Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My new twist on cardamom cake

I haven't posted in a long while, as I've mostly been posting on my South Asia focused blog but I had to quickly share this recipe for a cake I experimented with last night for a friend's birthday, which was an unexpected success! The cake is moist inside but crunchy on the top and not too sweet, and it has some Middle Eastern flavors I cherish since my time in Jordan, such as cardamom, pomegranate seeds, and pistachios. It works great on these cold December days when you need some extra spice in your life - and extra sugar of course! I hope you enjoy it!

Cardamom Yogurt Cake with Pomegranate Pistachio Crunch Topping

I couldn't get a nice picture of my cake, but it looked sort of like this. Photo credits go to the Spiced Life. 


For the Topping
·       3 tbsp all-purpose flour
·       3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
·       1/4 cup demerara sugar (raw cane sugar, also called turbinado)
·       1/4 cup chopped pistachios
·       1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
·       1/4 teaspoon cardamom

For the Cake
·   2 cups (152 g) self-rising flour
·   1¼ cups granulated sugar
·   ¼ tsp baking soda
·   2 tsp ground cardamom
·   1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
·   cup vegetable oil
·   2 large eggs
·   2 tsp vanilla
·   A dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice


1.     Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and flour a 9 inch round cake pan (or use sugar instead of flour – it gives the cake a sweet lightly crunchy edge and bottom). Set aside.
2.     Begin with the topping: Combine the flour, butter, demerara sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
3.     Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and cardamom. Set aside.
4.     Whisk together the yogurt, oil, eggs, vanilla, and lemon. Pour over the flour mixture and gently mix until just evenly moistened.
5.     Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Crumble the topping over the cake. Bake until the top of the cake is golden and lightly crisp and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached, approximately 45 mins.

6.     Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Serve with whipped cream and a steaming cup of cardamom tea (if that isn't too much of a cardamom overdose for you - it certainly isnt for me!).

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Throwback to living on the edge of Israel

I am obviously awful at keeping promises to myself, as I last wrote a blog post back in September and even then I didn't post the planned photo essay of the visit I made to Rosh Hanikra back in JULY 2013! It's been a while, but I have decided that it's never too late - I will finally post about my visit to these incredible caves on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Let me stress that this is very much a closed border. We heard a rumor of a guy who drunkenly decided to take a stroll in Lebanon after getting inebriated in Nahariya. He was shot. So visiting these caves was the closest I would get to Lebanon while in Israel.

Fortunately, this place was only a one hour stroll from the dig site. After convincing a few more archaeologists to join me after yet another exhausting day at the dig site, I had companions to join me on this little adventure.

Eventually we got to the border, where there was a beautiful look-out over the utmost northern coast of Israel.

Right at the look-out is a great little place where you can get slushies and ice cream - perfect on a hot sunny day!

You then enter into the place where you enter into a cable car, which costs 43 NIS and is the only way of entering the site. When we were there it was practically deserted except for a family just returning from the grottoes.

It's a steep way down!

Once you get down you can immediately enter the grottoes, where the incredible turquoise water glimmers like a gem in the dim and damp cave. Memories of "pirate caves" in Malta came to me.

After the little tour around the grottoes, which doesn't take more than 10 minutes, you come out onto a narrow walkway along the gently lapping Mediterranean.

The grottoes have a fascinating history that I had not expected. We were surprised to discover that a railway ran through them! Here is the information they give about these mysterious railway tracks, of course laid by the British (who else?). Can you imagine a group of people from New Zealand and South Africa transplanted to the Levant to build a railway line between Egypt and Turkey? The British really knew how to mix up the world.

Once you have explored the grottoes and the railway lines, you can enter into the final section of the railway that is accessible from Israel (and technically underneath Lebanon), to watch a mildly erotic and comically dramatic film about the myths surrounding the grottoes. Be prepared for the salt water they splash on the audience for "special effects". 

Here is the heavily patrolled border. Hello Lebanon!

Even from the Achziv Field School, we could hear the unintelligible announcements and calls from the watch towers on the border.

On the way back we were fortunate to capture a magnificent sunset!

On a final note, please follow my new blog about my upcoming trip to India. I was fortunate to be awarded the Critical Language Scholarship to study Urdu in India from mid-June to mid-August. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. I hope you join me on my new journey! (Mera safar, the title of the blog, means "my journey" in Urdu)

Yallah bye for now!