This week's blog is short and deliciously sweet as we have to get back to taking pre-orders for our Easter weekend specials, labelling container lids and organising the stands for our new kid's celebration boxes and Afternoon Tea for Two at Home...chatting away as we do. If you've been following the blog lately, you'll know we are a chatty bunch here in our Letterkenny kitchen.
And with a team as experienced and well travelled as ours, we always have something to talk about and are always learning from one another.
This week's recipe is a perfect example of how our openness helps us create the wonderful dishes you enjoy at The Church. Easter Simnel cake
Until this week, a few of us had never heard of Simnel cake.
So when it was suggested as an Easter treat there were a few blank faces.
A quick description and there was a "Oh the ball cake from the M&S ads... Is that what that is? It always looks good but I've never had it!" And so it simply had to be made - and we are all very glad it was as it has become a new favourite.
Simnel cake is a traditional Easter fruit cake (much lighter than Christmas fruit cake) made with marzipan which is thought to date back to medieval times and is traditionally enjoyed on Easter Sunday (though it is customary in some parts to bake it for Mother's Day as well).
The origins of it's unusual name are unclear but one widely held theory is that simnel may be linked to the latin for fine flour, simila, from which we also get the word semolina (which we used in our Rhubarb and Orange Drizzle cake a few weeks ago).
If you aren't familiar with it, chances are you have seen it and will recognise its distinctive appearance.
Simnel cake is traditionally decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the 12 apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) with some scorching a mark in the centre to represent Jesus.
But even without the visual connection to Easter, it is perfect for this time of year being light and fruity with a balanced hint of sweetness. Perfect as an alternative to the endless chocolate Easter eggs.
Like the more well known Christmas fruit cake and Halloween Barmbrack, everyone has their own twist on the recipe and the one we know how to make is no exception. If you have your own version, let us know in the comments.
Recipe: Easter Simnel Cake
Top Tips from our talented chefs:
For a different flavour pairing, try a slice of simnel cake or any fruit cake with some cheese.
Our chefs recommend Wensleydale but Cheshire, Lancashire, Caerphilly or a medium Irish Cheddar also work well.
What you'll need:
For the cake:
200g of sugar
200g of butter
225g of flour
1 tsp mixed spice
225g of sultanas
225g of currants
100g of glacé cherries
50g of candied peel
50g of flaked almonds, toasted
1 orange's zest (freshly grated)
1 lemon zest (freshly grated)
1 tbsp of apricot jam
500g of marzipan
icing sugar, for dusting your work surface
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2 and line a deep 20cm round cake tin with baking paper - using more than you would for other cake recipes as it can leak when cooking.
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Fold in the flour and mixed spice until the mixture is fully combined.
Mix in the nuts, dried fruits and zests, so that the fruits and nuts are evenly distributed through the batter, and set the bowl to one side.
Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out a third of the marzipan to create a circle – slightly smaller than the cake tin
Spoon half of the cake mixture into the cake tin then place the marzipan circle on top. Cover with the remaining mixture and transfer to the oven to bake for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. To check the cake is cooked insert a metal skewer or long knife into the cake, it should come out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack.
For the decoration:
Roll out half of the remaining marzipan on a dusted surface into a circle, trimming around the cake tin to give you a neat, clean edge.
Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam and stick the marzipan on top.
Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 small balls and arrange around the edge of the cake
Use a blowtorch to gently scorch the top of each ball and the middle of the cake to create the finished burnished effect.
If you don't have a blowtorch, preheat the grill to high and place the cake under the grill for a few seconds until the top of the marzipan is lightly golden – be very careful as it can burn extremely quickly!
That's it for this week on The Church blog.
What is your favourite Easter dish? Let us know in the comments below.
We are back in our kitchen on the Rockhill House Estate on Friday from 5pm - bringing you our Mother's Day Specials and all your favourites from The Church Restaurant, Bar and Café to takeaway and enjoy at home with contactless collection or contactless delivery in Letterkenny.
Until then, take good care of yourself...and have a wonderful Easter weekend,
The Church Team