Almond, Fig & Carob Cake – a real taste of Portugal

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The countryside that surrounds us is plentiful in its bounty and naturally glorious! I love foraging along rugged tracks in search of goodies to take home and cook. Under an azure sky – our summer seems endless – we are blessed to be able to profit from God’s ‘free’ larder. Despite the earth’s exposed red rocky soil and sun scorched pastures, the trees and hedgerows are heavy with fruit. Southern Portugal at the start of September is a good corner of the world to be living in; and I am grateful for this little piece of Eden in a world burdened with the weight of wars and discord. I try not to take my blessings for granted and just pray that more nations can share the harmony and peace, in which I am privileged to live.

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Under an azure sky, we gathered carobs from the ladened trees at Espiche Golf Course.

In search of ingredients to make a most delicious Portuguese speciality, my husband and I incorporated dog walking and a game of golf with costless shopping. I should mention here – in case anyone from the club stumbles upon this post – that we did not walk the dogs on the course! We’d be hung, drawn and quartered for committing such a heinous crime on cherished turf! We may have been guilty of slow play (much to the extreme annoyance of our son, Jonathan, who takes the game very seriously and only graces us with his company under extreme duress or bribery) as we took time to fill two carrier bags with carob pods. The golf course has  numerous carob trees and, at this time of year, they are heavily burdened with rich chocolate coloured pods.

Early on Sunday, before breakfast and the inevitable fierce rays of the sun which will penetrate the clear brilliant blue sky before mid morning, we headed out of the village with two eager dogs to gather a few fresh figs, almonds and quinces. Our mutts, Georgie and Ulrika, are like coiled springs in anticipation of their daily outing – running across open scrub land, searching out new scents in the hope of hunting down some unsuspecting prey. For Georgie, it is a dream. She has no hope of catching anything. A tortoise would have an even chance! She lumbers in search of windfall figs while Ulrika sprints and bounces like a greyhound. They are great companions to us and each other and give much pleasure. In return, we supply pats, comfortable beds, bones and …… above all, food!

The hedgerows and open meadows are bursting with fruit and we quickly filled our bags with ripe green figs, last year’s almonds still protected in their hard husky shells and ugly yellow quinces which will produce the most fragrant jelly. It is better than any supermarket – no one to jostle you, ram you with a trolley, no need to queue at a checkout and, best of all, no need to pay.

Armed with all the ingredients necessary to bake a great Portuguese speciality, I headed to the kitchen. Using the carob pods I produced the powder by breaking them open, discarding the hard seeds and grinding the pods to produce the powder. Carob is deemed healthier than chocolate powder, so no guilt issues when indulging in a second or third slice! I produce my own carob powder because I have the pods in plentiful supply, but knowing the same privilege is not available to those living on the King’s Road, the product can easily be sourced in supermarkets.

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A deliciously moist almond, fig & carob cake!

I am reliably informed that this Portuguese speciality complements a glass of Medronho (fire water) and a small strong black coffee (bica). Medronho is a strong spirit – usually distilled to around 48% alcohol. The berries are picked from a tree of the same name and are usually found growing wild. The drink is very popular with farmers and fishermen and is often drunk at breakfast to wake the spirits! It’s not for me – I’ve no idea what my spirits might get up to if I consumed this at the break of day – but I might be tempted to a little slice of almond, fig and carob cake with my coffee!!

Fig, Almond and Carob Cake

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 35 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup of carob powder
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped almonds
  • 1 cup of chopped figs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar to dust

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees fahrenheit / 150 degrees centigrade.
  2. In a bowl, separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites into a creamy and even consistency. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, carob powder, sugar and honey.
  4. add the olive oil, almonds, figs and milk.
  5. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and then fold in the whites.
  6. Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes.

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