Tree Change; def: a colloquial term that refers to citified folks making a change, to live somewhere greener, quieter, usually surrounded by trees.
There are tree changes afoot in my Australian clan. I’ve just spent the last few days down in Berry; a spectacularly beautiful part of the NSW south coast.
It’s green and gold down there. The sun shines brighter in the mornings and the air at night is colder. Berry is a 10 minute drive from the appropriately named ‘Seven Mile Beach’. It’s home to spectacular sourdough bread and coffee, a petite farmer’s market on Fridays and now, to some of my favourite people.
In the tree-change-life there are chickens; ten of them, though there’s a chance that Shirl the mother hen may in fact be hiding her rooster potential under a bushel of blossoming feathers.
I made this cake when I was back in my mother’s house in Sydney, with fruit I brought back from those trees. My feet were slightly warmer, but my heart was colder for having had to drive away. This version of a classic citrus and almond cake uses mandarins, but blood oranges or navels could also be substituted (though keep the proportions- best to use three oranges instead of four mandarins). The almond meal contributes a hearty stickiness and the pebbles of dark chocolate offer a romantic jaffa flavour. This cake is best when made with eggs with lurid yellow yolks, plucked from beneath the peat Shirl and her brood sleep on in the shed.
Serve slices of this cake with a splodge of creme fraiche; firm plans for when you will return and enough good sense to realise the next time you’re going to bake something inspired by the town of Berry, the featured fruit should probably be small and coloured pink or blue.
Mandarin, almond and dark chocolate cake
(slightly feeble photographs taken in dying Sydney light)
1 saucepan with a lid. 1 food processor or stick blender. 1 23 cm diameter removable bottom cake pan. Baking paper.
Four mandarins/clementines, rinsed.
2 1/2 cups of almond meal/ground almonds
1 cup of caster sugar
50 grams of dark chocolate, roughly chopped.
Creme fraiche to serve.
Here’s how we roll
1) Immerse the mandarins in enough water to cover and bring to the boil. Place the lid on and simmer on a gentle boil for 1 hour. Remove from water, cut open and allow to cool (you can do this the day before if you like).
2) Preheat the oven to 160 C/ 320 F and grease and line a 23 cm circular cake pan with baking paper.
3) Remove all of the pips from the mandarins. Blend the flesh and skins until you have a smooth pulp. Set aside.
4) Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the almond meal until well incorporated.
6) Serve with creme fraiche.