Book: “Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes: Over 100 Recipes from the Great Food Regions of the World” by Jamie Oliver; 360 pages, $35. Published by Hyperion Books, 2013.
In his own words: “When you come across something great and beautiful, never ever keep it to yourself. Write it down, take a picture of it, then take it home and make sure your family, your kids and your friends hear about it. That’s what makes the world go round.”
What you get: Chapters are organized by countries where the dishes come from: Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France.
What we made:
SWEET AND LOVELY HONEY AND PISTACHIO CAKE (PAGE 272)
For the cake:
5 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups granulated sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 cup semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon nice mild olive oil, plus extra for greasing
For the topping:
5 ounces shelled pistachios
2/3 cup good-quality runny honey
2 pints strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all your cake ingredients in a large bowl. Grease a 9 x 11-inch cake pan with a little olive oil, then dust over a sprinkling of flour and shake the pan about. Spoon in the batter from the bowl, scraping it all out, and use a spatula to spread it evenly.
Put the cake into the hot oven to bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and cooked through. To check, remove from the oven and stick a skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done, so put it to one side to cool for about half an hour.
When you’re just about ready to serve your cake, toast the pistachios in a dry saucepan over low to medium heat. Once they start taking on a bit of color and smelling fantastic, use a rolling pin to gently crush a few of them. Add the honey to the pan and give everything a good stir. Halve the naked orange and lemon left over from making the cake mixture and squeeze all the juice into the pan, then boil for 1 to 2 minutes or until nice and syrupy. Don’t be tempted to taste the syrup, though, as it can burn you.
Stab the cake all over with a small knife to create holes for the syrup to sink into, then pour the pistachios and syrup all over the top and use the back of a spoon to smooth and spread it out. You want it to be fairly even so the honey gets sucked right into the cake. It will look a bit runny but if you leave it for about 15 minutes, the syrup will be soaked up. Trust me.
While it’s still slightly warm, slice your cake and serve it with some chopped strawberries and a good dollop of Greek yogurt on the side. Heaven!
Our assessment: Honey cake has been around since prehistoric times. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all made honey cakes.
Over time, other ingredients were added to the primitive honey cake. Orange and lemon zest in this recipe gives the cake a hint of citrus (which some tasters wanted more of). It’s a heavy cake to start out with, and gets heavier as it soaks up the honey. The cake is delicious, and it sets up the honey to be the real star of this recipe. So you will want to use the best honey you can get.
We highly recommend that you use organic local honey. Dayton Daily News business reporter Steve Bennish is a beekeeper, and we recently watched him harvest honey from his beehives. Then he gave us a jar of beautiful amber-colored honey that gets its flavor mainly from local wildflowers. To strengthen your immune system and reduce the symptoms of allergies, consume a little local honey every day. It contains bits of pollen, and by consuming that pollen on a daily basis, your body learns to handle the invading pollen, which may lessen any allergic reactions you have.
Watch the video of harvesting local honey and making this cake at www.MyDaytonDailyNews.com