Lemon polenta cake

Lemon_Polenta_Cake

This is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe. As Nigella says, this is an Anglo-Italian crossover recipe. It’s basically an iced lemon drizzle cake made with polenta and ground almonds instead of wheat flour. I made it for my Art Class yesterday, and it seemed to be pretty popular. It’s also gluten-free provided you use gluten-free baking powder. This made 12 quite generous portions:

The cake:

  • olive oil for greasing the cake tin lining
  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g fine polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder (gluten-free if required)
  • 3 large eggs
  • finely grated zest from 2 unwaxed lemons (reserve the juice (see below))

The syrup:

  • juice of 2 lemons (see above)
  • 125g icing sugar

The icing:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 70g reduced fat cream cheese (eg Philadelphia or similar)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • zest from another unwaxed lemon
  • lemon juice to taste
  • a few lemon segments (for decoration)

Line the bottom and sides of a cake tin with baking parchment (I used a rectangular tin about 18cm x 27cm), which I also brushed with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 180C (Gas Mark 4).

Beat the butter, and when creamed, add the caster sugar (I used a hand held electric whisk).

Sift together the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder. Beat some of this into the butter/sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating with every addition.

Beat in the lemon zest and spoon the mixture (which should be quite stiff) into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until browned and cooked through (test with a fine skewer, if it comes out clean, then the cake is cooked). Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, leaving the cake in its tin.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small saucepan, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

Prick the top of the cake all over with a large needle, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Make the icing by whisking together the mascarpone, the cream cheese and the icing sugar. Add a little lemon juice (to taste).

Turn out the cake. Spread the icing on top, and use a fork to make a close, lined pattern. Grate a little lemon zest over the icing, and cut the cake into squares.Decorate each square with a small piece of a lemon segment (use two or three segments in total).

I put each square in a muffin case, which I had ‘reshaped’ by folding around a suitably sized square plastic box (you could use a child’s wooden brick (clean it first!)).

 

 

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Soda bread

Something based on an Irish recipe for St Patrick’s Day.

Soda_Bread_Tile1

This is adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth David in English Bread And Yeast Cookery. This amount makes one small loaf (enough for 4 people). It is an easy way of producing homemade bread in a short time.

Soda bread is leavened chemically – a much quicker alternative to yeast leavening, using the reaction of soda (an alkali) and yogurt and lemon juice (acid). It is essential to keep these two ingredients apart until you are ready to bake the bread.

  • 300g plain wholemeal flour
  • 3/5 of a level tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 140ml natural yogurt
  • 140ml milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Warm water (if the mixture is too dry)

Heat the oven to 230C (Gas Mark 8). You will also need a floured baking tray and large heatproof glass basin (to cover the loaf in the oven – this promotes a steamy atmosphere which helps the loaf to rise).

Sift the flour and soda together in a large mixing bowl.

In a jug, mix the yogurt, milk, lemon juice and olive oil.

Pour the liquid into the flour and mix as quickly as possible (add warm water if necessary – you need a dough which will stand up on its own, but which is not too crumbly).

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a round, making it as high as possible.

Place on the floured baking tray, and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.

Cover with the large heatproof glass basin and place in the oven for 30 minutes. It will be cooked when a skewer inserted into the loaf, comes out clean. If the loaf needs some further time to cook, remove the glass basin and return to the oven until cooked.

Allow to cool before serving. It’s delicious warm with butter. Freezes well, and can be revived in the microwave.

Served here with chicken liver paté.

 

Butternut squash and ginger muffins

A squash based muffin recipe. These are low sugar and low fat, but I still think a quite acceptable as a ‘sweet cake’. Makes 12 small muffins:

  • 12 small muffin casesButternut_Muffins
  • 40ml light olive oil
  • 40ml milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 400g (previously roasted) butternut squash (skin and seeds removed)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated root ginger
  • 200g wholemeal plain flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 60g light soft brown sugar
  • 75g raisins

Place the muffin cases in a muffin baking tin.

Heat the oven to 210C (Gas Mark 7).

Liquidise the oil, milk, eggs, squash and ginger.

Sieve together the flour, baking powder and sugar, into a large bowl, and stir in the raisins

Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl and whisk the contents together.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for about 15 minutes until cooked.

