My first encounter with Yvette van Boven’s creative recipes, inspiring ideas and whimsical sketches was with the cookbook, Home Made. Among a bookcase of cookbooks with bright white photos encouraging you to make cooking cheerful and smiley, that book was a welcomed relief.
It was filled with dark shadowed food photos and recipes that made me want to lock up in the kitchen and get cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cheer, balloons and bright flowers as much as the next person, but that isn’t how I cook. I like the rustic, the homemade, the old fashioned, and often, the imperfection.
I’m not sure how to explain it. As a home cook, that book spoke to me.
I received Home Made Winter last year. It was like a wonderful dark, snowy night by the fire in the form of a cookbook. The author explains that the recipes in that book represented much of her childhood growing up with the comfort foods of Ireland.
I knew Home Made Summer was right around the corner, and I could hardly wait. This book, Yvette explains, is about her current life in Amsterdam and Paris with summers spent in Provence. It’s as summery as one can get while still holding on to that rustic charm. Fresh ingredients hit by natural sunlight that are comforting and earthly like spreading your toes through soft blades of grass on a summer lawn.
Cantaloupe Soup with Goat Cheese and Basil Oil, Scallop Ceviche and Jalapeno & Apple Sauce for your summer grilled goodies were a few of the things that caught my attention. And the garden photos! I enjoy how some recipes are paired with shots of gorgeous green gardens as opposed to only a completed dish.
As the author explains early on, the recipes in this book are true to summer. They don’t take a lot of work to prepare (ideal for summer heat) and they incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients. It’s all about simplicity.
I would say simplicity is the tone in her other books too, but if you are looking for more complex recipes or techniques you may have never tried before - Home Made or Home Made Winter would be a good choice. If simple, fresh, summer dishes are what you are after, this is your book.
Or you can be like me and use all three.
Now that we are in California, I have access to many more diverse ingredients. One of these is lemongrass. I love the stuff, but from where we lived in Kentucky, I had to travel to a specialty store about an hour and a half away to get it. Now I have a nearly unlimited supply at a nearby Farmers Market. That's the first of three reasons why I wanted to make a summery cake with lemongrass syrup.
The seconds is that I’ve used lemongrass in savory dishes, but never in something sweet. The third, I’m such a fan of simple desserts. I used to be a triple chocolate-nut-caramel-whipped-cream in one dessert kind of girl, but now I find those kinds of things too rich, and overwhelming. Now I enjoy one or two flavors in a dessert that you can stop and savor.
This cake has that covered. I absolutely love this recipe, and I can think of few better summery (or springy) desserts to have on an Easter table. Right next to your copy of Home Made Summer.
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books
A Summery Cake with Lemongrass Syrup
For the Cake
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups (175 g) self-rising flour
¾ cup (175 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tbsp (125 g) superfine sugar
3 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
For the Syrup
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, cut into chunks
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (170 degrees C). Grease a 4-cup Bundt pan or other cake pan.
Sift the baking powder, salt, and flour together into a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until it’s creamy and white. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition, then beat in the lemon zest and the flour in two or three parts until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and baked for 35 to 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then invert i onto a plate to let it cool further.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring ¾ cup (200 ml) water, the sugar, and the lemongrass to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture steep for about 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a pitcher and throw out the lemongrass.
Pour one third of the syrup on top of the cake just after you’ve removed it from the pan, let it soak in. Then take your time pouring the rest of the syrup over the cake, say a splash every time you walk by. Continue until all the syrup is absorbed. Store the cake at room temperature, cover with plastic wrap.
My Notes: I used 4 mini cake pans and they worked perfectly. They did bake a little less, about 30 minutes, so check them early. Also, this batter was very thick for me, but don't worry. It bakes up beautifully.
Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so.