a sunken stone fruit cake

olive oil stone fruit almond cake recipe

For years, Marian Burros’ Original Plum Torte has been my go-to “hey plums are at the market and oops I just bought 10 pounds” recipe. I’ve made it a dozen times and there’s a reason for all her five-star reviews. It’s tasty and easy; a cross between a cake and clafoutis with an eggy crumb offset by pockets of sweet-sour fruit. It slices without fuss and concludes a dinner party for six without too much effort. It’s a reliable cake.

But it’s not a perfect plum cake, at least for me. It’s a tiny bit dry and shallow, and I want a cake that will eat well for days, as it sits in my fridge and I shave off slices. I want a cake to sit high on the plate so I can plunge my fork through with aplomb. I want a cake to use up a whole crate of stone fruit, with velvety pockets and layers in each bite. I want a cake that people groan over at the end of a dinner party.

What do you know, I’ve finally made that cake.

The inspiration came from the oil-based cakes of my childhood that Yia-Yia would bake. The oil and milk made the cake tender, even cold from the fridge, and a bit of almond meal ensured a finely textured crumb and further durability. She’d always grate in some lemon zest. Sometimes, she’d use olive oil instead of vegetable oil and it would scent the batter a peppery, floral dream. This, I imagined, would make an excellent base for plums and apricots and all the stone fruits I seem to lug home in July and August.

If that’s you, too, make this cake. Low fuss, high reward and a dinner party darling.

IMG_9517Olive oil almond cake with sunken stone fruit

Makes one 9-inch round cake

I serve this cake with a little sauce made of Greek yogurt, honey and almond extract. Totally optional, but an elegant finish.


  • 9-inch round springform pan
  • parchment paper
  • citrus rasp
  • saucepan and metal bowl


For the cake

  • 1 cup whole milk (or 2%)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 2 Tbsp
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tsp real vanilla extract)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 plus 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1/3 cup your best olive oil (I like a Greek or Portuguese oil with tons of green bitter notes)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 12 units small stone fruit, pitted and halved (I like a combination of apricots and plums)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbsp Demerara sugar
  • icing sugar, to finish

For the sauce (optional), combine in a bowl: 

  • 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • pinch salt

olive oil stone fruit almond cake recipeMethod

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prep your pan by lining the base with parchment and oiling the sides.

Over medium heat, whisk the milk, lemon zest, vanilla caviar and pods, and granulated sugar. Once the sugar dissolves completely, remove from heat and let the milk and infusions mingle while you prep the next steps.

In metal bowl, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a whisk.

Remove the vanilla pods from the milk mixture. To the bowl of dry ingredients, add milk mixture, eggs and olive oil. Mix gently and combine to a very smooth batter. The batter will be surprisingly thin but worry not!

Transfer the batter to your prepared cake pan. Place the stone fruit “bums up” over the batter, evenly spaced. They will sink into the cake. Sprinkle Demerara sugar and almonds over top.

Bake on centre rack of oven, checking after 40 minutes by inserting a skewer in the centre of the cake (into batter not a fruit pocket). If the middle springs back gently and skewer comes out clean, your cake is done. If not, bake in additional 5-minute increments. Mine took about 45 minutes total to reach this state.

Cool cake in pan for one hour before rimming the edges with a knife and removing from the springform. Finish with sifted powdered sugar, like my Yia-Yia does.

To serve, slice and plate with a dollop of yogurt sauce, if desired.

This keeps like a dream in the fridge. I like it best cold for breakfast.


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brownie, cheesecake, sour cherry

sour cherry cheesecake browniesSpecifically, double chocolate chunk brownies with vanilla bean cheesecake and homemade sour cherry swirl… it’s a delicious mouthful.

Sour cherry season is one of the most fleeting—alongside garlic scapes and ramps and fiddle-heads—and for that, magical. Arriving each year for a couple weeks at most, I hoard them, freeze them, and seek ways to celebrate their unmatched sweet-sour-floral pop. They play well (very well) with buttery cakes and crusts, which is why you most often see them used as filling for pies and galettes (like this dreamy sour cherry galette recently shared by How Sweet Eats).

