Passover Preparations

I am busy deciding what to prepare for the main dish and dessert for Passover, since most of the other items on the menu are the expected traditional fare. I am considering the following:

Roasted Poussins with Pomegranate Sauce

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Spiced Pinenuts (from my friend Chef Farid Zadi)

Patatine e Carciofi Arrosto (Roasted Potatoes and Artichokes)

Torta del Re

Nottingham Nut Cake

Lemon, Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Cake (for a dairy meal)

Damp Apple and Almond Cake


For more ideas, click here. I will post my menu in a couple of weeks.

Erev Sukkot

Wednesday night was the beginning of the seven day festival of Sukkot. The word Sukkot is the plural of the Hebrew word sukkah, which means booth or hut. During this holiday, Jews are suppose to build a temporary structure in which to eat their meals, entertain guests, relax, and even sleep. The sukkah can be built of any materials, but its roof must be an organic material, such as palm fronds or tree branches, and it must be partially open to the sky.

On each of the seven days of Sukkot, the Torah requires that Jews should take four species of plants and shake them in a specific manner. These species are: the lulav (date palm frond), hadass (bough of a myrtle tree), aravah (willow branch), which are bound together and collectively referred to as the lulav, and the etrog (a citron, a lemon-like citrus fruit). The shaking of the lulav with the etrog is done in the synagogue and in the Sukkah.

There isn’t really any typical dishes for Sukkot. A lot of people make dishes with fruit, such as quince, pomegranates and apples. I decided to try two new recipes for the evening meal. For the main course I prepared Honey-Barbecued Short Ribs with Rosemary-Glazed Corn on the Cob and I prepared a Quince-Bay Leaf Tart with Pistachio Crust for dessert. Both of the dishes were delicious, but we prefer the other short rib recipe I made for Lag B’Omer.

The quince tart recipe called for one large quince, so I used two medium size ones and it was clearly not enough, but too late to do anything about it, so I topped the quince with two sliced apples.

Honey-Barbecued Short Ribs with Rosemary-Glazed Corn on the Cob
(I used thyme instead of rosemary)

Quince Tart with Pistachio Crust

Slice of tart

Quince-Bay Leaf Tart with Pistachio Crust

Serving Size: 6 to 8


4 medium quinces

4 large bay leaves

1/4 cup vanilla sugar or 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla


60 g (1/3 cup) pistachio nuts

100 g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

75 g (5 tablespoons) sugar

150 g (2/3 cup) flour

Quince and Bay Leaf

Use a mandolin to slice the quince in thin, even slices. Place the quince slices, bay leaves and sugar in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover and simmer until the quince is soft and the water has evaporated. This could take 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Pistachio Crust

Place the pistachios in a Cuisinart and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Mix together the nuts, butter, sugar, and flour until it forms into a dough. This is a basic butter crust recipe and it will be a little dry.

Press the dough in a lightly greased tart pan and add the quince filling. Bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/ 347°F) for 25-30 minutes or slightly brown on the top.

Erev Yom Kippur

Tonight, I making a simple two course meal consisting of a Moroccan Kdra called Djej Kdra Touimiya or Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas, green beans, and some fresh fruit for dessert.

A Kdra is a tagine that is cooked with smen (I have to use olive oil), onions, saffron, cinnamon and sometimes ginger, depending on where you live. I am making a Fez version, which is made with a little dried ginger.

I think I was Moroccan in a former life because I am in love with the food, the architecture, the music and the culture in general. My earliest introduction to Moroccan food was when I bought Paula Wolfert’s, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, at a cookery shop in Seattle, Washington. The first dish that I tried got me hooked and I have exploring Moroccan food ever since. Since moving to Israel, I have been intrigued even more.

Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas (Djej Kdra Touimiya)

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 cup blanced whole almonds

1/2 cup dried chick-peas, soaked overnight or canned (if you must)

1/4 teaspoon pulverised saffron (mixed with a little tumeric)

Salt to taste (omit for kosher chicken)

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 large cinnamon stick

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil or 2 tablespoons smen

1-1/2 kg (3 to 3 1/2 lb) chicken, quartered

2 medium yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and finely sliced

4 cups chicken stock or water, more if necessary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Put the almonds in a pan, cover with cold water and simmer, covered for approximately two hours. Set the almonds aside, submerged in water.

In another saucepan, cover the soaked chick-peas with fresh cold water, boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour. Drain and rinse with cold water. Rub the chick-peas to remove their skins. Discard the skins.

