I know when I talk Madeira, I usually speak about cooking with it, not drinking it. That probably won’t change anytime soon since I am no great expert but thanks to Mannie Berk at The Rare Wine Company (who invited me) and to the people at IVBAM (Madeira’s institute for wine and crafts), I got to taste 40, count ‘em, 40 madeiras at the snazzy Astor Center at Astor Wine in NYC.
Let me tell you -- for the uninitiated, wine tasting is not for sissies. I still can’t bring myself to spit (that’s what the ominous black bucket on the right is for) but even with small sips… after that many wines I was exhausted. Probably concentrating that closely played a part as well. It was all for a good cause…this is one great wine, I know I’ve told you this before.
I tasted young, old, dry and sweet with the differing personalities of the 7 houses that make the wine on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of Africa. The micro-climate and basaltic soil make for an ideal grape haven. There are many grapes used to make the different varieties of wine (Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho, Sercial & Tinta Negra being the best known) and these are planted strategically on the various parts of the island. Five centuries of experience have told them which location is best for which grape.
I got to speak with representatives of many of the 7 producers. I asked a representative from Henriques e Henriques about what they eat with Madeira and they said Bolo de Mel, a classic sweet cake that is much like gingerbread. It is made around Christmas and is meant to be eaten by hand (never to be cut with a knife). And they make a lot of it…enough to last all year long.
Since it is summer, I decided I would hold off on making this dark spicy recipe and instead make the English version of Madeira Cake that has been popular for a few hundred years.
Lighter and lemony, I found a spectacular recipe from Chef Michael Caines at the beautiful Gidleigh Park in Devon, England (a little more research for my England trip). He makes his mum’s recipe for the cake (that she found in an old Good Housekeeping book). It is a stunner, like a light pound cake soaked in madeira scented apricot and tangy lemon, oh my! Best of all I get to sneak a little Madeira into it (which is not traditional -- the English version, and Caines' version is wine-free) because of the beautiful apricot glaze that I found. Let me tell you it is great with the wine or with tea… a little Earl Gray, mmm. Heaven.
Lemon Madeira Cake based on Michael Caines’s Recipe
Zest and juice of a lemon
5 eggs *
350g caster sugar (1 ¾ C)
Pinch of salt
150ml double cream (5 oz)
275g plain flour (almost 2 c at 140g a cup)
5 g baking powder (1 t)
100g butter, melted (a little less than ½ c)
A little apricot glaze ****
100g icing sugar (7/8c)
A little extra butter and flour for the tin
1 Preheat the oven to 160C/gas3 (320º). Grease a cake tin with butter and dust with flour (the recipe called for a 12”x 4”x3.5” pan but I made 2, one smaller one in a 6" x 5" decorative mold and the other in a 5" x 9" loaf pan). Put the lemon zest, eggs, sugar and salt into a mixer and whizz at top speed for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens and turns a lovely pale yellow.
2 Fold in the cream. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture, then add the melted butter, again folding it in carefully.
3 Spoon into the cake tin and put into the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (the smaller mold was 45 minutes).
4 Turn out and cool on a rack, but leave the oven on. When cold, brush the cake all over with apricot jam.
5 To make the glaze, put the icing sugar and lemon juice in a pan on the stove until the sugar melts and the mixture turns syrupy, then brush this all over the top and sides of the cake and return it to the oven for 30seconds.
*the eggs from Grazin Angus Acres in Union Square make everything the best color...they are so yellow~
As for the glaze, it comes from a century-old recipe from La Cuisine Française. The author, François Tanty, was trained under Careme, the most famous 19th century French Chef. Tanty then served as Chef de Cuisine to Emperor Napoleon III and Chef to the Czar of Russia; he also was proprietor of the Grand Hotel and the Restaurant Dussaux at St. Petersburg, and Purveyor to the French and Russian Armies says the indispensable resource, Feeding America . How’s that for a CV! This world-class toast and jam is about as good as it gets. If you don’t have apricots at hand, just use 2 parts apricot jam to one part Madeira. You will be astounded how good this is for breakfast or tea or an incredibly quick dessert for last minute guests.
I did a guest blog for the generous and amazing Lazaro. Do stop by and have a look. If you have never seen his blog, Lazaro Cooks scan back and enjoy!!!
Thanks to Gollum for hosting another Foodie Friday
My next post will come from England!!! Thanks to all of you who clicked on the ads!!!