I miss home! My other home where I was born, my sunny country and my charming city. Above everything my family who are still there to welcome me whenever I return. It is harder during the holidays, then the longing or “saudades” how we call it becomes stronger.
The memories of our six pairs of feet coming down the stairs in the morning to see what Santa Claus had left on the morning of the 25th for us, is part of one of my fondest memories. Six children meant we couldn’t have many presents each which made what we got really special. My parents always tried to get us one of the things we really wished for. Those times can’t be recreated again so I always try to recreate some of the wonderful smells that emanated from our kitchen. I’ve said it before, my mother was a great cook and Christmas time meant she spent many hours in the kitchen cooking all the Portuguese traditional food, sweets and cakes typical for this time of year.
We always said she cooked too much but somehow everything always got eaten in the long family gatherings. During the holidays in Portugal, many families will gather and spend the whole day at the table talking and eating, enjoying each other’s company. I can’t recreate a lot of the things my mother did as I don’t find all the ingredients here, but I can certainly recreate smells and certain tastes. One of my favourite spices is cinnamon, my mother used it in many sweets and it always brings me back to my childhood. I also love how in certain cafés in Portugal they will offer a small stick of cinnamon to flavor your expresso. It is such a treat. Walnuts were also always present at the Christmas table or in sweets.
So when I found this Portuguese Christmas Carrot cake recipe with a rich combination of carrots, spices, walnuts and olive oil instead of butter (which is very Portuguese and good for your cholesterol), it brought back all those happy memories of past Christmas.
Christmas Carrot Cake
(Adapted from a recipe by Vitor Sobral)
- 500 g/17.6 oz sugar
- 4 eggs
- 400 g/14 oz all purpose flour
- 500 g/17.6 oz carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 2.5 dl/8.4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 200 g/7 oz walnuts, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 160ºC/320ºF. Line a 28 cm/11 inch baking pan with butter and dust it with flour.
- In an electric mixer, pour the olive oil and sugar and mix until well combined. Add the eggs, walnuts and spices and mix well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in well. Finally fold in the carrots.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for one and a half hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. You can serve it with a bit of cream or orange flavoured ice cream. Enjoy!
I’m about to leave for the Holidays to Austria and Portugal where I’m sure I will be inspired by other sights, traditions and flavours. There will be other posts on all that, in the meantime, enjoy this meaningful season and share it with your loved ones.