Taste of Autumn: Porcini and Dates

There are things that are totally unpredictable, such as dreams, accidents, tempers and the English weather… However there are things that are predictably regular such as the seasons’ bounties that both Maria and I always look forward to.

Last week Maria was in the Alps foraging for mushrooms and found herself a mega porcini mushroom, which she took home, sliced and sautéed with parsley. Looking for porcini is an activity, which Maria looks forward year after year. She can spot mushrooms from a distance.  When in London, she often takes day trips to New Forest to stroll and return with a basket full or not so full of mushrooms.  The anticipation is as important as finding and picking. 

I am currently in Lebanon enjoying the late summer, autumnal colours as well as persimmons and dates. The thing about dates, is that unless you are unusually tall, they are impossible to pick, so you take the easy route and buy them from your greengrocer. Yesterday I baked a cake with fresh dates poached in sweet coffee. I sprinkled it with honey and dusted it with cinnamon.   

Do try it! It is both delicious and easy.

Fresh Date Cake

360 g fresh dates, stoned
2 teaspoons instant coffee diluted in 180 ml water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
130 g Soft brown sugar
75 g butter
1 tablespoon cognac
2 eggs
165 g plain white flour
Honey, optional

1.     Pre-heat the oven to 180 C
2.     Butter and flour a 30 cm bunt cake tin and set aside.
3.     Cook dates in coffee until soft and all liquid is almost evaporated.
4.     Add butter and bicarbonate of soda. Leave to cool.
5.     Beat eggs with sugar and cognac, until fluffy and creamy.
6.     Fold in flour and baking powder.
7.     Combine the dates into the mixture.
8.     Transfer to the cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.
9.     Allow to cool before turning out.
Optional: add 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey over the hot cake and sprinkle with cinnamon. 

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