I recently had the great pleasure and privilege of hearing Yotam Ottolenghi speak. He gave a talk on Jerusalem, his hometown, at SOAS as a part of their food policy seminar series. It was extremely well-attended (no surprises there), and I was surprised at just how warm, inspiring, articulate, and intelligent he was (and academic — his masters thesis was on “ontological status of the photographic image in aesthetic and analytic philosophy,” and he almost started a PhD before going into the food world!). His personality definitely matched the impressions I get from his books and columns.
Attending the talk re-invigorated my Ottolenghi love and prompted me to go through the cookbooks of his that I own and re-acquaint myself with his recipes. At this time of the year (or 2 weeks ago when I made this), markets are filled with pears and apples and so I thought this was a perfect fit.
The introductory description for this recipe, from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, says that God must have had this cake in mind for mid-afternoon tea breaks. I’m inclined to agree, although I’d pair it with coffee instead. In fact, it’s a perfect cake for Kaffee und Kuchen, a traditional German afternoon activity. ;)
The stages required for this loaf, truth be told, are slightly annoying and will dirty many bowls in your kitchen. You can find the recipe online here, so I won’t repost. I made a couple of small changes — I substituted whisky for the Amaretto and almonds for the walnuts.
There was something slightly retro about this cake. I think it was the density and the nuts. It reminded me of a cake for parents or grandparents — I know my dad in particular would love it. A little note on the crumble topping (butter, flour, sugar): that is something I’d usually not do, just because I’d think it tastes fine without (in fact for the loaves and muffins I’ve made of his before, I’ve not bothered). However this time I decided to make it and I have to say that the extra work is worth it: the crumble topping really added to the cake.
Apologies for the poor quality of the photo!