Sicilian Orange Olive Cake

DSC_03756 whole eggs                                rind and juice of 1

1 cup sugar+1tsp salt                  1 tsp. almond extract

1/2 cup virgin  olive oil                ¼ cup sliced almonds

2 cups unbleached flour              2 T. cookie crumbs

+2tsp. b.p. +1/4 tsp soda             Confectioner sugar

Make sure eggs are warm before you start. Beat eggs with sugar until frothy and white approximately 10 minutes. Slowly pour olive oil add orange rind and juice, salt, almond extract. Continue beating 2-3 mins. Sift flour and baking powder and soda and fold in on slow speed. Do not over beat, fold with spatula to make sure there are no clumps. Have a prepared  buttered 9” spring form pan. Sprinkle sliced almonds and cookie crumbs. This is optional, I save some almonds for top of cake. Preheat oven to 350F. Lower heat after 30mins. To 325F It bakes approximately 1 hr. depending on oven calibration  if more is needed lower temp to 315F. I cannot resist sprinkling hot cake with 2 T. of rum , it evaporates but leaves  its fragrance. Dust with confectioner sugar.


Lavender Marzipan Cake



10 onz butter unsalted (softened)
1 cup sugar
 4 whole eggs
 2 ¼ cupsflour +2tsp. b.p. ( sifted together)
I tsp. salt
 !/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
 1T. rum
 8onz. Marzipan roll into small balls
!/2 cup sliced almonds
 !/2 cup brown sugar  1-2 T. lavender flowers

Beat sugar into soft butte, and add one egg at time, salt and flavourings, sift flour and baking powder add sour cream and flour alternatively.Butter 9” mold and sprinkle half the lavender, sugar and sliced almonds. Roll marzipan into small balls and spread evenly over batter.  Push marzipan balls into cake batter so they are almost covered. ( they will sink more during baking).  Sprinkle the other half of sugar, lavender and sliced almonds to cover top of batter. Bake in 350F oven, It may be an unusual long bake because marzipan interferes with batter being baked, perhaps 1-10 mins. Cover in foil loosely at 45 mins bake time to avoid over browning or lower temp to 325 after 25 mins. .

* Marzipan. Consider making your own, easy and cheaper with less of a sugary mouth feel Scald 1 cup whole almonds for 2 mins in boiling water, rinse in cold water and peel almonds by squeezing skins off. Dry before grinding in processor with 2 T. confectioner’s sugar, until fine. Make syrop 1 cup sugar and ½ cup water, until syrop soft ball stage, add 1 tsp almond extract, and pour into food processor, into ground almond pulse 1-2 mins until syrop integrated. Remove and cool before proceeding to making balls .

Orange Almond Torte

Orange  Almond  Torte

The beauty of this recipe is that because you don’t separate eggs or soften butter or shell almonds it can be done in 5-6 mins.

1 cup unshelled almonds , 4 whole eggs  3/4  cup sugar ½ cup flour + 3 almond cookies ½ tsp salt  1tsp almond extract. Process almonds and cookies fine. Melt butter 10 onz. cool 5 mins. Beat eggs w/sugar salt almond extract add melted butter fold flour and almond cookie misture.

Butter 9” spring form pan. Preheat oven 375 F.

*Note: Lacking almond cookies use vanilla lacking any add 1/3 cup flour instead.

Cut 1 orange in long strip w/out pith boil rinds for 5 mins add 1 cup sugar and gently caramelize rinds 15 mins. Use orange strip to decorate top of torte add 2-3 T rum to syrop and pour over cake to glaze.

Antonia’s Almond Cake II

Ingridients:          2 cups of ground almonds with 2/T  confectioners sugar   10 T butter unsalted softened  2/3 cups sugar , 4 large eggs separated , 3/4 cup unbleached flour , 1 tsp. b.p. 1 tsp.salt  flavourings: 1tsp. almond extract, 1 tsp lemon rind, 1 T.rum

Process:          Grind peeled dry almonds with 2 T. confectioners sugar finely. In food processor beat egg yolks with sugar, add butter one tablespoon at a time add flavouring and salt add ground almonds beat, add flour and beat briefly sufficiently to mix. Beat egg whites separately w/ pinch of salt soft peak stage slowly beat 4 T. sugar until stiff but not dry.  Incorporate 1/3 egg whites into cake batter to lighten. Gently incorporate the rest. Butter 9″ spring form pan add 1T. sugar  shake sprinkle 2-3 T. sliced almonds evenly on bottom. Pour batter tap bake in 375 F for 30 mins reduce to 325 bake 20 mins . You may have to cover w/foil last 10 mins.   Brush with rum syrop while hot. brush again when cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve in 24 hrs. texture improves.

