Happy International Women’s Day to every woman out there! It does make me sad that we have to designate a day to pay tribute to women. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a wonderful idea, but I think that everyday, we should celebrate the women in our lives and the women that change the world in their own way. I’ve always admired smart, strong and capable women – it’s the reason I married my wife! But before you go ohhhhh, she is but one (okay the most important one) of many women that have shaped my life, made me a better person, grounded me and supported me when I needed it most.

The sacrifices made by women I know are extraordinary. They give up careers to raise a family – and please don’t feel bad if you didn’t stay home – both jobs are equally tough and there are different and very valid reasons to support each choice made. Women that qualify themselves professionally but give it all up to support their spouses in their careers. Women that let their husbands quit their jobs so they can live their dream (really unconditional love, even when I screw up). Young women (daughters and nieces) who, although always special in our eyes, realize they are special because of who they are, not what they are or what they do. Mum’s, sisters, Aunt’s, Grandma’s, daughters and nieces – Happy Women’s Day – sit back and enjoy the day, you continue to earn it! May you always inspire other women and men – husbands, fathers, brothers and sons!

So here’s a recipe to celebrate the day! It’s a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and it is one of my favorite cakes to make. Walnut and Halvah Cake. If you have not tried the recipes from his books (co-authored with Sami Tamimi), you must get them – “Jeruselem”, “More” and “Plenty More”. This recipe is incredibly easy to make and beyond delicious. I’m choosing this as it has international flavors from the halvah, earthiness from the walnuts and sweetness from the brown sugar topping. The batter can be a bit challenging as it is quite stiff and you might actually find it easier to spread it in the loaf pan using your slightly dampened hands. Don’t worry if you don’t cover everything, it will spread as it bakes. As always – enjoy!

6 tbsp./85g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus additional for greasing
½ cup/100g superfine sugar
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 2/3 cups/200g all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ cup plus 1 tbsp./130g sour cream

¼ cup/60g unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup/120g walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp./25g muscovado sugar (if you don’t have muscavado, use dark brown sugar)
6 oz/170g plain sesame halvah, broken into 1 ¼ inch/3cm pieces (available in most grocery stores-international aisle or any Lebanese grocery stores)

Preheat the oven to 350f
Grease a 9 x 5 inch non-stick loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper leaving an overhang on either end to facilitate lifting out of the pan
Make the topping:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and allow it to sizzle for about 3 minutes until it looks light brown and has a nutty aroma – (brown butter), let it cool
Once cool, mix the butter, walnuts and cinnamon together
Divide the mixture in half and stir the sugar into one of the portions – break up any lumps of sugar, it needs to be mixed well wit the nuts

Make the cake batter:
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or hand held), cream the butter and superfine sugar on medium speed until the mixture becomes light in color and the texture is fluffy
Add the eggs one at a time until they are incorporated
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
Add this to the batter alternating with the sour cream – a couple of additions and do not overmix
Spread half the batter onto the bottom of the prepared loaf pan and scatter the sugarless nut mixture evenly over the batter – dot the halvah on top
Spread the remaining batter on top – this may be tricky as your batter may be quite stiff, I used my hands to stretch and place over the nut mixture
Sprinkle the sugared nuts on top
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean – if the nuts start to darken, cover the top loosely with a piece of parchment or foil and continue to bake
Let cool for 20 minutes then remove from the pan
Let it cool completely before cutting or it might crumble when slicing – really is this a problem?!
Serve with lightly whipped 35% cream or fresh berries or on it’s own!