My favorite of his books to date is Kitchen Diaries. Over the course of a year, Nigel tells us what he’s cooking. Not every day, but about three times a week. He speaks about his garden and what’s ripe and what he does with it. He has company and worries a little but not too much about what to serve. He makes wonderful food that I’d like to eat (Nigel: I’m normally available on Friday evenings...) and he writes beautifully about it.
I often pull out this book to get ideas. His ingredients are always fresh, and his meals are always interesting. One of the recipes that I’ve taken from his book is this cake. I love the texture of it and the ease of making it. It has just the perfect crumb to go with ice cream, or raspberry sauce or just a cup of tea. Or nothing. It goes just perfectly in my mouth, thank you! Of course I changed it. Not too much, but some. I think Nigel would approve.
What’s your current favorite cook book?
Nigel’s lemon cake
200 g / 7 oz (1 3/4 sticks) butter
200 g / 1 cup sugar + 2 Tablespoons for the syrup
90 g / 2/3 cup plain flour + more for the pan
90 g / 3/4 cup ground almonds
3/4 tsp baking powder
zest and juice from one large lemon
4 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 160 C / 375 F.
- Prepare a large loaf pan by cutting baking paper to fit the length, letting the excess fall over the sides. Grease and flour the ends of the tin.
- Mix the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and lemon zest in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter and 200 g sugar till light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The mixture might curdle at this point, but don’t worry--keep going. It will be ok after you add the dry ingredients.
- Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Nigel recommends using a metal spoon to avoid knocking the air out. Scrape the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake 45 minutes, until risen and golden brown on top.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan.
- While the cake is cooling, make the syrup: mix the juice of your large lemon with 2 Tablespoons of sugar. You want this to be tart but not too puckery. When the cake is cool, pierce it all over with a bamboo skewer and spoon the syrup over it. Let it soak in. At this point, I usually sprinkle a little more sugar over the top to hide the holes.
This is perfect with a fruit sauce or coulis. It positively begs for some cream or ice cream. Or a nice thick Greek yogurt.
Notes: Nigel uses demerara sugar for this, but I can’t get that here. I made it once with brown sugar, and it had a heavenly flavor, but the color was a little gray. So I stick to white sugar, and it has a lovely yellow color.
- When I have some nice berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), I put half the batter in the pan and make a layer of berries and then add rest of the batter. It’s important to flour the berries first, though, or they just sink to the bottom.
- You can make a lemon glaze to pour over the top by mixing icing sugar / powdered sugar with lemon juice.