I didn’t really understand the British craze about celebrity chefs until I ran into Nigella. She’s what I’d want to be, if I still believed in fairy tales. She’s beautiful, for one thing, and disturbingly sensual. Her shows are so obviously ‘fake’ that I really adore their kitch edge (come on, who goes out partying with friends, come home with perfect hair and make up, and prepare the batter for tomorrow morning’s something? I admit I did do it, but never with perfect hair, and cursing myself all the time). Her books are surprisingly learned, and her writing is funny and interesting. And on the food side, there is no cheating: her recipes are just spot on, accurate, and as fuss free as home cooking can get. For instance her italian dishes make enough sense even to an Italian, and this is quite uncommon. This Middle East inspired cake, from Feast, is a great example. It is assembled in minutes, it tastes divine, and it is dead easy to make.
The doses for the aroma are gentle. I quite liked it this way because then you can taste the semolina and really enjoy its rich consistency. But if you prefer something more definitely moorish, I’d increase the amount of orange blossom water in the syrup, and possibly the cardamom a tiny bit.
Sticky semolina cake
For the syrup:
400 g sugar
250 ml water
2 tbs lemon joice
1 tsp rose water
2 tsp orange water
300 g semolina
150 g sugar
125 g butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of 1 lemon
100 g greek yogurt (I used normal one, worked like charm)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (2-3 cardamom pods, pestled in the mortar, skin removed – it is not overwhelming, if you really are into cardamom you can add more)
about 30 pistachios (original with almonds, didn’t have any, looked really pretty witthem)
Method: Make the syrup by dissolving sugar into water, add lemon juice, boil for about 5 min until little thickened. Add rose and orange flower water, and leave to cool, eventually in the fridge.
Pre heat oven at 180C. Whiz all cake ingredients but the pistachios in a food processor (hand blender works fine). Butter a aquare tin ( i used a rectangular one, smallish). Pour the dough in it and dot it evenly with the chosen fruit, be it almonds or pistachios.
Bake for about 30 min, a wooden stick should turn out clean and the top of the cake be quite golden.
Pour the cool syrup over it. It looks like it is too much, but the cakle will actually absorb it. Cut it into squares and leave to cool. Delicious the day after.