Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Polenta Cake (NOT placenta cake)

What shall I make for pud? A pretty normal sounding question which resulted in a pretty scary answer: a very excited scream of 'PLACENTA CAKE!!! Definitely make placenta cake!'. After several minutes of horrified protest from me, my Mother explained that this is what my hilarious Father likes to call polenta cake. Despite his gross name for it, his enthusiasm made me want to make it right away, this recipe was cut out of some magazine by my Mum years ago and gets pulled out every once in a while when my Dad is in the mood for delicious moist lemony polenta goodness, not pregnancy-based offal. Eurgh.

Because this requires a little precision, I will list the ingredients in a more organised way than my usual slap-dash fashion.
Feeds around 8 with leftovers.

350g demerara sugar

4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest 2 lemons
250ml light olive oil (why is this cake so moist? Oh that's why)
250ml fruity white wine
300g plain flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
125g dried polenta

To make it pretty and extra delish:
450g soft summer fruits ( I used rasberries on their own)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
A sprinkling of chopped fresh mint
You will also need a 25cm spring-form cake tin lined with grease-proof paper.

Preheat oven to 180, 160 fan oven, gas 4.  Sprinkle 3 tbsp demerara sugar over base of prepared tin. Beat together the rest of the sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest, then pour in the oil & wine & beat to mix well.

Sift together flour, baking powder and polenta, then add this to the wet mixture and combine well.  Pour over the sugar in the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins. Cover with oil and cook for a further 30 mins. Check by inserting a skewer, it should come out clean. I always find it's best to check early as you can always put it back in the oven. Cool in the tin, loosen sides and turn out.

Combine the fruit with the balsamic and add the sugar. Leave in fridge for 30 mins. Serve the warm cake (still good cold) with the fruit sprinkled with the chopped mint. You don't have to put the fruit on top, but it elevates it from a great cake to a sublime cake, it's just gorgeous. For pregnant women and those without child, alike. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Cauliflower - Don't boil, roast!

Seeming a little like broccoli's unfortunate anaemic looking cousin, in the UK, cauliflower is normally either boiled to smithereens in school canteens (it was in mine) or smothered in cheese sauce (nothing wrong this this at all). That's not much excitement for anyone. Indians know how to treat a cauliflower with respect though, and they understand how well it works with a little help from a bit of spice. I absolutely love them deep fried as pakoras, but that can make your kitchen smell a bit and sometimes you just can't be faffed to have a pan of boiling oil bubbling away, waiting for you to knock it off the hob (oh yes, that did happen once. Oil slick ahoy. And we had guests). Roasting cauliflower was a revelation, sprinkle it with chilli and cumin seeds and you can have it with curry, rub it with paprika and garlic and you've gone to Spain. A tiny bit of ground cinnamon and almond flakes with fresh mint and coriander a la Eattori and you've got a perfect and spunky accompaniment to fish, the possibilities are (almost) endless.

This recipe is what I would eat with curry as a healthier alternative to pakoras, but go nuts, use what you have and elevate the humble cauliflower to a new and exciting status.

Feeds two generously. Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Remove outer leaves from one whole head of cauliflower,  discard the tough leaves but keep the softer thinner ones from inside. Break/cut the florets away from the stalk and slice the upper third of the stalk into rounds about half a centimetre thick. Take a baking try and tumble the cauliflower (and leaves) in, slightly drizzle with olive oil, don't soak it, and combine with half a tsp turmeric, and a tbsp of garam masala. Toss really well and season. Bake for about 15 minutes and check on progress. You want the edges to go brown but the veg to retain a tiny bit of bite. If it looks a bit burny and raw turn the temperature down and put the tray in the bottom of the oven. Cover with foil if you're worried. When cooked, toss with a handful fresh coriander and if you want, a squeeze of lemon.

This is so good with roast chicken, you can play with the flavours as much as you like, to your taste. Just promise to never boil it again!