Note: For canned chickpeas, rinse and skin them and set them aside. Do not add them until the chicken has finished cooking.

Place the butter, smen or olive oil in a casserole. Add 1/2 of the saffron-turmeric mixture, the spices and the chicken. Cook on a low flame for two to three minutes. Chop 4 or 5 slices of onion fine and add to the casserole. Add the stock or water. Bring to a boil and add the fresh chick-peas. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered.

Add the remaining sliced onions and parsley. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the casserole. If relevant, add the canned chick-peas to the sauce. Boil the sauce at a high heat, uncovered and reduce the sauce to a thick gravy.

Drain the almonds and add the remaining saffron to the sauce. Cook for an additional two or three minutes and spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve with couscous or rice.

Rosh Hashana 5768

Chag Sameach everyone! I hope you had a nice meal with your family. We went to my cousin’s house for the first night of Rosh Hashana and had a lovely time.

We invited some friends of ours for dinner last night. My husband made a Rosh Hashana favourite and I introduced several new surprises to our repertoire. Everything was delicious.

The cake calls for sour cream and one of my guests has a dairy allergy and can only tolerate butter in baked goods, so I substituted a non-dairy yogurt in its place. It worked fine.

And in case you are wondering about why I served a dairy cake, we keep kashrut according to the Italian tradition which is one hour between meat and dairy.

Our menu was:


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Rosemary Cashews

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds

Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Green beans

Round Challah with dried fruits and nuts
Golan Winery Sion Creek red wine


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Yield: 24 biscuits

Recipe from Restaurant: La Garbure (Châteauneuf du Pape) Chef: Jean Louis Giansilly

5 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of basil

5 tbsp olive oil

50g (3.5 tbsp) pine nuts

300g (1.3 cups) flour

10cl (.4 cup) warm water

10cl (.4 cup) olive oil

2 tsp salt

25g (1.7 tablespoons) baking powder

4 egg yolks

Ground pepper

Prepare a pesto by crushing the garlic cloves with the basil, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, warm water, and some ground pepper. Add the pesto and blend well to obtain a smooth dough.

Roll into a long snake and slice the into 1/4 inch (6mm) wafers and bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 minutes (depending on size).

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.

1 chicken, cut into eighths

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 whole garlic cloves

2 cm fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely

1 quince, cored and cut into eighths

10-20 majhoul dates, pitted and cut into quarters

10 dried figs, stem removed and cut into eighths

10-20 dried sour apricots, cut into quarters

20 walnut halves

Couple of pinches of black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup water

½ c pomegranate molasses

½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.

Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.

Chag Sameach – Shana Tova

At sundown on the 12th of September is the beginning of the Days of Awe which last ten days including the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana and ending with the 25-hour fast of Yom Kippur. During these ten days, we are suppose to meditate on the subject of the holidays and ask for forgiveness from anyone we have wronged.

During this month and the beginning of October, I will be blogging on holiday dishes for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

I would like to wish my family and friends a Joyous and Healthy New Year. May yours be a sweet year and may your names be inscribed in the book of life.

To those of you observing the upcoming month of Ramadan, Ramadan Mubarak, which means “Blessed Ramadan”.

Shana Tova and Chag Sameach!

Baroness Tapuzina

In preparation for Rosh Hashana, I made a round challah with dried fruits and nuts using my favourite challah recipe. I have heard many reasons why a Rosh Hashana challah is round instead of braided. Some of the reasons are:

  • They represent a crown that reflects our crowning G-d as the King of the world.
  • The circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year.
  • It stands for the circle of life, and the hope that our lives endure without end.
  • The round challah is the true form of the original round showbread loaves that were kept on the Temple altar. ( Note: Twelve flat loaves, for each of the tribes, were set in two stacks on the Temple altar. It wasn’t until the 15th century that challahs were made in any other shape.)

I add the fruits and nuts before the first rise. I added apricots, cranberries, golden raisin, figs and walnuts.

After the first rise, I punch the dough down, form a long snake and then coil the challah, to make a spiral shape.

Let the dough rise for two to three hours and bake as directed.

Shavuot Tradition – Cheesecake!

Before I begin, I must tell you that I am happy that this is the last holiday for a while. I am really over preparing all the holiday food.

As I explained in my first entry about Shavuot, traditionally we serve dairy dishes because the Torah which we received on this day is white, pure, and sweet like milk.

