Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Orchid outings, sweet potato-hazelnut cakes and plum compote

Our family often spend our weekends in summer somewhere in the mountains looking for orchids.  Not so much looking for anything specific these days as much as enjoying being out in the veld and the cooler mountain air.

Mention going to the mountains and the kids will grab their boots and hats and wait in the car.  They love it there.  We all do.

The escarpment around the Lowveld where we live hosts some of the most spectacular orchids in South Africa (well, maybe I am a little biased).  But there are some really beautiful ones that make wading through wetlands or hiking up steep slopes to see them absolutely worth it.  Want to see some photos?  You can go here and here.

Of course orchid hunting is hard work and eating something is always a must.  Our co-authors spoiled us rotten when we went on field trips while writing the book.  They were amazing and always brought the best eats and most amazing cakes, complete with cutlery and proper mugs.  These days when it is just us, plastic picnic style cutlery has to suffice, but we still like to take something special to eat.

These sweet potato cakes are a new favorite in our household.  The recipe is originally from Cannelle et Vanille, one of my all time favorite blogs.  Aran's pictures are just simply breathtaking and the recipes absolutely genius.  I often search her site for some inspiration.  These cakes happened because a friend handed me a bag of sweet potatoes from his farm one day at school and I wanted to try something different with them.  I found this recipe and now it is often on the tea table or in the lunch boxes.  That is the wonder of the web, it makes finding a special recipe and some inspiration so much easier.

Sweet Potato, Yogurt and Hazelnut Cakes by  Cannelle et Vanille

Note:  I have replaced the starch with butternut and a little extra nut flour with great results as well.  And mostly I replace the yogurt with some buttermilk, just simply because I always seem to have some in my fridge.  I often use almonds instead of hazelnuts as well or a combination of the two in the same weight ratio.

300 grams sweet potato puree (from about 2-3 medium size sweet potatoes)
100 grams brown sugar
50 grams sugar
3 eggs
100 grams yogurt or buttermilk
100 grams vegetable oil
160 grams flour
40 grams hazelnuts, finely ground with some of the sugar
4 grams sea salt
4 grams baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
zest of large orange
130 grams hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
30 grams hazelnuts, chopped for topping

Place the sweet potatoes in a baking dish and bake at 200°C for about 45 minutes to an hour until flesh is fork tender. Let them cool, cut them open and scoop out the flesh. Puree it. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, hazelnut flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sweet potato puree, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, yogurt, oil and orange zest. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and whisk until combined. It will be a runny batter. Fold in the toasted and chopped hazelnuts.

Pour the batter in the molds (about 3/4 of the way full), sprinkle the top with chopped hazelnuts and bake at 180°C until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Time will vary depending on the mold. For small loaf pans, about 22 minutes, the smaller individual molds about 17 minutes.

Plum compote

200g ripe plums
100g sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
zest of one lime

Place all the ingredients and a quarter cup of water in a heavy based sauce pan.  Heat over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring often.  Continue to cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, until the syrup has thickened slightly.

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