Cookbook authors can change the way we cook at home, inspiring recipes from other countries that become our new favourite dishes.
Renowned Israeli-British chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author, Yotam Ottolenghi has made Middle Eastern food the Western world’s new “it cuisine”. His first cookbook, Ottolenghi published in 2008 was an immediate international best-seller. With six additional best-selling cookbooks now published by Vancouver based publisher Appetite by Random House, Ottolenghi has become a household name around the world and gained a loyal following in Canada.
For many home chefs, the biggest obstacle to making Ottolenghi’s recipes is finding high quality Middle Eastern ingredients. Vancouver’s Persia Foods, which opened in 1996, now operates seven locations and is the city’s go-to for spices and foods from the Middle East, including much sought after Ottolenghi ingredients. Pomegranate molasses, exotic flavoured waters including rose and orange blossom, dates, persimmons, kumquats, edible rose petals, Persian cucumbers, tamarind paste, harissa, spices such as cardamom, sumac and za’atar as well as Middle Eastern breads are all to be easily found in the packed aisles.
This Valentine’s day celebrate love with this beautiful recipe, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s dessert cookbook, Sweet. Your home will be filled with intoxicating notes of rose, lemon, vanilla and almond. All ingredients found at Persia Foods. (Once you have the ingredients, this cake is easy to make)
Pistachio & Rose Water Semolina Cake
1 cup (150 g) shelled pistachio kernels, (plus 2 Tbsp, finely chopped, to serve)
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 cup (100 g) almond flour
¾ cup plus 3 Tbsp (170 g) fine semolina
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups plus 1 Tbsp (300 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus extra for greasing
1 ? cups (330 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 tsp), plus 1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp rose water (not rose essence)
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup dried edible rose petals for decorating
½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
? cup (80 ml) rose water (not rose essence)
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Greek yogurt for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease a 9-inch (23-cm) round springform pan and line with parchment paper.
Combine cardamom and pistachios in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the almond flour, semolina, baking powder and salt. Mix together and set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed until fully combined but take care not to overwork it; you don’t want to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. With the machine still running, slowly add the eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times and making sure that each batch is fully incorporated before adding the next. The mixture will curdle once the eggs are added, but don’t worry; this will not affect the end result.
Remove the bowl from the machine and add the dry ingredients, folding them in by hand and, again, taking care not to overmix. Next fold in the lemon zest, lemon juice, rose water and vanilla extract and scrape the batter into the pan. Level with an offset spatula and bake for 55–60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, but oily.
Make the rose syrup, about 10 minutes before the cake comes out of the oven (you want the syrup to be warm when the cake is ready). Place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring so that the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Don’t worry that the consistency is thinner than you might expect; this is how it should be.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, drizzle all of the syrup over the top. It is a lot of syrup, but don’t lose your nerve—the cake can take it! Sprinkle with the finely chopped pistachios and set the cake aside in its pan to come to room temperature. Remove from the pan and scatter dried edible rose petals over the cake. Serve immediately with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Cake keeps well for up to 5 days in airtight container.
Prepare to fall in love!
Claire Sear is a Vancouver based food, drink & lifestyle writer
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