The last few years, I’ve taken to working sour cherries into a sauce for an over-the-top brownie cheesecake dream. The sourness of the cherries slices through the rich layers of cake and is nothing short of extraordinary. Having been asked for the recipe a dozen times now, I’m writing it down. It’s a simple combination: classic brownies, plus classic cheesecake, plus classic cherry jam (with a bit less sugar) that I dreamed up swirling tasty things into a pan one summer.

I have my go-to cheesecake and brownie recipes, but you should use those that work best for you. Both types of cake bake in a 325-350 degree F oven for just short of an hour, making this a forgiving, simple recipe for even a novice baker.

sour cherry cheesecake brownies

Double chocolate chunk brownies with vanilla bean cheesecake and homemade sour cherry swirl

Makes one 9×13 pan (20 small, rich slices)

The title is a mouthful and that’s part of the charm. The recipe seems complicated with multiple components, but because brownie and cheesecake batter are so speedy to make, the prep comes together in under an hour, even if you’re making the sour cherry sauce on the spot. The sauce can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the fridge; spoon leftovers on ice cream and stir into plain yogurt.

sour cherry cheesecake brownies


For the sour cherry sauce

  • 2 pints sour cherries, pitted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

For the brownies

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine’s Classic Fudge Brownies

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks, to your preference

For the cheesecake

Recipe adapted from Philadelphia Cream Cheese back-of-the-box cheesecake recipe

  • 1 package full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup granulated or icing sugar (I prefer the latter as it dissolves effortlessly)
  • 1/2 whole vanilla bean, scraped insides (you can substitute vanilla extract, but a real bean takes this over the top)


For the sour cherry sauce

In a small saucepan, combine cherries and sugar. Cook at a gently rolling boil until the cherries slump and some liquid evaporates, about 30 minutes. There’s not enough sugar in this recipe to reach a jam consistency; it will be more like a mid-thick sauce. Set aside to cool.

For the brownies

In a metal bowl set over simmering water (i.e., a double boiler), melt chocolate with butter. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and fold over until smooth and glossy. Stir in flour, salt and chocolate chunks. Do not over-mix! In practice, use no more than 50 strokes to combine the dry ingredients. Set batter aside.

For the cheesecake

In a stand mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until mixture is glossy. Add the scraped vanilla bean until it evenly flecks the batter. Set aside.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper for easy lifting.

Spread brownie batter evenly as first layer. Dollop cheesecake batter over brownie batter. Spoon tablespoonfuls of cherry sauce at random intervals, about 6 tablespoons total.

Using a thin butter knife, swirl the mixture, taking care to move some of the brownie batter to the surface. More swirling will mean a marbled effect, less swirling will leave distinct layers of brownie and cheesecake. I go somewhere in-between (the photos in this post are from two separate baking sessions; you’ll see I opted for a deeper swirl in the second version).

Bake on your oven’s middle rack, checking after about 40 minutes. The cheesecake should be just golden and springy to touch in the centre. Depending on your oven, the cake may bake for up to an hour.

Cool completely in the pan (ideally in the fridge overnight) before removing from the pan and slicing.


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radical enthusiasm, plus bran muffins

bran muffins

The kitchen counter at the Dougall Avenue house was long and narrow, a speckled beige Formica. The kitchen itself was typical of a late-eighties reno: the cream-and-brown up-and-down refrigerator (before they fell out of—then came back into—fashion) and glossy orange-cocoa tiles arranged in hopscotch pattern, which we would follow daily as we skipped the kitchen’s length, the tile left glossier by our socks.

I spent many years with a bum planted to that Formica. Mom was hands on with us girls. In the kitchen as her sous chefs. In the garden as her bean-snappers, one bean for the wicker basket, one bean for each hungry maw. In the bathtub, rendering soap crayons to nubs, two addicts with a pack-a-week habit who drew in technicolor on the tub’s porcelain surface (and each-other) the imaginings of childhood. In the basement, mom’s gallery installed with our art; caterpillars of egg cartons and origami swans and many a tempera paint masterpiece lining the walls. In the playroom, whose costume cupboard spilled with her distinctively patterned seventies wardrobe and highest heels; we’d become gypsies and fairies and mermaids as she ironed dad’s shirts.