Walnut Torte

I read some version of this torte by an Englishwoman living in France.  This is an effort to reconstitute the recipe .

Ingridients:  2 slices of dry rye bread of good quality 1/2 cup expresso or very strong coffee.. 1 1/2 cups of ground walnuts 10 T(135 gm) softened unsalted butter 1/2 cup light brown sugar 4 large eggs separated 1/2 cup flour unbleached 1 tsp. b.p. 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla. 4T granulated sugar for egg whites pinch of salt.Rum syrop 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup water boil until syrop  1/4 cup rum.

Procedure: Oven dry rye bread pour expresso over it allow to sit 20 mins cut off rind . Put bread in food processor grind briefly adding butter, egg yolks, nuts 1/2 cup flour flavourings includind salt.  In separate clean bowl beat egg whites w/pinch of ssalt soft peak add 4 T. sugar until glistening do not overbeat. Fold egg whites in two batches to lighten cake and 2nd more carefully. Put additional walnuts around the cake and sprinkle them w/ a little sugar, they should stay on top.  Bake in 8″ buttered spring form pan 400 F. oven 25 min. and reduce to 325 F. for another 35 aprox. Brush w/rum syrop while still hot and then a few hours later.

It occurs to me that a variation could be to remove the butter and make a sponge and perhaps increase syrop with or without bakeng powder

Peruvian Chupe de Camarones


This is a prawn chowder,  its provenance is the coastal region of Peru,  Arequipa but a great favourite in Lima as well.  The name chupe, derives from the verb “chupar” which means to suck. I will venture to guess it’s because the prawns are cooked with their shells and sometimes even their heads  and sucked out. ( they are still deveined through their shells w/ small scissors)   The prawns should be 30 count per lb.but smaller is also possible if care is taken not to overcook.

METHOD;  Saute onions in oil and peppers, add vegetables in the order of cooking time, add 1 skinned chopped tomato and water to cover vegetables and shrimp stock if you have it from cooking the shells simmer until vegetables almost done add milk-bread mixture (Heat milk and soak a white crustless bread and process,  ahead of time) this will thicken chowder in the last 7-8 mins.Adjust seasoning and add prawns cook 5-6 mins, add peas and lastly chopped fresh flat parsley.If you have decided to clean shells do not neglect to make good use of the shells,dry saute in small skillet until bright pink add water 1-1/2 cup,  celery leaves, 1/4 sliced onion small carrot , bay leaf, cook for 10 mins. strain.

Serves 4-6 depending on courses.

1 lb. of prawns 1 cup of shallots or onions
1 rib of celery, sliced 2 carrots young, sliced
2 cups of boiling potatoes cubed 2 young zucchini or other squash
1 red or yellow pepper 1 large chopped tomato skinned and chopped
1/2 cup milk heated 1/2 split aji or fresh pasilla*
1 slice of white bread 2 T. fresh oregano or dried 2tsp.
1/2 cup 1/2&1/2* salt &pepper to taste
2 tsp. dry shrimp powder* lemon rind 1 tablespoon
4 white corn cobs split 1/2 cup cooked rice*
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley 1/2 cup of frozen peas

* You can substitute coconut milk whole can 10onz.

* 2 The chilis will depend on your tolerance, fresh green pasilla

with seeds is pleasant , save seeds and add little at the time.

The Peruvian yellow aji available frozen or dry, reconstitute.

*3 dry shrimp available in Hispanic or Middle Eastern stores

*4  the rice should be further cooked with vegetables

Thai Prawns in Chili Oil with Bamboo Shoots



   This dish was superbly executed by Siam Cafe in University Avenue in Berkeley.  So  much so that I had nightmares that one day it would not be available. I confided this to my son Etienne who on the spot invaded the kitchen to see the dish prepared. The owner graciously offered to sell us the cookbook which had the recipe. (Thai cooking from Siam Cuisine Restaurant, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley , California) In Etienne’s opinion the btu for the range has to be higher for commercial use and high enough to char the  ingredients. Nevertheless even  without the smokiness, (being a purist have not tried liquid smoke) it is a complex and worthwhile dish.  I have stream lined the process without sacrificing flavour.

