Thursday, 18 January 2018


Good Morning to you,

I have often waxed lyrical about my time spent living in Cyprus and the reason is, it is a place I have always loved and which remains close to my heart.

I love the slow pace of life, the wonderful seasonal produce and of course the warm weather, which is very appealing on this snowy, cold winter's day.

.... and the fresh produce, like all Mediterranean countries, is sensational.

For instance.

There is something about the flavour of a Cypriot tomato, which is beyond compare. The only accompaniment the tomato needs, is a little salt, or a square of Feta cheese.  Its shape is not beautiful, in fact I think it would be fair to describe them, as rather ugly. If misshapen Cypriot tomatoes were sold here in England, I feel they would be passed by in favour of the perfectly formed tomato. People would automatically think, their ugliness, was indicative of their flavour, but what a mistake that would be. Give me a misshapen, Cypriot tomato, any day, over the tasteless, imported tomatoes which nowadays grace our supermarket shelves.

.... and the oranges and lemons, which grow in abundance due to the wonderful climate are so juicy. If you were to take a stroll around one of the villages, you would discover each garden would have at least one orange and lemon tree laden with fruit. The fresh citrus smell of an orange or  lemon when picked from a tree, is a wonderful experience. I remember the first time I walked through an orange grove, it was springtime and the flowers were blossoming on the trees. I was overwhelmed by the heady perfume which the flowers imparted. 

As you continue your walk, you would also discover pomegranates  and figs growing in gardens.  I remember as a child using a pin to tease the pomegranate seeds from their cases.  I could lose a whole hour doing this.  Invariably, I would end up with pomegranate juice down the front of my clothes, which meant I would be in trouble from my mother, Phyllis, for making such a mess of my dress, but the experience of eating fresh pomegranates were certainly worth the telling off.

Grapes are another fruit which grow in abundance. When the grapes are ripe, what can only be described as edible jewels, hang from the vine waiting to be picked and eaten.  The leaves do not go to waste as they are used to make dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).

.... and I must not forget to mention the Cypriot potato, which are grown in the rich red soil. Their season is short, so when they appear in the market, I make sure I buy a supply to either roast, mash or slice to make moussaka. 

There are other fruits and vegetables which are grown in Cyprus, but which are too numerous to mention, but one  I could not leave out, is the olive tree. You may be surprised to learn that olive trees have been grown in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. Many households will have at least one olive tree growing in their garden, with many more grown on family farms in the countryside. Olives are plentiful and a staple food in Cyprus..... also they are so very healthy to eat.

Quite recently, I discovered this quote.

'Olive oil in Greece takes the place butter has in the English diet.'

Antony Andrews
Ancient Greek Society

Which is so true.

When it comes to harvest time, removing the olives from their branches is not an easy task. Beneath each olive tree wide nets are spread onto the ground, a long stick is used to shake the olives from the tree or if you have a friend, like my husband George, who loves climbing trees, then you would have an extra pair of helping hands.  

The shaken branches release the olives which fall onto the nets below, which when full, can be gathered up and sorted.  This is very labour intensive work, but George always loved helping his friend Stephanos to harvest his olives.... and as a reward, we would  be given 1 or 2 demi johns of freshly pressed olive oil. Along with the demi john which our tree produced, we had a plentiful supply of olive oil, until the whole process began again the following year. 

When I had a plentiful supply of olive oil, I did not think about the amount I added to a dish.  I was not sparing, in fact I would go so far as to say I was very liberal with my olive oil and this was highlighted on one of my visits to Atlanta when I spent a lovely few weeks with Natasha. 

I was cooking supper and as normal, I poured olive oil into a pan, ready to saute some onions, when I heard a gasp from behind me, followed by Natasha saying, 'Mum, I think you are using too much olive oil'.  I looked in the pan and I didn't think I had, in fact, I had added the amount I used at home.... and that was the problem, I had forgotten that a good quality olive oil was expensive to buy. So each time I cooked I had to reign in the amount of olive oil I used, even so, I have a funny feeling that Natasha kept a close eye on me when I used olive oil, but the minute I returned home to Cyprus, I was back to normal.... a liberal amount of olive oil was poured into my pan and each time I did this, I smiled to myself and thought how lucky I was to cook with such an expensive, good quality oil.

