I once worked for a travel company as a “cook”. They posted us to all kinds of countries within Europe, with varying degrees of accommodation and standards of kitchens. I have never done an organised tour and I was completely unaware that a lot of the “cooks” who applied for jobs were ex- passengers who had been around the circuit, assessed the standards and applied to be posted in their favourite cities.
I had finished my culinary training, worked in a ski resort in the Snowy Mountains in Australia as a breakfast cook, travelled to Bali , and was now in Europe, looking for a job. I was presented with the prospect of spending the “summer” in the Lakes District of England, where I was told, it was beautiful and that I would absolutely love it.
It was beautiful and there was a lot to love , but living in a tent in the English countryside is not all it’s cracked up to be! These were a budget tour and some of the accommodation was in camp sites. I was alone on a camp site where I was the caretaker of 20 bright yellow tents, a new kind with internal frames. Pegs were not much use in the rocky damp soil and bent easily when driven in. I had a very large “cooks “tent that doubled as an eatery if the weather was too hazardous for dining on the outdoor tables….. Back up there a minute……… Yes weather, the Lake District’s location on the north west coast of England, coupled with its mountainous geography, makes it the dampest part of England. Yes, and windy. I spend a good part of my 4 months chasing yellow tents. Wind would whip up under their skirts and they would fly up into the air and crash down in a heap in the creek. The tents had bases that were internally attached and so when my tent became a parachute so did all of my belongings. It rained constantly and there was never enough sun to dry anything when it peeked through the “summer” clouds This was depressing and I needed a lot of positive thinking and a fare amount of cooking skills to get me by. A bus of 55 people for 2 days, breakfast lunch and dinner from 4 large gas burner’s and some giant pots, in a cooks tent, subject to wind and rain?…….. fortunately there was a budget and as long as I met it I was able to improvise in any way I liked , and that may very well be cause for another story because this one is about to take a turn for the better. Between each tour I had two days to spare.
I loved the local cheeses and tried to incorporate them into my menus. I became friendly with a local, who had a van and this enabled me to get about a bit more, buying local produce and visiting the markets. I cooked for him on my days off , in his lovely dry warm caravan with a fridge and tiny gas burners and pots, where the wind was a bay outside the doors and windows and there was a TV and a bottle of wine, this ended up being my accommodation, of course. I stayed on a little while at the end of the season. I had a tiny space in the local paper where I published a few recipes using ricotta cheese and had my 5 minutes of fame.
When I saw this recipe for Ricotta cake on www.cookrepublic.com it reminded me so much of the recipes I had but didn’t keep. So I started making it . I have taken this cake firmly and warmly into my life, as I did the fellow with the warm dry caravan. It is the height of simplicity and well and truly open for reinterpretation. Try the ricotta cream, it is deliciously addictive but of course, not quite as naughty as your average whipped cream. I only made one adjustment to Sneh’s recipe and that was the addition of a Tablespoon of honey to enhance the keeping qualities.
- ¾ cup oil,
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
- 1¾ cup caster sugar (granulated)
- 2 cups self raising flour or plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1- ½ Tablespoons Lemon juice
- 1 x cup pure icing ( confectioners) sugar
- 100 gm ( 31/4 oz) dark chocolate ( chopped)
- ¼ cup of cream
- 250gm ricotta
- 1 Tablespoon pure icing sugar ( sifted)
- 1 cup of full fat or thickened cream.
- Put the eggs, oil, sugar, zest , juice and ricotta into a mixing bowl and beat till well combined . The mixture looks thick and smooth. Stir in the flour , dont over mix, till combined.
- Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Put 1 tablespoon of juice into a bowl then sift over the icing sugar and mix till smooth. Use the additional juice if you would like a slightly thinner icing.
- Heat the cream in a small pot, till very hot but not boiling Take off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, and stir till smooth.
- Put the cream, ricotta sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a mixer and beat till light and fluffy and soft peaks form. Use a a filling for Ricotta cake or as a topping .