Eleni and I were insulated within the castle walls of idyllic childhood because of mom; we didn’t see the bills to pay and the mouths to feed and the ‘round-the-clock terror of owning a small business, where so many livelihoods rested at the end of each tiny and momentous decision that came with being your own boss.

Mom’s quiet shelter. We were safe and we were loved and we made so many messes, messes that we cleaned up, because messes are for cleaning up. Mom instilled responsibility, even within her cocoon: a roster of rules and roles that we didn’t shirk. We made our beds. We wrote thank-you cards. We kissed dad goodbye every morning at 11 am, before bundling up for the walk to kindergarten, three abreast, hand-in-hand-in-hand. We ate dinner, whatever was put on the table, voraciously, as a family (no “kids’ meals” from this kitchen). We washed the dishes and toweled dry our messes.

I tend toward radical enthusiasm when it comes to the things and the people I love. “Everything is your favourite!” I’ve been chided, and it’s true. I have five dozen favourite dishes that I cooked with mom as a kid, each of them the best thing I ever ate, depending on the day and week and month and year. For a long time, this bothered me, that my best-ofs weren’t fewer, that those simple grade-school get-to-know-your-classmate surveys—favourite food, vacation, colour—would leave me white knuckled and in a heaving sweat. How could anyone possibly land on tacos, Disneyland, yellow? Maybe today, but ask me again tomorrow. I had a lot of not-sures and paragraph-long replies alike on those one-word answer questionnaires. Teachers urging me to pick a lane, already.

No matter. Being a radical enthusiast is a great way to be; everything is heightened and better for it. It’s fun to conjure delight and deep memory from tiny favourites that bring outsize joy. Favourite season? All of them. Favourite colour? The rainbow (plus black and white and grey and camel and ochre and the lift of the sky just after heavy, sudden rainfall, aglow as an opal). Favourite man in my life? My husband, and my dad, and my grandpa, and my other grandpa, and my best friend, and my nephew. Radically enthused about each and every and all.

I do have a favourite, where the humble muffin is concerned. Categorically and always, muffins are the best—personal-sized cakes, am I right?—and bran muffins are the best of all the muffins. From the time I was grasshopper-high seated on that speckled Formica, to the adult-onset Wednesday afternoons that sometimes bring with them an I-need-a-treat disposition. I trudge to the tuck shop for a Tim Horton’s bran muffin, always a smidgen dry and cardboard-like, housed in a rigid paper wrapper, delicious in spite of itself.

Mom loved making bran muffins with us girls; she still does with her grandson. A close third after lemon loaf and banana bread, bran muffins were the bronze medalist of baked goods in mom’s kitchen. She made hers from memory, so forgiving and tender like the lady who gently instructed. Into a bowl went bran, flour, eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, buttermilk, golden raisins. Don’t over-mix. Fill the paper wrappers just level. Sit before the oven door like a puppy, face bathed in yellow light and with a watchful eye for those peaked, just burnished tops. Muffin tins with a patina painted by years of love, never quite clean enough despite a hot, soapy wash. Bran muffins, favourite to find in my paper sack lunch, tender and nutty and gently sweet, enhanced by pops of toothache-giving raisins.

I know these treats by heart and hand, but I’ve done my best to replicate them here in a recipe to follow. If you’re looking to radically enthuse about a muffin (or just take one quietly with your morning coffee), try these. They’re my favourite. I swear.

Lori’s Bran Muffins

As with any recipe, mom probably picked these up a long time ago in a church cookbook or from an aunt or some other happy kitchen, making them so often they eventually became muscle memory. Worry not, as the muffins are exceptionally forgiving if you need to substitute an ingredient—the sweetener or milk, for example. Use a sweet fruit (i.e., avoid sour fruit such as raw cranberries or rhubarb or plums) as the batter is barely sweet and benefits from pockets of sugar.

