Great minds think alike…
Or so the adage goes. Even so when you ask a dozen or so cooks to make a dish inspired by a single word, it never ceases to amaze me how different each person approaches the task.
This is the ethos of Cook the Books, a group of food loving individuals from all walks of life who meet in Lewes once a month. The idea is to take the chosen word and pick a recipe from one of your favourite cookbooks to make for everyone to enjoy at a pot luck supper. There is always a sense of excitement as I make my way to Cook the Books. There’s no conferring – nobody knows what other people will bring – which could be a recipe for disaster. Somehow we always manage to achieve a balance between sweet and savoury and (as yet) have never had any duplications. The result is not only a delicious meal but one that is as diverse as the cooks themselves. The added bonus is the discovery of ‘new’ books and food writers so your culinary horizons are broadened further.
In January the word was ‘citrus’. One of our cooks made some lemon slices from a recipe book she’d brought with her to this country when she moved here from California almost 30 years ago. They were seriously good. So this is my version using the last of the Seville oranges in place of lemons and adding a walnut topping (which you can omit if you’re not of a nutty persuasion).
Makes 18 squares
Ingredients – for the base
- 225g plain flour
- 50g icing sugar
- 150g cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1½ tsp ground cardamom
Ingredients – for the topping
- 100g walnuts, roughly chopped
- 100g rolled oats
- 1½ tsp ground cardamom
- 50g date syrup
- 15g unsalted butter
Ingredients – for the filling
- 4 large eggs
- 300g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 150ml Seville orange juice (about 6-8 fruit)
- Zest of 2 Seville oranges
- Preheat the oven to 150℃. Line a 18 x 28 x 3cm baking tin with foil.
- To make the base: Put the plain flour, icing sugar, cold unsalted butter and ground cardamom in a food processor. Briefly blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (or you can rub the butter into the dry ingredients if you don’t have a food processor). Spread it as evenly as possible over the base of the prepared tin, pressing down firmly as you go to make a base. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the base is golden.
- To make the topping: Mix the walnuts, oats and remaining ground cardamom in a bowl. Heat the date syrup and butter gently until the latter has just melted then stir this into the nuts etc until everything is coated in the syrup. Tip this mixture onto a baking tray then cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring it every 5 minutes or so (I cook the topping at the same time as the base).
- To make the filling: Beat the eggs, caster sugar and cornflour until well combined. Stir in the orange juice and zest. Pour over the cooked based and return to the oven for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes remove the orange slice from the oven. It should still have a wobble to it but it will firm up as it cools. Scatter the nuts and oats over the top. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Allow the slice to cool in the tin before lifting the foil out and cutting into slices or squares.
If you still have some Seville oranges left over why not try this 18th century orange custard or Elizabethan marmalade?