Among the most famous Shavuot dishes are blintzes, cheesecakes, cheese kreplach, cheese platters, sambousak and more.

Most Ashkenazis have a meat meal on the night of Shavuot and a dairy meal on the day of Shavuot. The dairy meal consists of a fish dish, salads and most likely cheesecake for dessert.

During Shavuot it is customary for some Sephardic Jews to eat leftover Passover matzo softened with milk and sweetened with honey. Other dishes such as Sutlatch (Turkish rice pudding), Atayef (Syrian), Kahi (Iraqi), Malabi (Middle Eastern), cheese-filled phyllo dough pockets, coriander cheese balls and artichokes stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese are also common.

Sephardic women from Tunisia, Morocco and Libya take pride in baking a seven-layer cake for Shavuot called Siete Cielos or Seven Heavens. The cake is created in seven circular rising tiers, one smaller than the other with the smallest on top. Frequently it is decorated with various symbols made from dough. I have never seen one of these cakes, nor have I been able to find a recipe for it, but it sounds interesting. I have a feeling that it is more like bread, than a cake.

Kurdistan Jews eat a wheat cereal with labane and cheese-filled fritters, while many Afghani Jews cook rice and serve it with butter and yogurt.

Libyan, Greek, Turkish and Balkan woman bake wafers or bread in symbolic shapes. Among the symbolic shapes is a ladder which stands for Moses’ rise up Mount Sinai. Another shape is that of a hand, denoting hands openly receiving the Torah. Frequently there are two tablets representing the ten commandments.

I usually make cheesecake, but one that is not as rich as is made in the States. I do not use cream cheese. I use Israeli white cheese, which is similar to a thick greek-style yogurt. It is much lower in fat than cream cheese. I prefer to have a more tart cheesecake, so I make my personal favourite, which is lemon cheesecake.

Chag Shavuot Sameach everyone!

Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Confit

Serving Size: 10 to 12

This is a recipe that I adapted from several different recipes. I use an Israeli white cheese, which is similar in texture to a Greek-style yogurt. You can use cream cheese, if you prefer.

Cheesecake Ingredients

For the lemon confit:

2 large juicy lemons (unwaxed if possible)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the shortbread crust:

60g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (room temperature)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup flour

2 cups finely ground petit beurre or shortbread (i.e. Pepperidge Farm Chessmen) cookies

For the cheesecake filling:

3 (500g/16oz) containers of Israeli 5% white cheese or Greek-style yogurt

250g (8oz) container mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

4 tablespoons lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:

500g (16oz) sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the lemon confit:

Start by making the confit as this needs to be prepared ahead of time – the day before you want to serve it, if possible.

Sliced Lemons

Take one and a half of the lemons and slice them into thin rings about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick, discarding the end pieces and pips. Place these in a saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to a simmer for 3 minutes, then drain through a sieve and discard the water, Pour 12 fl oz (425 ml) water into the same pan, add the sugar, stir over a low heat until all the sugar dissolves, then add the lemon slices. Cook for 45 minutes, until the skin is tender.

Lemon Confit

Remove the slices with a slotted spoon. Reduce the liquid to 5 fl oz (150ml). Squeeze the juice from the remaining half lemon, add to the syrup and pour over the lemon slices. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.

Make the crust:

Petit Beurre Biscuit

Cream the butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes. Add flour and ground petit beurre biscuits or shortbread to the mixture and blend for 3-4 seconds until fully incorporated. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a 22cm (11-inch) spring-form pan.

Cheesecake base

Bake the crust at 180° for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the crust to cool completely.

Make the cheesecake filling:

Israeli White Cheese

Beat the white cheese until light and smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and sugar and continue to beat on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon zest and juice. Pour mixture into the cooled crust.

Wrap aluminium foil around the outside of the spring-form. Place the cheesecake pan into a roasting pan, and add enough water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of the cheesecake pan. Place in a 180° oven for approximately one hour or until the cake is set and the top is light brown.

Make topping while cheesecake is baking:

Let sour cream stand at room temperature 30 minutes. In a bowl whisk together sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Spread over entire top of cake, smoothing evenly. Bake cheesecake in middle of oven 10 minutes.

Remove the cake from the roasting pan and place on a wire rack. Allow the cake to cool slightly, and then place it in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.

Before serving, decorate the top of the cake with lemon confit or plate and place on top of a slice of cheesecake.

Who’s Marian and how can I thank her?

Today is my mother’s 65th birthday and yesterday was my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Two great ladies celebrating two great milestones. Happy birthday Mom and Boldog születésnapot Anyós!