Makes 12 medium muffins; the recipe easily doubles or triples for batch baking


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ⅓ cups buttermilk (or regular milk spiked with 1 tsp of vinegar and set aside to thicken)
  • ⅓ cup neutral oil (I use canola)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or other aromatic, e.g., almond extract, lemon zest)
  • 1 ½ cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup flour (either all-purpose or whole wheat)
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine salt

Mix ins:

  • ½ cup chopped nuts (we like almonds or walnuts)
  • 1 cup fresh fruit, chopped OR ½ cup dried fruit (we like raspberries, blueberries, apple, dried apricot, golden raisins, peach; whatever is ripe and available given the season!)
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (if using fresh fruit)


Prepare your 12-muffin tin by greasing it or adding parchment liners. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk: egg, buttermilk, oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, whisk: wheat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add wet ingredients to dry, folding gently and just barely to incorporate. The batter will seem really wet, but it sets up within a couple minutes as the bran absorbs the liquid. If using dried fruit and nuts, fold in now.

Into the prepared muffin tin, spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter in each hole. Top with a pile of chopped fruit (about 1 Tbsp) and sprinkle of coarse sugar (about 1/2 teaspoon). Cap with a bit more batter.

Bake on centre oven rack for about 15 minutes, testing for done-ness by inserting a toothpick in a non-fruit part of the muffin. If the toothpick comes out wet, bake in further two-minute increments until fully set but not dry.

Cool on a rack. These are great immediately, but also are well suited to tightly wrap in clingfilm and store in the fridge or freezer for later.


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sesame miso banana bread

sesame miso banana bread

It’s safe to say most bakers have a favourite banana bread. For years, I did. The recipe, based on a beloved Jean Pare standard, made its way into our wedding cookbook so family and friends could make it, too. Through the years, that bread used up many a turned banana bunch on our kitchen counter.

You probably can tell where this is going.

Last year, Food & Wine published a recipe for Miso Banana Bread. I was so intrigued; mainly because I often buy massive containers of miso with great intention to scrape through the whole thing, only to throw it out a year later minus that heaping tablespoon used for soup, worried it’s turned. Ever consistent, I carted home a big tub of white miso on a recent trip to Tokyo and it’s been staring me down from the condiment shelf ever since.

From a perspective of balance, the recipe just makes sense; we often use salt in sweet recipes for balance, and vice-versa. A deep, umami base of miso is just right to balance and add complexity against the cloying sweetness of banana, which sometimes can make a loaf taste one-note.

The recipe benefits from a full quarter-cup of miso and four mashed bananas, for heady banana overtones and tender crumb. I add a generous topping of crunchy sesame seeds for even more depth. Having now made the recipe twice, I can confirm I prefer it with the sesame addition, and a few other modifications: a second flour for depth, decreased sugar, no added salt and a shorter cooking time. The original recipe is excellent if you prefer a sweeter, denser, more cake-like loaf.

Sesame Miso Banana Bread

Modified from a July 2016 Food and Wine recipe


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white miso
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 medium-size overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp raw sesame seeds
  • 1 medium banana, sliced in half lengthwise


Preheat oven to 350° F.  Prepare a standard metal loaf tin with parchment paper overhanging the sides.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and miso at medium speed until fluffy. Scrape down bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flours, baking soda and baking powder.

At low speed, add to the stand mixer buttermilk, then beat in 
the eggs. Beat in the mashed bananas (the batter will look curdled). Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle sesame seeds across the loaf, concentrating more in the middle. Arrange the banana slices over top as pictured.

Bake for about 75 minutes, until the top of the loaf is burnished and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for 30 minutes before gently pulling from the pan and slicing.

Keep the bread, wrapped on the counter, for up to three days. It also freezes like a dream for later thawing and toasting.


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electric winter slaw

32320815972_02466ac392_oMost times, I’ll post a recipe here on a whim; when a dish has repeatedly turned out especially well, or has become a kitchen standard.

In the case of this salad shared to Instagram at the height of New Year’s resolution season, I have received so many emails and messages and requests for the recipe that I feel obliged to share.

The Electric Winter Slaw has three components: (1) shredded red cabbage dressed in tangy miso-soy-lime dressing; (2) spicy shredded citrus-nigella-ginger carrots; and (3) flash-marinated sesame-cilantro cucumber. It sounds like a lot of work and components, but is mostly just a bit of chopping and whisking to some good music and kitchen conversation.

