This is a special edition of Cakes & Bakes, in association with Villa Plus, the self-catering villa specialists. We’re competing against 9 other food bloggers, recreating local specialties from Corfu, Lanzarote, Majorca, Cyprus and the Algarve.
I chose to try my hand at broas castelar. They’re Algarvian sweet potato cakes, traditionally made & eaten at Christmastime. Legend has it they were invented by the Castelar brothers who, in 1860, opened the Confeitaria Francesa in downtown Lisbon.
We were given the opportunity tweak the classic recipe a little. It calls for the rind of an orange, but I’m not a great fan, so I substituted it with some crystallised ginger. It’s also often made with breadcrumbs, but instead I used ground almonds – a popular ingredient in Portugese cuisine.
Cakes & Bakes: Broas Castelar
Cost (prices taken from MySupermarket.co.uk) 1kg sweet potatoes | 96p 100g ground almonds | 99p 150g fine cornmeal | 25p 300g plain flour | 9p 100g desiccated coconut | 50p 3 eggs | 62p 10g crystalised ginger | 11p 350g soft brown sugar | 87p 2 egg yolks, beaten | 41p 350g soft brown sugar | 87p £4.80 in total / 9-12p each
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- On a baking sheet, bake the sweet potatoes whole in their skins until soft (about half an hour, turning the potatoes over halfway through)
- Slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh and discard the skins
- Pass the flesh through a ricer or sieve to puree
- Put the puree into a large saucepan, add the sugar and heat to boiling for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent it sticking to the bottom and burning. This is to get rid of some of the liquid
- Take it off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes
- Add the 3 eggs to the potato & sugar mix and combine well
- In a large-sized bowl, add all the remaining dry ingredients - ground almonds, cornmeal, plain flour, desiccated coconut and chopped crystallised ginger - and combine well
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet potato mixture in 3 stages, mixing with a wooden spoon after each addition
- Tip the mixture back into the large bowl, cover in cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas mark 7 (200ºC if fan-assisted)
- Grease 2 large baking trays well
- With floured hands, make small lozenge shapes, each using about a tablespoonful of mixture and lay on the baking tray
- Brush each with the beaten egg yolk
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned
- As this batch is cooking in the oven, prepare the next batch for the other baking tray
- Remove from the tray and allow to cool on a wire rack
We found that the contrast between the crisp outer coating and the soft inner develops further if you let the broas castelar cool before eating – they’re worth the short wait!
They’re lovely eaten just as they are – the ginger is subtle and delicious. It combines very well with the underlying coconut flavour. We experimented with some other serving options; a thin scrape of butter works really well – and is probably our favourite. Honey & preserves are other possibilities. One thing’s for certain – whether you eat them plain or with a topping – they’re great with a cup of tea!