My mother did not know how to boil water when she got married and someone was smart enough to give her the Elegant but Easy cookbook for a wedding gift. This cookbook helped my mother become the great cook she is today and one of her signature Shavuot recipes from this cookbook is Marion’s Noodle Pudding. I was never a fan of kugel, but this creamy and slightly tart noodle pudding is delicious, elegant and oh so easy to make.

When I proposed making this dish to my husband a few years ago he kind of sneered and said in his cute British public school accent, “I really dislike noodle kugels.”. I told him he hadn’t had this one and had to give it a try. He did and he really likes it. It is great for a brunch or served as a side dish with fish.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Marian Burros, one of the cookbook authors, for putting this recipe in her cookbook 47 years ago. It has been a family favourite which always takes me home when I make it. I love you Mom!

This recipe is not low in calorie, but I make it with low calorie cottage cheese, sour cream and milk and it still tastes great.

Marian’s Noodle Pudding

Serving Size: 8 to 10

From the original The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook by Marion Burros and Lois Levine

450g (1 lb.) broad egg noodles

450g (1 pint) sour cream

450g (1 lb.) cottage cheese

1 cup milk

2-1/2 teaspoons salt

4-1/2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons melted butter

Crushed corn flakes

Pats of butter

Cook Noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Mix with all of the other ingredients. Place in greased 9 x 13 shallow casserole.

Marion Noodle Kugel 1

Top with crushed corn flakes. Dot the cornflakes with pats of butter.

You can refrigerate or freeze before baking. If you choose to do either, then put the corn flakes on the top after you bring the casserole to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 375 for 1-1/2 hours.

Marion Noodle Kugel 2

Shavuot – The Holiday of the First Fruits

King Solomon described the receiving of the Torah as “honey and milk guarded under your tongue”. Shavuot is not only the celebration of the receiving of the Torah from Mount Sinai and the ending of the morning-period that began after Passover, but it is also when the wheat was harvested in Israel. Farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple from the following seven species:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Grapes
  • Figs
  • Pomegranates
  • Olives
  • Dates

We usually serve at least one dairy meal, followed by a meat meal during Shavuot and there are many different explanations to why we do this. One is because when the Torah was received, the Jews were immediately bound to the ritual slaughtering of animals and didn’t have their meat prepared according to the new law when the Torah was given to them. Another is that the numerical value for the Hebrew word for milk, חלב (Khalav), is the same number of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai.

Since my husband will not be here during Shavuot, I decided to make a dairy meal for him on Saturday night. Here is the first of three Shavuot recipes I am blogging about.

When my husband and I were looking for a place to have our wedding we did a tasting at one of the venues and they served us a pistachio-crusted salmon that was to die for! I decided that I would have to replicate that recipe at home. They put a layer of homemade pesto on the top side of a salmon fillet and then coated it with a mixture of pistachios and bread crumbs. I made it several years ago for Shavuot and it was delicious. This year, I tried whole grain mustard and it was also very good. This dish is dead easy to make.

Pistachio-Crusted Salmon

Serving Size: 4

4 salmon fillets, 6-8 ounces each

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard or homemade pesto

½ cup shelled raw pistachios

¼ cup toasted bread crumbs

Grind the pistachios to a medium fine texture by pulsing gently in a food processor. Be careful not to over process, as the nuts will begin to turn into a paste. Mix with the breadcrumbs.

Salmon Coated with Mustard

Salmon with pistachio mixture

oat the top of each salmon fillet with mustard and press into the pistachio and breadcrumb mixture to coat. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and put in a 190C (375F) for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the fish is slightly pink in the middle.

Spanish and Italian-Inspired Shabbat Dinner

Since I was too ill to cook the last night of Pesach, I made the meal for Shabbat. Luckily, I still had some matza for my dessert.

Dinner this evening was:

Carn Estofada amb Prunes i Patates (Catalan-Style Veal Stew with Prunes and Potatoes)

I used osso bucco instead of the recommended veal shoulder. As the dish was simmering away, my husband sneaked a taste of the sauce and moaned blissfully, “this dish should be in a museum.” Need I say more? This dish is outstanding. The flavors of chocolate, prunes, chili, cinnamon and orange zest marry into an amazingly complex sauce that just bursts on the palate. The crispy potatoes add the perfect texture to the dish. This is a very rich dish that should be served with a dry and assertive red wine, such as the one we had. In the absence of the Rioja, we drank, a good Cabernet Franc or Shiraz would do pretty well.