Sage and onion cornbread

This recipe is adapted from one which appeared in the Guardian Cook supplement on 3 January 2015. It’s good warm, on its own with butter, or for mopping up soups and casseroles.

  • 110g plain wholemeal flourCornbread
  • 100g polenta (not instant polenta)
  • 4 tsps (heaped) baking powder
  • 70g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
  • 1 bunch spring onions (thinly sliced)
  • 100g mature cheddar (finely grated)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 240ml milk
  • 120 ml olive oil (and a little more to grease the cake tin)

Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with silicone paper and paint the sides with olive oil.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (Gas Mark 6).

Sift together the flour, polenta and baking powder. Stir in the breadcrumbs, onions, sage and cheese, until the mixture is evenly combined.

Beat together the eggs, flour and oil in a separate bowl.

Mix all the ingredients together, and spoon into the cake tin, levelling the top is necessary.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked inside (if you insert a skewer and it comes out clean, it will be cooked).

Allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or store in an airtight tin for later use. Freezes well.

 

 

Chocolate and red bean muffins

Chocolate_bean_muffins

This recipe is loosely based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Chocolate Bean Cake in Waitrose Kitchen magazine January 2015. The beans may seem like a strange ingredient, but as Hugh says “the Japanese do it all the time with lovely results”.

This recipe makes 10 small muffins:

  • 10 small muffin cases
  • 50ml light olive oil
  • 2/3rds of a can (400g) of red kidney beans (drained and rinsed – I’d already used the rest to make some spicy tuna salad)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 70g polenta (not instant polenta)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 85g light soft brown sugar

Place the muffin cases in a muffin baking tin.

Heat the oven to 190C (Gas Mark 5).

Liquidise the oil, beans, eggs and vanilla essence.

Sieve together the polenta, cocoa, baking powder and sugar, into a large bowl.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl and whisk the contents together.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for about 15 minutes until cooked.

Christmas pudding bread pudding

Xmas_Bread_Pudding_Tile

A Christmas leftover recipe (Christmas pudding and brandy butter), which (if frozen) allows you to re-experience Christmas in small bites over the coming months. It’s based on my recipe for Bread Pudding.

Makes 12 ‘modest’ pieces:

  • 4 large ‘thick cut’ slices of stale wholemeal bread
  • 400g leftover Christmas Pudding
  • 100g leftover brandy butter (make sure it is a ‘fridge’ temperature so you can grate it into the above ingredients)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 nutmeg grated
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg (beaten)

Cut the bread into small cubes and put into a large bowl. Crumble in the Christmas pudding, grate in the brandy butter, add the spices and ensure the ingredients are well mixed. Stir in the milk and egg. Then scrunch the mixture with your fingers, ensuring that the bread is broken up and the pudding evenly distributed. Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom of a cake tin with silicon paper (I used a tin about 20cm x 10cm). Transfer to the cake tin, smoothing the top. Bake for about 1.5 hours until firm and golden brown (cover with foil if browns too much).

When cooked, turn out onto a wire rack (removing the paper). Cut into squares. If freezing separate squares with silicon paper.

I think this is equally good, cold just like a cake; or hot with custard.

 

Onion focaccia

FocacciaTileThis is based on a recipe in ‘Muffins scones and breads’ in the Austrailan Women’s Weekly cookbook series. There is enough for 6 as an accompaniment to soup or salad. It’s fairly quick to make as it requires only one rising.

  • 1&1/2  tsp dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 220ml warm (blood heat) water
  • 150g strong plain flour
  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • 35g Italian hard cheese (this is the ‘cheap version‘ of parmesan), finely grated
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion (finely sliced)
  • Sea salt

Mix the yeast and sugar with 100ml of the warm water. Cover, and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it starts to ferment.

Meanwhile sift the flours together into a large mixing bowl. When the yeast is ready, warm the flour briefly in the microwave (say, 20 seconds on high).

Mix the cheese and herbs into the flour, add the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp of the olive oil, and a further 100g of the water. Mix to a soft, but manageable, dough. If too dry add further water (if too wet, knead in some more flour). Knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough and place it so that it covers a baking tray (I used one 30cm square). Cover and leave in a warm place to rise (until it has doubled in depth).

Heat the oven to 220C (gas mark 8). Spread the onion slices over the top, and sprinkle with sea salt and the remaining olive oil.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Pleace on a wire rack to cool.