Each element of the salad is great solo, but combined create a winter salad with a rainbow of flavours and satisfying crunch. Store the three components separately so they don’t bleed together, then plate for easy lunches and sides.

Electric winter slaw with sesame & miso

Austin and I joke that each year we get a deluge of one vegetable in our winter farmshare as a challenge. 2013/4—year of the rutabaga; 2014/5—celeriac; 2015/6—golden beets; and this year, purple cabbage. This slaw was originally conceived in an effort to get through the deluge. Make a double portion for a full head of cabbage and eat it for lunches all week long.

Makes 6 generous lunch portions


For the Miso-soy-lime cabbage slaw

  • 4 Tbsp neutral oil
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 4 tsp white miso
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 large head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 clementines, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

For the Shredded citrus-nigella-ginger carrots

  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds or black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • fine sea salt, to taste
  • 3 large carrots, finely grated or shredded

For the Sesame-cilantro cucumber

  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 large English cucumber, very thinly sliced (with a knife or mandolin)

As garnish

  • additional sesame seeds
  • lime wedges


For the Miso-soy-lime cabbage slaw: Combine all ingredients, except produce, in a large bowl and whisk until emulsified. Add the cabbage, onions and clementine. Toss to coat, and set aside to marinate.

For the Shredded citrus-nigella-ginger carrots: Combine all ingredients, except carrots, in a large bowl and whisk until incorporated. Add the carrots, toss to coat, and set aside to marinate.

For the Sesame-cilantro cucumber: Combine all ingredients, except cucumber, in a large bowl and whisk until incorporated. Add the sliced cucumber, toss to coat, and set aside to marinate.

To serve: On a large serving platter, heap piles of each salad. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds and serve with fat lime wedges.


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winter harvest muffins


As a kid, mom had a cookbook that was a sacred part of our kitchen, a slim circa-1983 spiral-bound volume by Jean Paré called Company’s Coming: Muffins & More. This book was dogeared and batter-splatted and thumbed through unconsciously by our entire family; a centrepiece of the kitchen bookshelf.

It produced our favourite treats — lemon loaf with a craggy tart-sour icing top, crumbly coffee cake, Holy Grail banana bread… and especially muffins that featured vegetables. Mom loved these — she tasked Eleni and me with grating zucchini and carrot and parsnip and their contemporaries for any and every quick bread and muffin and loaf.

A few years back, I happened upon a copy at a used bookshop, and made Muffins & More my own. My volume isn’t quite as well loved as mom’s, but all the same inspires simple, wholesome baking from my kitchen. This cookbook was and is brilliant for its adaptable recipes, a reminder that baking can be an uncomplicated and generous home pursuit.

In mom’s honour (and in true Jean Paré fashion), these winter harvest muffins are packed with every last bit of our farmshare — grated carrot, parsnip, apple — and jewelled with dried apricot, raisins, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. They are a hybrid of a few recipes perfected through the years — and importantly, adaptable. The root vegetables can be subbed at will, the sweetener forgivingly interchanged, the mix-ins optional and rotating, depending upon what’s on hand.

Making this type of muffin inevitably ends in a call to mom — to wax nostalgia about stained cookbook pages, and muffin tins with a loving patina, and little girls perched high on countertops grating carrots and wielding wooden spoons. Sure enough, she’s probably just made some of Jean’s banana bread.

Winter Harvest Muffins

This recipe is based loosely on a few recipes collected and melded over time; mostly adapted from techniques in Muffins & More, with the smart additions of olive oil and honey borrowed from Melissa Clark’s Lunchbox Harvest Muffins.

As I note above, this is recipe forgiving, as muffins should be. Be sure to approximate the same quantities of wet ingredients (1.5 cups assorted grated wet/root vegetables) and mix-ins (1 cup assorted dried nuts/fruits), and everything should turn out okay!

Makes one-dozen midsize muffins


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup bran
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 small apple, grated (~1/2 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, grated (~1/2 cup)
  • 1 small parsnip, grated (~1/2 cup)


  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup assortment (I like walnuts, pepitas and chopped dried apricots)
  • demerara sugar, to top (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with parchment or liners, if desired. 

In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flours, bran, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, honey, apple, parsnip and carrot. 

