Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake

Courgette plant Striato di Napoli

It's peak time for courgettes on my allotment. In order to keep everyone around the dining table interested it's necessary to pull out all the recipes I have and then look for more.  I've worked my way through risottos of diced courgette finished with their shredded flowers; fritters of grated courgette topped with a fried egg; dishes of Scapece with its vinegar and mint dressing; and courgette and onion tarts.  Courgettes make a surprisingly creamy soup; a light supper when sautéed and coloured with saffron (thank you Fern Verrow - a year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen); and their flowers, dipped in tempura batter, are delicious fried (more substantial if stuffed with soft cheese and herbs beforehand).  This year, we've had countless plates of Linguine con zucchine from Rachel Roddy's Five Quarters - Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome.  This summer my diners have never tired of that dish. We all need a recipe like that.

I vow not to let courgettes grow so large they effectively turn into marrows - the idea of stuffed marrow makes me shudder.  But when I'm bringing home armfuls of courgettes, they can find their way into cake.  I picked up a basic  recipe in the USA at least a decade ago.  Every summer since, out it comes to be tweaked a little according to what I have in the store cupboard. This year, in response to a request for the recipe, I've decided to share a version just in case you, too, are buckling under the weight of summer squashes.  It's worth mentioning that I've also successfully made this cake with crookneck squash.  If your courgettes are very watery, salt them after grating, leave them to sit for half an hour and then squeeze out the excess juice.  This recipe makes a pretty large cake but it does, quite easily, scale down to a 2-egg cake.

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake

Spiced Courgette & Lemon Cake
(makes a large cake 23cm x 13cm)

2 medium courgettes (about 450g/16oz), grated
180ml (6fl oz) groundnut oil
300g (10oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g (9oz) soft plain flour
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons of ground allspice (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and a little clove)
a pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
115g (4oz) raisins or sultanas

60ml (2fl oz) lemon juice
60g (2 oz) granulated sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180C(fan 160C)/350F/Gas 4
Grease the loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper on the bottom and long sides to help with lifting out the baked cake.
Combine the oil and sugar and mix well until creamy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, mixing well between each addition.  Mix in the grated courgette and the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, spices, salt, lemon zest and raisins.  Stir into the creamed mixture until it is just amalgamated.  You should have a fairly loose batter.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake in the centre of the oven for about 65 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Gently heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
Pierce the loaf several times with a skewer. Spoon the hot syrup over the cake, covering all of the top.  Cool for 30 minutes before lifting out the cake with the help of the paper.

The cake tastes much better if you cool it completely, peel off the paper, and wrap it in fresh greaseproof paper or non-PVC food wrap  and leave overnight.  Keeps well for several days and actually becomes stickier and even better, I think.

More of my courgette recipes:
Courgette Soup
Courgette, lemon & thyme linguine