Sunday lunches are something of an institution at the Smiths, much like many families across the country. Sitting down round a big dining table, food piled up in serving dishes, shouts of ‘pass the roast potatoes’ from one end of the table and ‘I’m getting thirsty’ from the other. There are always the usual early steals of the really crispy roast potatoes and of course the many sneaky picks of meat by the carver, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the family talking over one another and Dad sweating after producing a roast for 15 of us (and that’s just the immediate family!).
This weekend I asked my parents up for Sunday lunch, a slightly quieter affair with only five of us, but no holding back on the plentiful food that will be served up. With pork belly ordered from the local butchers, with enough for four hungry people (my mum’s a veggie) and one of the five is only 2 foot tall, but we’re a family with a big appetite.
Mounds of cauliflower cheese, minty leeks and peas and some roasties of course are on the menu. But even after all that food, I know we’ll have some room for pudding and I’ve had my eye on a recipe by Smitten Kitchen.
Blood oranges are in season and if you’re not careful you’ll miss them, something I’ve managed to achieve the last couple of years. But we’ve got a lovely new greengrocer on our high street so I popped in to pick up a few ready for the weekend’s dessert.
Blood oranges are beautiful in colour with their bright red centre competing with that of a pink grapefruit but with a real richness of colour. You might pick them up unexpectedly because the outside shows no hint of what is hidden inside.
When I saw the picture of this dessert hit my inbox, it looked so inviting it immediately went into my ‘I must make this soon!’ folder. I love desserts that use ground almonds as they keep a cake moist and light and definitely make you think you can sneak an extra slice without needing to undo the top button on your jeans. You know we’ve all been there.
This recipe hails from the River Café cookbook, a cookbook you’ll be surprised to hear I don’t own but I have been lucky enough to have been to the restaurant on a number of occasions (I used to work all of a few hundred metres from the restaurant, so if we could get away with a ‘work lunch’ there, then of course we did!) and I can only rave about their beautiful cooking style. In fact, the last time I went I had a lovely lunch with my parents before spending an idyllic afternoon at the Queen’s Club Tennis Tournament, so it seemed coincidental to be making a dessert that hails from the restaurant.
Whilst it’s called a cake it really sits somewhere between a cake and a cheesecake because of the addition of ricotta and the lack of flour. It’s beautifully light and frangrant from the strong citrus of the blood oranges. It has the added bonus that you can make it the day before and it keeps beautifully in the fridge, in fact I prefer it cold from the fridge rather than at room temperature with a big dollop of crème fraiche.
It really is a perfect way to end a lovely Sunday lunch.
Blood orange, almond and ricotta cake
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
90g light brown sugar
1 tbsp of water
3 large eggs, separated
135g granulated sugar
2 blood oranges, ½ to be sliced, 1 & ½ to be juiced to give about 1/3 cup of juice
115g unsalted butter
180g almond flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ cup apricot jam (optional if you’d like a glossy finish)
Butter a 9 inch cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
Heat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius
Stir your brown water and sugar together and pour into the bottom of your tin and spread evenly.
Whip up your egg whites using an electric mixer until you have thick peaks. Set aside for later.
Cut your oranges in half. Use one half of an orange and cut as thinly as you can slice. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, but it helps if your knives are sharp!
Arrange the slices on top of your brown sugar in the cake tin.
Juice your remaining oranges.
Place your granulated sugar in a bowl and zest your oranges. This will help to really infuse the sugar with the orange flavour.
Add your butter to the sugar and beat in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add your eggs one at a time, making sure each is mixed in before adding the next.
Add your juice and ricotta to the bowl and mix till you have a smooth texture.
Add your sea salt and almond flour and gently beat until just combined.
Using a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, gently fold in your egg whites. You want to keep in as much air as possible.
Using a spoon scoop your batter on top of your oranges in the tin – trying not to dislodge the oranges at the bottom.
Bake in a heated oven for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and then bake for 5 minutes more.
Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes before running a knife round the edge and invert onto a cake plate. That’s the scary bit!
If some of the oranges have moved or don’t come out, don’t worry; just sneakily put them back in place.
Heat up your apricot jam and brush over the top.
Leave to cool completely before cutting into generous slices and serve with some crème fraiche.
The cake can keep in an airtight container, or is also quite happy in the fridge.