'The story of Australian macadamias is an ancient one. In many ways they represent the very essence of Australia, a magical product of our ancient environment — the soil, the climate and the seasons.'
The first time I tasted a macadamia nut was in 1976, when my friend Pam returned to work after a Queensland holiday and presented her co-workers with a bagful of macadamias as a gift. The nuts were still in their hard woody shells and I still remember how much fun we had trying to crack them open with a hammer. An important lesson we learned is that they are the world's hardest nuts to crack (!) — and macadamia nuts and linoleum flooring aren't a good mix because when you hit the nut with a hammer it might fly across the room at great speed. Just as well the boss was away and I was acting manager, for in between bouts of crazed hammering we were falling over ourselves with riotous laughter!
On a more serious note, it's interesting to know that macadamias are native to Australia and, as A.B. and J.W. Cribb point out in Wild Food in Australia, are 'the only [first] endemic Australian plant grown commercially as a food plant.' Kindal Kindal was the Aboriginal name for the seeds of the evergreen tree that flourished on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range well before British botanists discovered and named the specimens in the 1850s. Research shows that the genus Macadamia was named after Dr John MacAdam, a scientist and politician who actively encouraging cultivation of the species. In her book Wild Lime, bush foods expert and author, Juleigh Robins, writes that the 'American agriculturists virtually hijacked the macadamia from Australia, despite the fact that it was identified early on by Australian colonists as valuable.' Botanists at the time were flagging that the macadamia tree should be cultivated for its nut, but by then plantations sown from Australian macadamia seeds had already been established in Hawaii.
According to the Australian Macadamia Society, the first Australian macadamia plantation was established in the 1880s, but it wasn't until 1954 that commercial production became viable. There are now some 850 growers in Australia, producing 40,000 tonnes with an export value of around $200 million per annum. What started as a cottage industry, has taken leadership of world production, research, marketing and development. In fact, Australia is the largest producer and exporter, delivering macadamias to more than 40 countries worldwide!
I've been fond of macadamias since those first nibbles that day decades ago and particularly like the choc-coated ones, which are very more-ish. In cooking, macadamias are versatile, in that they can be eaten raw or toasted, and used in both sweet and savoury cooking. Among other things, I have used macadamia crumbs in salad dressings, to coat fish before baking it, to add depth of flavour to my ANZAC biscuits (sometimes with wattleseed), and in Vic Cherikoff's macadamia ice cream served in wattleseed cones.
Recently, Peter took me to the seaside for a few days R&R (more on this in an upcoming post). We stayed in Kiama and visited with Peter's dear elderly mother, who enjoys coffee and cake outings. One of the cakes sampled was a gluten free mango and macadamia cake, which was so delicious in terms of both texture and taste, I wanted to recreate it as soon as we got back home.
My recipe is adapted from Viviane Buzzi's recipe for Flourless Mango Cake, which appears on her blog, Chocolate Chilli Mango. I discovered Viviane's blog through ILVE Appliances, as we have both featured as guest bloggers on the Live with ILVE web site. Thank you Viviane for so generously sharing your recipe.
My take on the recipe...
MANGO, MACADAMIA AND ALMOND TORTE
400g fresh mango flesh, diced*
1/3 cup muscovado or caster sugar^ (less if preferred)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup macadamia oil
250g fresh almond meal
2 scant teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 23cm (9-inch) springform pan and line the base and sides with baking paper. Combine the mango flesh (or mango and banana if you prefer) in the bowl of your food processor and blend until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla bean paste, sugar and macadamia oil, and blend until well combined. Next add the almond meal and baking powder, and fold in or blend until you have a smooth cake batter (see image below). Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth over the top with a spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped macadamia nuts# and bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake is set and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a serving plate. To serve, decorate with icing sugar and rose petals (optional) and serve with whipped cream or plain yoghurt.
I have successfully baked two different versions of this torte. *On one occasion, I used a mango as well as a ripe banana, per Viviane's suggestion. +I also separated the eggs, beat the whites until they were stiff (before folding them into the rest of the mixture) and I added macadamia crumbs into the cake mixture. Though tasty, I found the banana somewhat overpowered the subtle flavour of the mango. However, the texture was excellent and quite 'nutty'.
With Mk II of the torte, I used 400g of diced fresh mango (and on one occasion threw in a small chopped nectarine as well). #This time, the macadamias were sprinkled over the top of the cake, rather than being mixed in with the other ingredients, and I didn't separate the eggs. Once again, the texture was excellent, and the flavour was perfect.
I tried using ^muscovado sugar, as well as caster sugar (both equally good). My preference is for a low rise torte, so I used a larger pan than Viviane suggested. Importantly, I was aiming for the same dense, moist texture and am happy to report that my version of the torte was as good as the store-bought (mass produced) variety, which I have seen in a number of cafes since first tasting it.
My (relatively young) Sunbeam food processor died the day I first wanted to bake this torte, so out come my 1970s Breville Kitchen Whizz, which I'm proud to say still works like a champion. Bless you, Breville!
Some time ago, I received product samples from both Brookfarm (producers of macadamia products) who kindly sent me some of their macadamia oil, and Australian Macadamias, who kindly sent me some macadamia nuts. I have used those products to bake this cake.
The process in pictures...
I used dried rose petals and creamy yoghurt to decorate the cake...
Let's get together for coffee and cake some day...
Incidentally Pam, if you happen to read this post, I still have (and treasure) your copy of the Margaret Fulton Cookbook that you so kindly gave me when you moved up north! Let's get together for coffee and cake some day.
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy macadamias? Please share your favourite macadamia recipe.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.