1 lb. prawns 3-4T. tamarind paste*

8onz.bamboo shoots use any mixture*
of hot chilis
8onz mushrooms 3/4 cup peanut oil
4 shallots sliced

12garlic  cloves chopped

3T smooth peanut butter

1T dry shrimp paste 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup of hot water

Thai basil or mint or both

Saute  chili  peppers in oil add sliced shallots, reserve 1/2 of oil.Blend the oil and the shallots, paste,dry ingredients with hot water ingredients including half of garlic, peanut butter hot water, blend or process until smooth.    Saute prawns in red hot  wok with  reserved oil and garlic add mushrooms and sliced bamboo shoots, cook 2-3 mins pour peanut tamarind mixture over cook 1-2 mins to combine flavors and slightly scorch. Thai basil or mint sprinkled over dish makes it more fragrant. Serves 4-6 depending on how many courses. 

*Tamarind paste pkgs. can be cut in four and boiled to remove extraneous material and sieved. It is a laborious process but the resultant tart paste quite wonderful. Substitute with lime juice and some rind.

The chilis can be habanero,very hot,  or chile de arbol med. hot,6-10,chipotle smoky and very hot, 1 might be sufficient, even red pepper flakes

Doro Wot (Ethiopian spicy stew)

I was in the mood for Ethiopian food but really had not been in an Ethiopian restaurant since my friends Judith and Ray took me to one 25 years ago on Telegraph Ave. The best feature of this cuisine is the spongy fermented flat bread that accompanies the meal, enjira made out of hard indigenous wheat called teff. It can be used as a plate w/food and condiments on top or to sop sauce.
Ejira should be started a few hours ahead so it can ferment or even a day ahead and left in refrigerator overnight and allow to rise in the afternoon. Enjira: If you have sour dough, add 1 cup+ 3 cups of water 2 cups of any mixture of flours, if not add 1/2 tsp. yeat to4 cups warm flour, and any mixture you want. (wholewheat, rye, rice flour, unbleached white) Allow to rise a few hours or overnight to properly sour, can be refrigerated overnight and taken out 2-3hrs before using. Cook on hot griddle oiled and stack, can be reheated later to serve.Calling Ejira a bread is really overstating it , it is a fermented spongy pancakee, the size of a dinner plate or larger. Food can be wrapped in it, or torn dipped in sauce. Don’t be intimidated by enjira, it is a fermented pancake batter and fun to serve, can be made ahead and reheated.

Doro Wot (Ethiopian spicy stew)
4 large chicken legs including tighs
2 large onions, sliced 2T. clarified butter
6 garlic cloves chopped 1 T. cardamon, 2T.fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp. fenugreek,
1 T.coriander seeds 1/2 grated nutmeg(whole)
5 chiles de arbol or substitute for the amount of heat you are comfortable with.
1 sweet red, 1 large carrot , 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 2med. yams sliced

Four whole large chicken legs and tights. Slowly saute in clarified butter or oil, rendering fat until golden and crisp.pour half of fat out of skillet and add two large sliced onions, lifting legs off, adding garlic when onions are translucent. Add one cup of chopped fresh tomatoes. add 2 cups broth or water . Cover and simmer until chichen almost falls of the bone (this will depend on age of chicken), add sliced carrots 30mins. before end of cooking time and in the last 20 mins sliced yams. Garnish w/hard boiled eggs , 1/2 per person .I like to serve the ejira on top of large plate so that stew can be wrapped in it but this can prove overwhelming to those who prefer fork and knife. It might be good to cook a whole hen and shred into sauce so that the ejira can be eaten like a huge burrito.!

Now I suspect that when cooks give recipe for simplicity sake or more devious motives omit one or two ingridients or steps. Instead of fresh tomatoes I added roma tomatoes that cooked slowly in 250f oven, w/garlic and red peppers in olive oil until they secreted their sugar, then slightly blended. A spice that I used was Thai Red Curry paste . (they come in plastic tubs,
in yello,red, green colours.) the ingridients are: chili peppers, lemon grass, ginger,garlic I used 2T. I’m also leaving the salt out to the discretion of the cook.

Moroccan Lamb Cous-Cous


     This version of cous-cous seeks to emulate the Parisian version of the dish, whose aroma wafted from the small side streets of the Latin Quarter.loran-speck-moroccan-pottery

     Cous-Cous refers to the grain, a hard wheat that is precooked and needs to be combined in equal proportions with boiling water and salt and fluffed up with 1-2 T. butter. I have hear that Moroccan women get together chat while rubbing their moistened hands on the flour forming little, tiny grains and allow them to dry on tiled rooftops. If you are lucky enough to own a couscousiere, a cooking pot with steamer and lid. The cous-cous is prepared by soaking grain a few mins.10-20. Placing a moistened cheesecloth inside steamer,with cous-cous in the last 30 mins 0f lamb preparation. You can rig-up the effect of a couscousiere by finding large pot with tight fitting colander above it and cover. The advantage of this process is that the steam will perfume the cous-cous.

