I’ve reached the seasonal section of Nigella’s How To Eat and it’s here that I knew I was going to run into trouble. Chestnuts aren’t a thing here in South-East Queensland, nor is elderflower, gooseberries, grouse (or pheasant, partridge or other game of that nature) or damsons – although I suspect that damsons are similar to those little plum-like things that Mum picks from over-hanging trees wherever she can to make plum sauce from.
The same goes for clementines – we don’t have them here. We do, however, have mandarins which apparently is much the same thing. When we were in England for Christmas last year clementines were everywhere – which makes sense given that mandies are in season here now.
I love the name Clementine. Sure there’s the ‘oh my darlin’ Clementine song,’ but when I was much more involved in astrology groups than I am now there was a lady named Clementine who was genuinely one of the most naturally warm and gentle people I’ve ever met. Even though I lived in Sydney and she in the Blue Mountains and then Melbourne our paths kept crossing, I ran into her randomly when I hadn’t been expecting to – you know how there are some people that are like that? They’re important for a reason and you know that.
We met originally at a week-long course in Port Stephens – she knew lots of people, I knew no one. Then there was a time I hopped on a tram to go solo to an astro conference, feeling nervous about having to make conversation with people I didn’t know, and who got on at the next stop but her. Another time I walked into a meeting, again solo and nervous, and hers was the first face I saw.
Clementine sadly passed away a few years ago but whenever I see the name Clementine, I think of her.
Anyways, there’s a Clementine Cake in How To Eat which Nigella says is a Christmas staple for her. I’ve chosen to make it with oranges – because I got four in a bag at the markets for $2.50 – but mandarins would work perfectly well here in Australia.
Nigella’s recipe is almost the same as a classic orange and almond cake recipe by Claudia Roden, and Nigella gives credit there, but as she says in How To Eat, most of her recipes in this book have come circuitously to her from other people – and that’s how it is, I imagine, for most of us.
Anyways, regardless of whether it’s made with clementines, mandarins, or oranges, this is a good cake – and you don’t even need to drizzle it with syrup. I dusted it with icing sugar and served it with some cream and a few blueberries for dessert, but Grant is just as happy to have as is with his coffee.
It’s also easy. While the oranges do need to bubble away on the stove for a couple of hours, you can pretty much forget about them and get on with whatever it is that you do on a Saturday morning.
After that, you blitz the oranges in a food processor (I use the Nutribullet), stir it all together and pop it in the oven for an hour. Too easy.
What you need
- 2 oranges or 4-5 clementines or mandarins – about 375g in total weight, but don’t get too hung up on the weight
- 6 eggs
- 225g sugar
- 250g ground almonds
- 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
What you do with it
- Put the whole oranges in a saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Let them simmer away for 2 hours and then drain and allow to cool.
- Once the oranges are cool, chop them in half and whack them into whatever you use to blitz things – skin and all.
- Preheat your oven to 190C and butter and line the base of a 21cm springform tin.
- In a large bowl beat the eggs – you can seriously do this by hand. A whisk and some arm action is all that’s required.
- Stir in the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder and mix well. Now add the pulped oranges and combine it all together.
- Pour into your prepared tin and pop it in the oven for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on it, though, from about 40 mins in case it’s threatening to burn on top – if so, just put some foil over the top to protect it.
I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.