So why are we talking about olive oil on this cold winter's day.  

The reason is,

I wondered, have you ever considered using olive oil in a cake.  I had mentioned that I was going to make an olive oil cake on my Instagram account and I received various thoughts from friends. Some were curious, some excited by the idea, but 1 friend was not impressed. The idea of a cake made with olive oil was not appealing.  

Our mindset is an interesting thing, we have our way of cooking and happy with that way and that is fine, but it is also good to think outside the box once in a while, because only then, when something new is tasted, can we form a true opinion.

My original recipe, was given to me by my friend Maria, which included ground cinnamon and cloves. These are lovely flavours, but I omit these spices and adapted the recipe to include fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Oh yes, and the original recipe was in cups, not American sized cups, but teacups.  A lot of my friends used teacups as measures. So as you can imagine, it took a little while for me to work out the  measurements, for you, because I too use teacups for this recipe.

As you can see, the texture is light and open.

Filled with lemon curd, it really is a lovely cake.  To enhance the lemon flavour sometimes I add a thin layer of lemon butter icing on the bottom tier of the cake and lemon curd on the top, then when the cakes are sandwiched together, they create a delightful tangy filling. You might think this is too much lemon, but the cake is delicately flavoured and not overtly lemony, because often the lemons do not yield very much juice.

I decorated the top of the cake with a sprinkling of icing sugar and in the centre I added crystallized lemons and oranges surrounded by sugar daisies. I keep a little supply in my store cupboard as they are a useful, easy alternative for decorating a cake.

Now you may have noticed that something is missing from this photograph. The slice of cake should be decorated with crystallized lemons and oranges.... it would have made for a nicer photograph, but my taste tester, yes George, got to them before I did and before I could stop him, popped them into his mouth.... this was his slice, so he thought nothing of it.... I feel sure you will understand, after all this is home baking.

So when this cake has baked, cooled, spread with lemon curd then decorated, it will be time to cut a slice and don't be surprised, because I just know, even my 'Doubting Thomas' friend, will enjoy this cake. I say this very light heartedly and with a smile on my face.


4 large eggs ~ room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 small lemons ~ juiced and zested
200ml extra virgin olive oil
200ml milk ~ I used semi skimmed
350g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 level teaspoons of baking powder


300g Lemon Curd


1 tablespoon of sifted icing sugar


2 x 23cm cake tins
Pre-heat the oven to 180c fan or 200c


1.  Butter and line the base of 2 x 23cm cake tins

2.   Place the sugar, eggs and lemon zest into a
large bowl and using an electric whisk,
with the setting on high,
whisk the ingredients until pale and creamy
and trebled in volume.

3.  Continue whisking and slowly drizzle the
olive oil into the mixture.

4.  Continue whisking and slowly
add the milk.

5.  Continue whisking and slowly
add the lemon juice.

Turn off the mixer

6.   Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

7.  With the whisk setting on low,
add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until
all the flour has been added and fully

8.   The mixture will feel a little thin for a cake mixture, but do not worry as this is the correct

9.  Divide the mixture equally between the
2 x 23cm cake tins.

10.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or
until the cakes are golden brown.
Pierce each cake with a cake skewer to
ensure the cake is fully baked.
When inserted, the cake skewer should come away clean.

11.  Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then remove them from their respective cake tins and remove the parchment paper.
Place on wire racks to cool.

12.   When cool, spread the bottom sponge with
lemon curd.
Place the 2nd sponge on top.

13.   Using a sieve, sprinkle the top of the cake with
icing sugar.

14.  Decorate as your heart desires.

15.  Enjoy.

So take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,

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Dear Friends,

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Best wishes to you.


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