didn’t split the cinnamon and nutmeg in half, in fact I always use more spices than indicated in a recipe)

2 tbsp of vanilla aroma (I’ve been making my own using vodka and vanilla beans – easy and way cheaper)

1 tbsp of almond aroma (I used a few drops of almond essence instead)

200 grams of mixed dried fruits such as raisons, abricots and dates, larger fruits cut into smaller pieces

100 ml of brown rum + more for the cake


Start in advance by soaking the dried fruit in rum: put the fruit in a bowl and top with rum until it is entirely covered. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a 21 cm cake tin with butter, sprinkle with flour. In the original recipe they recommend not using a springform pan (the kind that’s in two pieces) because the batter is very liquid and it might run. I ignored this advice since I had no other useful tin and it worked fine, you just have to be a bit more careful. Don’t use if you know in advance that yours is leaky.

Clarify the butter by heating it slowly in a saucepan. When it has completely melted, you will notice that there are some white things floating on top and some white stuff on the bottom. This is the protein that’s in the butter. Using a spoon or a slotted spoon, carefully skim the white parts off. When this is done, pour over the liquid butter into a bowl, being careful to withhold the bottom white protein parts. Don’t throw this away, it can be kept in the fridge and it’s a tasteful addition to mashed potatoes, for example.

Mix the eggs in a clean, large bowl with a hand mixer or in a kitchen robot. Add in the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and almond aromas (this is where I discovered I have no special grater for nutmeg and had to use my coarse cheese grater – whoops). Keep on mixing for at least 10 minutes, until the mixture runs from a spoon like a ribbon and has grown a lot bigger and airier. Slow the mixer down and add in the flour little by little, add a pinch of salt. Mix shortly until the flour is blended in and pour the batter into the tin.

Using a big spoon, drizzle in all but 3 tbsp of the clarified butter and blend it shortly with a spatula. Try not to lose the airiness of the batter. Lastly, put the soaked dried fruit through a sieve above a bowl (keep the rum in the bowl for later) then distribute it over the batter. I just dropped it in, which made it go straight to the bottom. Therefore, what later became the upside of my cake was covered with a dried fruit layer. If you want them spread throughout the cake, roll them in flour first and they won’t sink all the way to the bottom.

Bake the cake in the oven for 35 minutes. Then, cover the cake with the 3 extra tablespoons of clarified butter and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and flip it upside down on a plate, take the cake tin off. You don’t have to flip it necessarily, but if your fruit has sunken to the bottom this has a nice effect. Drizzle with the leftover rum from the fruit and some extra to taste. Enjoy!



Fall menu: Blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce

I love salmon. Smoked, poached, baked, grilled, in papillotte…  I wouldn’t know which way to choose. And while preparing salmon is pretty easy, it’s not always easy to decide what to serve it with. That’s my experience, at least. Sure, I love smoked salmon quiche with broccoli and goat cheese, and there’s plenty of classical salmon recipes, but every once in a while, we want something different, no? So I revisited one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon, which is blackened salmon. It’s a recipe that originated in Cajun cooking, in which the salmon is rubbed in a thick layer of spices and then baked, creating a ‘blackened’ spicy crust. Mmmm, I could hardly wait for dinner time once I decided I would make this.

But what to serve with it? There’s the problem. I once ate blackened tuna with mango sauce in Cactus Taverna, a great restaurant in Salisbury. But good fresh tuna is hard and expensive to find in Belgium, and I try to avoid tuna since it’s going extinct due to overfishing.  I decided to go for blackened salmon with mango sauce, and be bold and try out pumpkin and sweet potato as vegetable sides to balance the spicyness. Exciting! As it was kind of an experiment, I looked up a few ways to make blackened tuna, mango sauce and sweet potato baked fries on Tastespotting (always a great source of inspiration, if just for the wonderful pictures).

The result was delicious. There’s the spicy, slightly crunchy salmon, balanced by the sweet and mild mango. The earthy but flavorful pumpkin and sweet potato chips, also slightly spicy, make for a great balance. I have yet to perfect an elegant way to serve the plate, but the taste was surprisingly complementary. Do try at home!

Blackened salmon spices
Making the mango sauce


Fall vegetables
Pumpkin and sweet potato fries


Coating the salmon with spices
Baking the blackened salmon












The result: blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce


Recipe for four people:

For the blackened salmon:

-four pieces of fresh salmon, preferably bio/organic

-spices: black and white pepper, salt, paprika, thyme, basil, rosemary, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, ground dry chili flakes or spicy chily powder, cayenne pepper (you’re free to improvise according to your own pantry here)


For the mango sauce:

-Two very ripe mangos

-Juice of one lime

For the pumpkin and sweet potato fries:

-Half of a small, flavorful pumpkin (I used a chestnut pumpkin)

-2-3 sweet potatoes (I actually didn’t have real sweet potatoes but some kind of in-between Turkish long potato I picked up at the local store)

-olive oil

-salt and pepper, dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, some spicy chili powder

Start cooking!

Start with the pumpkin and sweet potato as they will take the longest. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 F). Peel the pumpkin and potatoes and cut into long fry-shaped wedges. Put them on a metal oven-proof platter covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices, toss carefully so everything is covered. Put in the oven and let bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the fries are soft but still have bite (this depends on the kind of vegetables, your oven…)

While the vegetables are in the oven, start with the mango sauce. Peel the mangoes and cut them into cubes. Put in a mixer bowl with the freshly squeezed lime juice. Mix until you have a thick, fluid sauce. Keep the sauce ready in a saucepan to heat before you’re serving.

Cut the salmon into the desired amount of pieces if necessary. Mix all the spices. I don’t use an exact formula but I tend to start with the first listed in the largest quantities, then move down to smaller quantities, depending on how spicy you like the crust to be. When the mixture is ready, heat up a pan (a grill pan is also possible, try to use one that conducts heat well, like a cast iron) and let some of the butter melt at a low temperature. Take the salmon and sweep it through the butter on both sides, then through the spice mixture.  Put a little more butter into the pan (you don’t need to smother the salmon, just so the crust won’t burn) and heat it up. When the butter is hot and melted, put the wedges of salmon into the pan and bake on both sides until the insides are done (not overdone, it really is a shame to ruin salmon by letting it get too dry, so check regularly on the inside of it’s still rosy).

Put the salmon on a (warm) plate, arrange the fries around it or underneath and top with some hot mango sauce. Yum!