Another gathering for a night of ladyboy poker provided another baking opportunity. In a search for inspiration a brief email poll of participants returned the single word 'chocolate'.
I had recently bookmarked a recipe for Chocolate, Coffee and Cardamon Cake with a view to a dinner party/poker dessert (rather than a bake and take to work kind of cake). I had fresh pods in the cupboard from the gingerbread earlier in the week and the pictures on Spice and More's blog screamed dense richness, just what you need with a good bottle of red to induce a lucky hand. I followed the recipe on the site, using the reduced amount of sugar suggested, with 70% chocolate (I had Green and Blacks in the cupboard). I have a Gaggia coffee machine (possibly my most prized possession) so brewed a double espresso then strained the crushed cardamon pods and seeds which I'd simmered in water into the coffee before adding all the liquid at the point stated. The type of tin wasn't specified but you'll need a deep springform for this one. I didn't bother with a ganache (and this wasn't because of previous disasters, I believe I now have a foolproof recipe) I just didn't think it looked like it needed it, the top of the cake looked so moist and was slightly cracked and I worried about masking the cardamon with more chocolate. When it came to serving, additional chocolate definitely wasn't needed, it was so tasty on it's own.
Along with the cake I also offered to cook the main. I have the Leon book and love it so much that I gave it to several people as Christmas presents last year, my sister is currently spreading the Leon love by giving copies as gifts. I needed a one pot veggie dish and the Egyptian Tamarind stew looked appealing, filled as it is with roasted aubergines, peppers, tomatoes and chickpeas (or fava beans if you can find them). I Googled it for additional hints and tips and discovered that it had been part of the Guardian's cookalong series with the added bonus of a pilaf recipe to accompany it. You can get the transcript and recipes here. I used agave nectar rather than honey, partly to just use it and partly because I'm not a fan of honey and wasn't sure how strong the taste of it would be. I think the agave worked, I added a little more tamarind than suggested and I think that I would split the chillies to get a little bit more of a kick. The smell of the pilaf was amazing as the heat hit the spices and everyone enjoyed it.
So, two wins on the food front were joined by two poker wins - yes I won both games! Unheard of. Only that day I'd been moaning that I was feeling a little despondent as I rarely won a hand never mind games or cold hard cash and was pretty much only going along for the company and baking opportunity. But win I did, and it felt good.
There was a baking fail though, perhaps fail is too strong a word as colleagues at work seemed to enjoy it, but I can't say I was taken with the Cardamon Vanilla Bundt featured on the Food Librarian's 'I Like Big Bundts' series (in the lead up to National Bundt day on November 15th). It was heavier than I expected and whilst it smelt divine whilst baking, the end result didn't have enough vanilla or cardamom for me. Do check out the series though, there are some fantastic looking cakes on there.