The Bible

I find the Bible quite fascinating to read, as literature. Please don’t stone me for saying that. I grew up Catholic and I have utmost respect for people’s beliefs. But for me, The Bible, from my earliest memories of reading a made-for-kids version with lots of cool pictures that my dad bought me from some door-to-door salesman  (probably to shut me up) has always been about the stories. Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Great Flood and the rainbow, Samson’s epic strength and being brought low by Delilah, Salome dancing before Herod with the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter, David glimpsing Bathsheba on a nearby rooftop and falling madly in love with her, the sibling rivalry of Jacob and Esau, the battle of David and Goliath, the story of Job and his many tribulations, and of course, the epic story of the life, death, and resurrection of, Jesus of Nazareth.

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Jesus is quite the individual, as anyone who’s read the Bible can attest. Again, despite your religious beliefs, there is no doubt he was arguably the pivotal human being in the history of humankind. I doubt there is anyone in this world, even in the most remote corners, who does not know the name and the story of Jesus Christ. He is one historical figure I would love to have met and conversed with. There are so many stories of his life, yet none told from his viewpoint or indeed, from actual contemporaries of his. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have had the story of Jesus told from his own POV?

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As a grown-up, however, I have to admit I love the parts in the Bible about drinking wine the most, because hey, if they drank wine in the Bible, that means I am following a great historical and spiritual tradition! Ta-dah! It’s really the only reason I drink wine, you know.

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love. (Song of Solomon 2:5)
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And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. (Numbers 17:8)2016-03-25 12.30.19_resized

I love apples, I love almonds, and what better homage can be paid to this cornerstone of Judeo-Christian theology, religion and culture than to create a culinary work of art that combines these two elements. This apple-almond cake is Jewish in origin, which is fitting considering the precursor of Good Friday was Passover. I found a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, “Nigella Feast,” in the section with Passover recipes, and adoring the beautiful Nigella Lawson as I do, I am honored to recreate it, with a few tweaks, here.
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This is the method that worked for me.
INGREDIENTS
3 1/2 green apples, Granny Smith or any sharp variety
1 tablespoon lemon juice, from a bottle or a generous squeeze of a real lemon
1/2 tablespoon sugar
8 eggs
3 1/2 cups ground almonds (this will act as the flour binder)
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1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup slivered almonds
METHOD
Preheat the oven to 360 F. Peel 3 of the apples, core them and chop roughly. Peel the other half-apple, chop it into very fine pieces and set aside. Cook the three peeled apple chunks in a small saucepan, covered, with the 1 tbsp lemon juice and the 1/2 tbsp sugar, until the apples are mushy. Leave to cool.
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In a large bowl, combine the eggs, the ground almonds, the rest of the sugar and lemon juice, the cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. When the apple pieces are cool, puree them in a food processor, and add to the other bowlful of ingredients. You can smell the apple and lemon and cinnamon and vanilla and it is sooooooooo delectable! Add the other half-apple, chopped finely, to the batter and stir again to incorporate. I’ve found adding pieces of fresh apple adds to the tartness and freshness of this cake.
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Mix together well using a large wooden spoon and then a whisk, to get some air into the batter. Oil or butter a round cake pan, and scrape in the wet batter mixture. It will be very liquidy, but that’s what you want. Without the flour to bind it, it loses some of that dryness that a flour cake has, but the almonds do a wonderful job of holding everything together AND give it such a wonderful nutty flavor. Did I mention this cake is gluten-free? If you care about such things, which I personally don’t. But there you go.
Add the slivered almonds to the top of the cake batter, so it will bake with these nutty nuggets on top. Place the filled cake pan onto a baking tray, in case of drippage (yes, that’s a word, I just invented it) and put into the oven for about 45 minutes. You may see little bubbles forming on the top of your cake at the end of the baking, but that’s fine. It means it’s cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. It truly does look so amazing, brown and nutty and just so enticing.
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“Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

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