Tag Archives: Basque country

Plum honey cake and one-way city

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We went to San Sebastian (Donostia) during the recent school holidays. San Sebastian, just over the border from France in Spain’s Basque country, is home to the first University of Gastronomy and boasts an exceptionally high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as some of the best tapas — or pintxos —  bars to be found.

We stayed in a hotel on one of the hills dominating the bay. The views from the balcony were absolutely stunning and this was, as I later found out, the best way to appreciate the town. I am no wimp when it comes to challenging city driving: I learned to drive in London and then for many years enjoyed regular and complicated tangos around the insane Arc de Triomphe ‘Etoile‘ roundabout with 70 other highly strung Parisians. But, after a number of near misses, San Sebastian’s complex one-way system got the better of me and I ended up conceding defeat. Léo took great delight in keeping a tally (with a rather abrasive running commentary) of my hugely illegal manoeuvres, details of which I would rather forget. And then, as if the stress at the idea of never ever being allowed to turn left again as long as I lived wasn’t enough, I got a call from home to say that Hugo had run away. More on that next time – my nerves are still in shreds! 😉

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This cake is another little gem from Amber Rose’s book, ‘Love, Bake, Nourish’. The honey makes it deliciously, fragrantly soothing and I recommend you never drive anywhere without a large slice for arduous traffic situations.

Ingredients (serves 8)

180g spelt flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

130g ground almonds

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamon

5 large free-range eggs

120g butter

120g organic coconut oil

180g honey

400g plums, stoned and quartered

Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, softened butter and coconut oil and honey until thick and smooth. Gently fold into the dry ingredients. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and then fold into the mix making sure they are fully incorporated. Finally stir in the plums and transfer the mixture to the greased tin. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool before serving.

Ossau Iraty and black cherry chutney

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I haven’t started talking in tongues; this is the name of a delicious cheese from the Basque region. So delicious, in fact, that it was named ‘Best Cheese in the World’ at the World Cheese Awards 2011. It is nicest served at room temperature with black cherry chutney.

I last enjoyed it just the other day, at the top of a mountain in 30 degree heat, surrounded by 30 ten-year-olds. And it was delicious nonetheless 😉 ! We were on a school trip to the pyrenees, a somewhat long but very enjoyable day. Well, apart from the bit where the coach had to reverse down a tiny mountain road, negociating no fewer than EIGHT hairpin bends backwards. I’m not that cool on tiny mountain roads in a car going forwards, so I’ll leave it to you to imagine the state I was in after this little escapade. There’s always a plus side though, and in this case it was that the children were actually SILENT for the time of the manoeuvre. They also derived much amusement from the fact that their teacher inadvertently let slip a four-letter word (or French equivalent thereof) in sheer terror.

As you can see, I didn’t take a photo of the cheese and chutney. But I did take one of a ‘typical Frenchman going for a picnic in the mountains’!

To make the black cherry chutney:

Ingredients

300g black cherries
1cm fresh grated ginger
Pinch of cinnamon
Black pepper
60g of cane sugar
2 tbls white vinegar

Heat the cherries and sugar in a casserole for just under five minutes. Add the ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and continue to heat for another five minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until the mixture starts to congeal. Leave to cool before serving.