#72 Madeira Cake

I made a Madeira cake because it seemed refined – one should drink a glass of Madeira wine with it as one reclines for a mid-morning treat, apparently. It’s basically a slightly lemony sponge cake and is pretty D.R.Y., hence the excuse of drinking wine with, I expect. I’d only had it with a cup of tea, but either is pretty good. Drinking cake with wine is very much a nineteenth century idea, partaken by middle-class ladies, the cake itself has nothing directly to do with the island.

Cream 6 ounces of butter and the same of sugar until light and fluffy. Sift 9 ounces of flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder into a separate bowl. Next, stir in 4 large eggs one at time, adding a small amount of flour between each egg to avoid them splitting the mixture. Once incorporated, stir in the rest of the flour and the grated rind of half a lemon. Pour the mixture into a lined or greased 8 inch cake tin. Bake at 180°C for anywhere between 50 minutes and 1 ½ hours, depending on your oven’s idiosyncrasies (I’m still getting used to mine). Half-way through the cooking time, place two strips of lemon zest on the centre of the cake. To test if it’s cooked, stab it with a skewer. When it’s ready let it cool for about 10 minutes before tuning out onto a wire rack.

#72 Madeira Cake – 7/10. I really liked this cake. I usually prefer something with a bit of cream or icing, but in combination with the sweet Madeira wine, it is really lovely. How refined!

#64 Soyer’s Orange Salad

All is going well thus far re: fitness. I’ve been to the gym every morning so far this week and I’m determined not to eat to much fatty greasiness. That said, one must treat oneself, mustn’t one? So I’m sure that I’ll do something naughty later on in the week. By compromise at least one of my 5 a day will be included (does butter count?). For tea I had salady bits – a green salad, hummus, coleslaw, brown bread etc etc. For dessert, Soyer’s Orange Salad. The recipe is taken from his 1860 book Shilling Cookery for the People (full title, Shilling Cookery for the People: Embracing an Entirely New System of Plain Cookery and Domestic Economy). You can still buy it as a paperback. Odd though that there’s an orange recipe, as they were pretty expensive up until post-war times. Also it contains Madeira wine. Anyways, it’s very easy – all you need is a very sharp knife or a Japanese mandolin and time for the oranges to macerate. The quantities I give are for four people:

Thinly slice three oranges, making sure that you remove pips; don’t buy the great big warty navel ones, get the small thinner skinned ones. Don’t slice the ends as they’re too pithy. Arrange the slices on a large plate, keeping the best ones for the top. Next, sprinkle two ounces of sugar over them, and then 2 fluid ounces (80 mlsish) of Madeira. Cover with cling film and chill for a few hours, or overnight.

FYI: Alexis Soyer is considered the first ‘celebrity chef’ and was an all-round nice chap: he took his travelling kitchen to Ireland during the potato famine to feed the poor, and to the Crimea and was a contemporary of Florence Nightingale.

#64 Soyer’s Orange Salad – 4/10. An odd creature. Not sure if I liked it, so I erred on the side of caution with score. The sweet Madeira is a treat and got easily drink a vat of it, but the oranges were odd – I don’t eat oranges like this normally – as the pith and peel were very tear and made my tongue a bit numb. That said, I couldn’t leave it alone. Maybe the slices weren’t thin enough, or perhaps I didn’t leave it long enough. I’ve got some in the fridge and will see what it’s like tomorrow.