     The preserved lemon in this recipe gave it  an ineffable flavour worthwhile to pursue. The paprika I used was Ethiopian smoky and hot.

2-1/2lbs.lamb 1 lb. onions 
6 cloves garlic 1 lb.boiling potatoes
2 yams, 3 carrots 2 ripe tomatoes
1 can of garbanzo or 3/4 dry, soaked 1-2 turnips
1-preserved lemon
or rind of lemon
1 red pepper
2 cinnamon sticks 1 T.paprika
4 cloves 1T cumin
6cups water or broth 1T coriander seed
3/4 cup of olive oil 1 tsp.fenugreek
1 butter squash or2-3 zuchinnis 1T.Red pepper flakes
mint and cilantro  

    Salt lamb and saute in olive oil until well browned adding spices taking  care to avoid burning them. A better method is to dry roast them in separate skillet and grind them in coffee grinder or mortar and pestle… Set meat aside in large casserole and fry onions in the same skillet, adding garlic at the end for 1-2 mins. Pour hot liquid 2 cups and cook down brown particles in skillet for 5 mins.   Place onions and garlic, spices and meat with the rest of broth or liquid including what has cooked down in skillet and chop tomatoes. Simmer for approximately 1hr.depending on cut of meat. Add garbanzos* , rinsed if canned, then carrots , 5 mins later  potatoes,turnip,lastly squash.Taste for salt add chopped cilantro and mint.  Make large mound of couscous and a well to place lamb and vegetables and sprinkle with herbs. Serve with Harrisa sauce.

* if you cook fresh garbanzos cook them separately but include 1 cup of cooking liquid instead instead of broth.

Serves 6-8 people

Gnocchi with Artichokes Hearts and Scallops

artichoke%20copy When I describe to Italian friends and acquaintances my method for making gnocchi I’m met with either skepticism or derision, but once they taste them it it’s a different story.There is a trompe-oeil effects with three of the elements of the dish white and similar in size with the contrasting tartness of artichoke hearts.


2 large baking potatoes or 3 medium

2 heaping Tbs. of ricotta or  cottage cheese
1 whole egg+1 egg yolk
(reserve egg white if too dry)
salt !tsp, 1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 -1 cup flour 1 Tbs. starch

Bake potatoes until soft. Scoop up potato from the skin, and mash while still hot adding ricotta , salt , pepper, eggs, 1 tbsp. corn starch. Add 3/4 cup flour save the rest if you need it , keep in mind that the potato will vary in its starch content and how much flour it will absorb. Knead slightly, 4-5 turns, rest the dough for 5mins. If it seems too sticky add the rest of the flour if too dry add reserved egg white or even another egg yolk.. Dust surface with flour. Divide into four balls and roll these into long long sausage 1" or wider in width, indent top with fork for sauce to adhere. Cut sausage in 1" or 1 1/2” or so. Boil in large pot w/ salted water. Boil 2-3 minutes when Wthey float up, test one for doneness, they should be tender without any taste of " flouriness"


1lb.scallops 12onz. frozen artichoke hearts  (thawed) or prepare fresh
1/2lb button mushrooms 1/2 a cup of white wine
4Tbs. butter 1/4 cup olive oil
4 shallots 6 garlic cloves minced

1 bunch of Italian parsley

salt and pepper

        Saute shallots in olive oil, add artichoke hearts cut side down ,saute scallops on both sides in same skillet  2mins each  add garlic, add lemon rind and button mushrooms and butter brown slightly,  sprinkle with 1/2 cup white wine and cook5 mins. taking care not to overcook scallops squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon. Add Italian parsley chopped stir, adjust for seasoning.      Serves 4

VARIATIONS : substitute boneless , skinless  chicken breasts or prawns.scallops can be cooked in pancetta or bacon remove when crisp, and 1-2 chopped skinless tomatoes added to sauce with or without wine. Omit the lemon juice if adding tomatoes due to acidity. In Winter or cold weather you can add 1/2 cup cream with or without wine.

COMMENTARY;  During degustation, we wondered with so many elements whether there is any need for the protein. In our house the gnocchi is only enough for three people! But it will depend on how many courses you serve. Italians don’t believe in grating cheese over seafood sauces. I have at times snuck in 2-3t Tbs. of parmesan into gnocchi dough.