Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Living a relatively solitary life having started a new job working at home for the past year I don’t tend to make cakes all that often too more. Eating a whole cake between two people is just a bit too much. So when I heard a colleague of my husband’s brought a cake they’d made into work, I saw my opportunity and decided to make one myself. Unfortunately for my waistline (not so much for my taste buds) the majority of the cake came home as my husband’s colleagues are health freaks that don’t eat carbs. At my old company in London, everyone would bring treats in and we even had a baking competition (which I won twice). I can only hope that my colleagues at the new job I’m starting are more in this vein.

For my first cake in a while, I decided to choose a recipe from Nigel Slater’s ‘Notes from the Larder’. He is the king of cakes in my opinion. I’d made another hazelnut cake from one of his books in the past but I think that one didn’t have icing. The icing in this one uses hazelnut spread. You can use Nutella but I used Baci because I’ve seen a picture of the make-up of Nutella and I don’t think I can eat it anymore. At least with Baci I can claim ignorance even if it is made by Nestle and the less said about that company – the better! I’d try to avoid putting the cake in the fridge so put on the icing at the last minute.

Ingredients

  • 250g hazelnuts
  • 90g + 6 tbsp sugar
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp double cream or sour cream
  • 200g chocolate hazelnut spread

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C

2.) Line a 7 inch square tin (or round tin with 10 inch diameter)

3.) Oil a baking tray

4.) Put a frying pan on low-medium heat and add the hazelnuts to toast

5.) Once toasted, add the 6 tbsp sugar and let it melt to a golden caramel. It’s ok to move the sugar a little but don’t stir too much.

6.) Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and allow it to cool until cool enough to be able to put into a food processor.

7.) Blitz the praline in the food processor to coarse crumbs

8.) Now, make the cake. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain-marie.

9.) Measure out 100g of the butter and add in chunks to the chocolate and melt with the chocolate. Remove from the heat and add the 90g sugar and the praline crumbs.

10.) Beat the eggs in a bowl and add to the mix.

11.) Measure out the flour and the cocoa powder and fold into the cake mixture. It will be quite thick.

12.) Bake for 35 – 40 minutes (mine was done after 35)

13.) In the meantime, make the buttercream, beat the hazelnut spread, softened 150g butter (microwaving it helps) and the icing sugar until it’s not lumpy. Loosen with the cream/sour cream.

14.) When the cake is cooled and removed from the tin, spread the buttercream liberally over the top.

Za’atar Scones & Spring Onion Soup

As a British person, scones are very close to my heart but basically being just a mixture of butter and flour, I don’t eat them as often as I would like. I tend to eat scones as a sweet treat with jam and clotted cream (always jam first! – everyone has an opinion on this in the U.K – it’s a great conversation point.). If you’re a tourist to England and you’d like to try the best scones, you need to go to the teahouse at the Jane Austen museum in the beautiful city of Bath. I saw these savoury scones in the book ‘Palestine on a Plate’ and decided to serve them with Ottolenghi’s spring onion soup. I managed to slice my thumb open in the process of chopping up the immense quantity of 900g spring onions but fortunately it was just as I’d pretty much finished so I’m happy that this soup turned out well considering that I can no longer practice the guitar.

Serves 4 (with 8 scones)

Ingredients

Scones

  • 340g plain flour (plus one handful) and extra for dusting
  • salt
  • 3/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • 125g butter
  • 240ml milk
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 egg

Soup

  • 900g spring onions (or salad onions if possible)
  • 40g butter
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 300g peas (I used frozen)
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 80g parsley
  • 40g crème fraiche
  • 20g parmesan
  • 20g mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

2.) Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda into a bowl. (I found that the flour in the recipe was not enough so ended up adding one more handful at the end)

3.) Chop up the butter into cubes

4.) Rub the butter into the flour but like breadcrumbs as if you were doing a crumble, so you can still see bits of butter

5.) Measure out the milk and add the vinegar (this is my sub for buttermilk), Stir very briefly to combine.

6.) Flour a work surface, tip out the mixture, flour your hands and push it together. Try to work the dough as little as possible.

7.) Sprinkle the za’atar over the dough.

8.) Line a baking tray, cut up the dough into 8 pieces and place on top. You could make these a bit prettier by using a cutter but you’ll just be left with the edges that you’ll need to mix together again at the end and I would rather have light, fluffy scones that look a mess.

9.) Crack the egg into a bowl and beat. Brush the scones with the egg.

10.) Bake for 18 minutes until golden.

11.) For the soup, peel and chop up the garlic. Chop up the white parts of the spring onion.

12.) Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the whites of the spring onions and the garlic. Add some pepper and cook for about 15 minutes.

13.) In the meantime, slice up the green parts of the onion and chop up the courgette. Make up the litre of stock.

14.) Add the bay leaves and the green parts of the onion to the pan and cook for 10 more minutes.

15.) Add the peas and courgette and cook for another 5 minutes.

16.) Take out half the veggies from the saucepan and put to one side. Adding them back later will give the soup a nice texture.

17.) Chop up the mint and set to one side.

19.) Cover the vegetables with stock and simmer for 5 minutes.

20.) Grate the parmesan and measure out the crème fraiche. Zest the lemon.

21.) When the soup is done, remove the bay leaf, add the parsley and blitz with an immersion blender.

21.) Add back the set aside vegetables, warm up, then stir in the crème fraiche and parmesan

22.) Serve and garnish with lemon zest and mint leaves.