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Add mix-ins: raisins, coconut and nuts, reserving a handful to decorate the muffins, if desired.

Fill each cup 3/4 full. If desired, top with mix-ins and a sprinkle of Demerara sugar, for crunch. Bake on middle rack for about 25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or wrap in saran and foil for lunches or to freeze for later snacking. 


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yiayia maria’s avgolemono

avgolemono soupAs a girl, I was fascinated by avgolemono, the broad term for a creamy lemon-egg sauce we use to finish all manner of Greek dishes — from cabbage rolls to poached fish to meatballs to stuffed grape leaves. While the cabbage rolls take a close second, my favourite preparation has always been avgolemono soupa, a five-ingredient soup that belies its simplicity.

This soup is our salve for all ailments and woes; this soup is food we eat to honour and nourish our bodies.

My namesake, Yiayia Maria, makes her avgolemono in a massive and dented metal pot, starting with the whole chicken that forms the soup’s broth. She’ll extract the swollen carcass and pick the meat, showing her island upbringing, where not a shred went wasted. Into the pot of broth: the rice, then separately whisking the lemon and eggs to a frothy ordeal that thickens the soup. With care and by the ladleful, hot stock is whisked into the lemon-egg mixture, bringing it to temperature so as not to curdle.

Then, the magic: the lemon-egg mixture joins the soup pot, and with barely a turn of the whisk transforms the broth to a lemon-yellow cream that coats a spoon. Always, I watched this step with intensity and interest, amazed that a little protein and acid could turn thin broth into something entirely other. (To this day, any similar culinary slight of hand fills me with glee: bechamel sauce thickening, ouzo made cloudy by ice cubes, gelatin setting milk into panna cotta.)

That was that. The soup heaped into bowls, pulled boiled chicken at the side to add at your preference. How water, chicken, rice, lemon and eggs can be so perfect is a mystery, but one I’m willing to accept.

25311170634_bcc8dd1dec_oYiayia Maria’s Avgolemono Soup

I make Yiayia’s soup with chicken stock following my favourite Cook’s Illustrated/Smitten Kitchen method, as I love the gelatinous richness you get from slowly simmered chicken wings. Otherwise, it’s true to her traditional recipe. If you prefer lighter broth, work from a whole chicken carcass versus just wings.

I’ve provided an optional garnish of braised bitter greens for the soup, playing off the Greek tradition of horta, boiled wild greens (and one of my favourite foods). It’s decidedly not traditional, but a scoop at the bottom of your bowl is the perfect bitter-rich foil to the bright soup.

Makes 8 generous bowlfuls


  • 1 recipe’s worth Perfect Uncluttered Chicken Stock (you will need: 3 lbs chicken wings, 1 onion, 1 garlic clove)
  • 3/4 c short-grain white rice
  • 3 lemons, juiced and seeded
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Optional bitter green garnish

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cups bitter greens, washed and trimmed (e.g., dandelion, chicory, spinach, kale)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste


In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a rolling boil. Taste for seasoning (it should be generously salted).

Add rice to stock, stirring frequently until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

While the rice cooks, whisk together the lemon juice and eggs in a large bowl until pale yellow and frothy.

One ladleful at a time, slowly whisk hot stock from your pot into the lemon-egg mixture. The purpose here is to bring to mixture to temperature so it doesn’t curdle and cook (like scrambled eggs) when it hits the broth.

To the stock pot, add the tempered lemon-egg mixture in a gentle stream, whisking constantly. Within 60 seconds or so, your soup with turn a beautiful opaque yellow hue and start to thicken.

For the optional bitter green garnish: In a shallow pan, heat olive oil over medium and add the greens and garlic, salting well. Cover and allow to wilt, about five minutes. Finish with a swirl of olive oil.

Serve immediately, or allow to thicken further by sitting the soup at room temperature. If serving with the greens, heap a little pile at the bottom of each bowl before filling with soup.

Because of the rice leeching starch, avgolemono will continue to thicken in the fridge and leftovers will be a no-less-delicious but creamier soup. You can see this distinction in the photos included with this recipe: the lead photo has a just-made broth-y soup, whereas the second image shows a soup thickened with time.