Earlier, today I had woken up early to bake a cake, a slightly different tasting cake, the first time I had combined mint and orange juice. The results were an amazingly flavorful and sweet and intensely fragrant. It brought the Mediterranean to the table in a simple and slightly dense loaf. On a whim, I removed some of the mint and placed it in a pretty turquoise vase. I have been told that mint roots effortlessly, I shall let you know in a few weeks if this is the case. I am envisioning a whole planter full of flourishing mint before the end of summer; we shall see how that one shakes out.
Mint is the quintessential harbinger of summer in India, used for everything from salads to Indian yogurt shakes called lassis. The most common and traditional use for mint in Indian cooking, is a smooth pesto like sauce called a chutney. It is worth mentioning here that it is almost a popular misconception that all chutneys are sweet, they range from spicy, savory to the sweet and spicy (my favorite variety) and of course the prominently sweet ones.
A good recipe for a mint chutney can be found here. All said and done, though when I think of mint I think of it as a Mediterranean herb first, and this is not surprising since, the herb derives its name from the ancient Greek mythical character Minthe. According to Greek myth, Minthe was a river nymph. Hades, the God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe and when Persephone, Hades’s wife, found out, she turned Minthe into a plant, so that everyone would walk all over her and crush her. Unable to undo the spell, Hades gave Minthe a magnificent aroma so that he could smell her and be near her when people trod on her.
Well, despite this dark story, mint is anything but dark, in fact, it is a refreshing and bright herb that pairs well with lamb and is great in salads and Indian lemonade. One of my favorite recipes for an Indian lemonade using mint is here.
So back to the cake, here is how I made it.
Mint and Orange Cake
This cake is fragrant and reminiscent of the freshness of a bright early summer day. The text is dense but not too heavy. The flavor of the orange is brighter but this is really all about the mint, which hits you later and lingers. As the cake rests the mint becomes more prominent, the cake also “airs” out a little and tastes lighter on day two.
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves 6 to 8
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup olive oil
1 cup sugar (I used the raw cane sugar)
1 cup all purpose white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup almond meal
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 cup of fresh orange juice
Method of Preparation
1. Place the butter and oil in a mixing bowl and beat until well mixed.
2. Add in the sugar and mix well until nice and smooth.
3. Beat the eggs and add into the oil and butter mixture and mix well.
4. Sift in the flour and the baking powder into the mixture and mix in a little at a time.
5. Fold in the orange zest and mint.
6. Gradually add in the orange juice to mix into a nice smooth batter.
7. Grease and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
9. Cool for 10 minutes and remove from the oven and cool thoroughly outside.
10. Enjoy thick wedges with tea or maybe orange juice for some more fun.
Rinku Bhattacharya is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Cooking in Westchester, where she shares her life experiences and original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years, and has found her classes a great way to teach and learn.