Have you succumbed to the January diet and detox racketeers, peddling promises of a new you for a new year? To throw a spanner into your good intentions, I’d like to ask, what was so very wrong with the old you? Even if the usual notch on your belt is feeling a little tight, the beginning of January is the very worst time of year to try to do anything about it. The likelihood of failure is far too high. At least leave it until the tin of Quality Streets is empty.
Not only is it cold and dark, but the general comedown after the jollities of Christmas Day are already fading into distant memory. There’s a bleak void of nothingness on the social calendar because everyone’s too skint to go out and a general gloom is bound to take over that even a dose of telly’s best new Danish drama can’t repress.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, the festive season isn’t actually over until the feast of Epiphany. We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, but for some inexplicable reason, most of us think it’s time to throw in the towel at 7 Swans-a-Swimming. We’ve got milking maids, dancing ladies, leaping lords and pipers piping left to go, and that’s before any of the 12 drummers have picked up a single drum stick. Where’s your festive stamina, for goodness’ sake?
And we haven’t even touched on the problem of leftover food. Of course you’ll have bought too much food at Christmas. It’s all part of the tradition. But it’s not all going to magically disappear like the last dregs of the wine rack on New Year’s Eve. There’s bound to be at least half a ham, a panettone and several hundred boxes of chocolates still to get through. Not to mention the festive nuts that have yet to be cracked and the enormous bowl of oranges that you bought with the intention of slicing and slow drying in the oven to make homemade tree decorations, but never got round to. Do you really want to see it all go to waste?
In the continued spirit of Christmas – because it’s not over until the Magi drop off their gold, frankincense and myrrh – I’ve made a delicious cake that is big enough to share and makes use of some of those leftover oranges you never got round to using. You can swap the oranges for double the amount of clementines or satsumas or whatever other small orange citrus fruit you found at the bottom of your stocking. Don’t let them go mouldy in your fruit bowl before you’ve even taken the tinsel down, make this lovely, fragrant cake instead.
Orange and Almond Torte (gluten and dairy-free)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/375°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease (with oil if serving to dairy-free guests) and line a 9-inch deep round cake tin.
2 oranges, washed
6 medium eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
225g ground almonds
A few handfuls of toasted almond slivers (optional)
A dusting of icing sugar (optional)
Place your oranges in a saucepan and add enough cold water until the oranges are covered. Pop on a lid and place the pan over a gentle heat for 2 hours. Leave the oranges to cool completely in the cooking water. You can do this the day before if you like.
Once completely cold, drain the oranges and cut off any woody ends and cut into small pieces. Remove any pips before transferring the orange pieces to the food processor. Blitz until pureed.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Using the same whisk (no need to wash it) whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until pale and mousse-like. Whisk in the orange pulp and almonds before folding in the egg whites. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin, gently level the top and scatter over a few handfuls of toasted almond slivers before baking for 50 – 55 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before turning the cake out of its tin. Place on a serving plate and dust with icing sugar before serving.