For dessert, I made a family recipe that I have never made for my husband. They are matza fritters and they are made in several different countries. The Dutch call them Gremshelish, the Italians call them Pizzarelle Con Giulebbe. My recipe is combination of the Italian version and the version my grandmother used to make from leftover Matza Shalet batter. She served it with a lemon custard. This custard is dairy, so if you keep more than one hour between eating meat and dairy, you can serve this with a non-dairy lemon sauce of your choice.

This was a big hit with my husband. The custard is very light and creamy and the fritters are also light, but should not be served with a rich meal like we had for Shabbat dinner. You should make a double or triple recipe of the custard for all of the fritters.

Pizzarelle Con Crema di Limone

Yield: About 25 fritters and 2 cups of sauce

(Matzah Fritters with Lemon Custard)

For the fritters:

5 matzahs, broken into small pieces

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 egg whites

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the lemon cream:

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 cup single cream (half and half)

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the batter:

Wet Matza

Place the matza pieces in a bowl of cold water and soak until soft but not falling apart, one to two minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water.

Mix all Ingredients

In a large bowl, mix together the matza pieces, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, salt, raisins, pine nuts and egg yolks.

Add Egg Whites

Ready to Fry

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the matza mixture.

Frying Fritters

In a large, heavy pot, on medium-high, heat at least 2 inches of oil. Drop heaping tablespoons of the matza as necessary, until they are a deep brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Matza Fritters

Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by the lemon custard.

For the lemon cream:

Whisk sugar and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Bring cream and lemon peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into bowl; discard solids. Whisk lemon juice and vanilla into custard. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

Passover Desserts

As Pesach is fast approaching, I have decided on what desserts I am going to make to make this year: Chocolate-Pistachio Cake and the Orange-Ginger Cake (See Passover Preparations).

This pistachio cake is based on a recipe from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Italian Easy: Recipes from the River Cafe. It is a very easy cake to make. I would prefer to make it with butter, but I must make a parve cake for Passover.

Normally, I do not like Passover cakes made with matza meal, but this cake only calls for 1/2 cup and you really don’t notice it. Substitute with flour when it is not Passover.

Since the Passover hostess is a chocoholic, I am covering the cake with a bittersweet chocolate glaze, but the original recipe is served plain with a lemon glaze.

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Serving Size: 8 to 10

For the cake:

250g (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine

1 lemon

1 vanilla bean or equivalent of vanilla paste

150g (2/3 cup) blanched almonds

170 g (3/4 cup) pistachios

1-1/4 cups superfine sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup matza cake flour

For the lemon topping:

1 lemon

113g (1/2 cup) pistachios

1/4 cup superfine sugar

For the chocolate glaze:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

57g (1/4 cup) ground pistachios

Make the cake

Heat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Grease a 9-inch (22cm) springform pan with 4 teaspoons of the butter and line with baking parchment.

Soften the remaining margarine or butter. Finely grate the lemon peel. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Finely grind the almonds and pistachios together.

Beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the lemon peel and vanilla seeds, then fold in the nuts and sift in the flour.

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Make the lemon topping

Grate the lemon peel and squeeze the juice. Halve the pistachios.

Mix the lemon juice with the sugar, boil until reduced to a syrup, then add the peel. Stir in the pistachios and pour over the cake.

Make the chocolate glaze

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth.

Transfer the glaze to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread the glaze over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle pistachios on the top and sides of the cake.


The other cake I considered making this year is another favourite of mine. It is a spice cake with a chocolate glaze. Simple and delicious. I do not remember where I got this recipe.

Chocolate Almond Torte
For the cake:

1/2 cup sugar plus additional for dusting

400g (1-3/4 cups ) finely ground almonds

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

5 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate icing:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

75g (1/3 cup) sliced almonds

22cm (9-inch) cake pan or springform pan ( I use a springform)

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 180C (350°F). Butter pan and dust with sugar, knocking out excess.

Stir together ground almonds, chocolate, and spices in a bowl. Beat yolks with 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, then beat in zest.

Beat whites with salt with cleaned beaters in a large bowl until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Stir one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches. Fold in ground almond mixture.

Pour batter into mold and bake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in mold on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon margarine in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth. Transfer icing to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread icing over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle almonds on the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake until icing is set, at least 1 hour. Transfer cake to a platter and bring to room temperature before serving.

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