I love cooking with new ingredients. The sense of excitement starts from the moment you bring the item home from the shops and culminates in the final product being pulled out of the oven or off the stove. I still remember the first time I used a real vanilla bean for a batch of vanilla ice-cream, tender saffron threads for a saffron and tomato broth, and blue cheese in a cream of broccoli soup. The last ingredient was particularly memorable because I unknowingly smudged a bit of cheese into the arm of my coat and the smell followed me for the rest of the evening.
My latest new ingredient is organic spelt flour. I spied it a couple of weeks ago in a recipe by Nigel Slater for Damson Spelt Cake. The name alone sounds so positively tea-with-mrs-norris that I couldn’t resist. Nigel says that the benefit of spelt flour is that it “..gives a tender and open crumb to the cake”, but plain flour can be used instead, if spelt proves to be elusive.
It’s getting quite late in the year for plums, so I had difficulty finding Damsons. Instead, I picked up some English Plums and Greengages. The Greengages were fantastic eaten as they were, and the English Plums with their lovely red skin, went into the cake. The following is the original recipe by Nigel Slater.
Damson Spelt Cake :
150g unrefined golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
110g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
75g ground almonds
an extra tbsp of sugar
icing sugar to finish
You will need a square cake tin measuring about 20-22cm across the base. Set the oven at 180’C. Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. It is easier to do this with an electric mixer, but some prefer the wooden spoon method. Don’t stop until the mixture is almost white. Crack the eggs and beat them gently, then add to the mixture a little at a time, beating thoroughly between each lot.
Mix the flour and baking powder, and add to the ground almonds. Fold into the cake mixture, gently but firmly. If you overmix, the cake will be heavy. Transfer the mixture to the lined cake tin with a rubber spatula, then lay the damons on top and shake over the tablespoon of sugar. (The damsons will sink during cooking, leaving one or two peeping through the surface.)
Bake for 45 minutes, covering with tin foil for the last 10 minutes if it looks to be browning too quickly. Remove from the oven, leave to settle down and then, when almost cool, remove from the tin. Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve.