Plum Cake

Plum CakeI am not a fruit eater. I’ve always tended to go for sweets involving chocolate, caramel, nuts, etc., but fruity baked goods are often my last choice. This summer, however, the fruit has been looking lovely, so I’ve been trying to involve it in my dessert-making. This cake is a really nice, really simple thing to throw together – not fussy or delicate at all. You could probably use peaches instead of plums, if you like. I’ve altered it somewhat from the original.

1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 t + 1/4 pumpkin pie spice*
1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c + 1 T sugar
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
6-8 plums, sliced into eighths

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line bottom of an 8-9 inch springform pan with baking parchment and grease sides. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined. Mix in dry ingredients in 4-6 additions, scraping sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Spread batter into springform pan – batter will be thick. Arrange plum slices, pressing lightly into batter surface. Mix together remaining pumpkin pie spice and sugar and sprinkle over plums. Bake for 50-55 minutes.

After baking, remove cake from oven and allow cake to rest for 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Take off springform ring and allow cake to cool for another 15 minutes.

*Don’t have any pumpkin pie spice? You can make it pretty easily: 2 T cinnamon, 2 T ginger, 1 T nutmeg and 1 t allspice. Put it all in an airtight container, shake it up and use it liberally.

Chicken Nilgiri

This is partially invented. I use Jamie Oliver’s curry pastes when I want homemade Indian food. They’re very simple and easy to customize (after you’ve made them a couple of times and gotten a feel for them). So I used them as a template to prepare a copycat recipe from my favorite restaurant. I’ve never seen this dish in other Indian places (maybe it was invented by the restaurant itself!), so it was a bit of a crapshoot, but we really enjoyed the results.

This involves spices that aren’t necessarily pantry staples. If you make your own curry pastes, though, you will use these at a pretty good clip. Look at an Asian market for some of the odder ones.

Toasting Spices
1 t fenugreek, whole
1 t fennel, whole
1 t cumin, whole
1 t black peppercorns, whole
1 t coriander, whole

Other Paste Ingredients
2 cloves garlic
fresh ginger, peeled thumb-sized piece
2 fresh green Thai chilies
1 T turmeric
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
1 T coconut milk
2 T groundnut oil (I use peanut)
equal amounts fresh cilantro and mint (about 3/4 c loosely packed of each should do)

Toast the whole spices in a skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and slightly browned (watch the fenugreek, it’s usually yellow). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, put them through a spice grinder or a strong food processor. Combine toasted spices and all the other ingredients in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste (you can drizzle in a little more oil if mixture seizes). If you’re not using the paste right away, put it in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Curry Sauce
1-2 T ghee or vegetable oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 t asafoetida or hing powder
2/3 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 recipe Nilgiri paste
2 c plain yogurt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
pinch sugar

In a Dutch oven, heat ghee or oil over medium high. Add onion and hing and cook, stirring frequently until onion is starting to turn transparent. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes, then add paste. Stir to distribute paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in yogurt and chickpeas and stir well, then lower heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If any bitter flavors occur, add pinch of sugar. Serve hot with rice or naan.