Monday, April 13, 2009

Eating in Regal Style at The Orangery, Kensington Palace in London

When one visits London The Orangery at Kensington Palace is a must! Upon entering The Orangery one can't help but gasp at it's beauty! This brick building was built in 1704 by Queen Anne for entertaining in the summer and sheltering fruit trees in the winter. Because it was once used essentially as a greenhouse it is all white, stunning floor to ceiling windows, lush Baroque style, and countless Corinthian columns.

Everything I had was delicious and so perfectly proper from the cucumber cream cheese and chive tea sandwiches, poached salmon and dill tea sandwiches, fruit scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam and my favorite...the Orangery Cake! The cake was a decadent (no diets allowed whist at The Orangery!) orange pound cake with rich orange butter cream frosting. I have done my best to replicate the recipe, try it for a festively spring tea party!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup low fat sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp orange zest
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Serves 8 to 10.
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a round cake pan and dust with flour.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until blended. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and orange and lemon zest on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until just blended. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and stir until both are just incorporated. Stir in the sour cream, then sprinkle with the remaining flour mixture and stir until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap gently on the counter to even out and settle the ingredients. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes, or longer if using a metal pan. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and lift off the pan. Place the cake on one of its sides and continue cooling. Once cooled cut the cake in half, frost the middle, place the top on the cake, frost entirely (it may take two crumb layer and then a final of frosting)

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. orange juice, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. You want the texture to be creamy but still hold its peaks

Wine Pairing:
Although I had a cup of tea that afternoon this cake would be a perfect pairing with a flute of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Amaranth, A fantastic Farmer's Market Find!

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to head to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. The Market is open every Sunday from 9am-2pm. Whenever I go I am sure to pick up all the usual produce one might get from the grocery store but much fresher and for much less! I also love the Farmer's Market for finding unusual fruits and vegetables that a store might not carry. This past weekend I found quite a treat! What I found was a beautiful bunch of Purple Amaranth.

Amaranth has approximately 60 different species with colors ranging from purple to red to gold! Although some may mistaken it for a weed, to others it is invalueable for it's use as a leaf vegetable, and even used ornamentally. It's flavor is very close to a spinich. The uses are many depending on the culture; in India it is added into preparation for certain dals, in China they use it in stir fry, in Vietnam and in the Caribbean it is used to make soup and in Greece it is boiled, served with olive oil, lemon and as a side to fried fish. These are all delicious ideas but I decided to make it a pesto! Check out my recipe below and serve this simple but beautiful (look at the color it turns your pasta!) dish as a change from your usual green basil pesto!

1 bunch of purple amaranth
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup basil infused or regular extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 pieces turkey bacon chopped
2 cups ziti/pasta with ribs to catch the sauce
salt and pepper to taste


Remove all the amaranth leaves from their stems and blanch your leaves for only about 30-40 seconds in boiling water and have a ice bath ready to drop the leaves into. This process of blanching and shocking the amaranth will help lock in it's beautiful color, and it turns the water bright purple! Save some of that water (a tsp or 2) for adding to the pesto. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the amaranth as you can (like with spinich!) and add it to a food processor with your parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, cumin, garlic clove and pulse for about 20 seconds, now continue processing while adding in the olive oil. If it still seems too solid now is the time to add the extra blanching water. Meanwhile boil the pasta and set aside and in a fairly large sautee pan on medium heat cook up your bacon pieces. Once the bacon has cooked, remove it from the pan for a minute and put in the pasta and pesto and toss lightly letting some of the bacon drippings flavor the pasta, add in the bacon again and grated parmesan. Add salt (remember bacon will add salt too!) and pepper to your liking and enjoy!

Wine pairing suggestion: Try a French Burgandy ! I liked 2007 Domaine Marius Delarche, Pernand-Vergelesses, Old Vine Reserve. The slight smoke and spice will be a great pairing with the bacon and cumin in the dish!