Orange and Honey Polenta Cake

I made this cake some time ago now and (shock! horror!), took the photos on my old camera- it pains me now to think how much better they would have looked on my swanky new number.  But I hope this doesn’t detract from this wonderful, moist tea time treat I adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe.   I love baking with polenta and nuts instead of flour- it gives a subtle, nutty flavour and it absorbs moisture incredibly well, particularly the syrup used here.  I can also trick myself into thinking it is more virtuous than a cake made from white flour.  Enjoy with a middle eastern twist- some sliced oranges and mint, maybe drizzled with a little orange flower water if you have it to hand. 

Orange and honey polenta cake

You will need:
220g butter
220g caster sugar
150g almonds
150g ground almonds
3 large eggs
150g polenta (the quick cook variety is best)
1 tsp baking powder
zest and juice of 1 orange

For the syrup:
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
4 tbsp honey

Method:

1.  Line the base of a non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin (20cm diameter will do nicely) with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4.

2. Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy. Add the almonds.

3. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork, then add to the mixture.

4.  Mix the polenta and baking powder, then fold into the mixture, together with the grated orange zest and juice.

 5.   Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 160C/gas 3 for a further 25 -30 minutes or until the cake is firm.  If it begins to burn or caramelise a bit on top, cover with tinfoil. 

6. To make the syrup, squeeze the lemon and orange juice into a pan, bring to the boil and dissolve in the honey.  Bubble away for about 5 minutes until you have a syrup. 

7.  Spike holes into the top of the cake (still warm and in its tin)with a skewer then spoon over the hot citrus syrup. Leave to cool before transferring from the tin. Serve in thick slices with thinly sliced fresh oranges and a little mint.  

Stockholm i mitt hjärta (Stockholm in my heart)

It’s been some time since my last post (apologies).  My excuse is that I’ve been on holiday and took so many photos (on that crafty new camera), it has taken ages to sort through them all.  But, finally, to Stockholm and another summer holiday.  I have spent at least some part every summer there, so for me the two are inexorably linked.  Summer and Stockholm forever hand in hand.   One is not quite the same without the other.  
And of course, it is perfectly possible to pass an entire trip to Stockholm in city break mode, browsing boutiques and museums, surrounded by the achingly hip locals who seem to have come straight out of central casting.  And as much as I enjoy sipping a designer coffee on a terrace or pavement café, ogling the eye candy while contemplating my next course of window shopping, this is not what pulls at my heart strings.
Goodbye, Stockholm.  Hello, Archipelago.
For me,you have to leave the city, preferrably on the Vaxholm Bolaget’s boat service and head out, out, out into the sea for at least an hour. The further you go, the more remote the landscape becomes,  but even just an hour’s trip will land you pretty deep into the Stockholm archipelago or skärgården. 
 
  
Here, the islands come in as many sizes and shapes as you can imagine, each with its own character.  While some are covered in troll-like forrests or open fields, others are barren and craggy.  Some are densely populated with summer houses or whole towns and villages.  Others have only the occasional visiting seagull or seal.  
The island I call home is relatively accessible, only a handful of bridges and a short ferry ride separate it from the mainland.  It’s also very close to the lovely seaside town of Vaxholm.  Once on the island itself, there’s not a whole lot to do but read, relax, maybe have a swim for the brave and, of course, cook.
 
To begin this recipe roster, allow me to introduce my grandmother, or ‘mormor,’ Thorborg.  She doesn’t live in the archipelago, but she does make a mean chocolate cake which I enjoyed on her sunny balcony in Södertälje.  It’s a dense, gooey cake that lies somewhere between a brownie and a torte.  For some reason it is often given a french moniker in Sweden, so I’ve always thought of it as Mormor’s french chocolate cake.  Surprisingly, it’s incredibly easy to make and gets its intense choclatey flavour just from cocoa powder.
Mormor’s chocolate cake. 
 Mormor’s French Chocolate Cake
You will need:
2 eggs
300g caster sugar
125g butter, melted
1 pinch of salt
100g plain flour
4 tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla essence
Method:
1. Whisk the egg and sugar until frothy and light in colour. 
2. Add the melted butter
3. Stir in the salt, flour and cocoa and vanilla.
4. Beat or whisk until smooth. 
5. Pour into a round, greased and floured tin.
6. Bake in a 175 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Serve with a dollop of cream. 
On Mormor’s balcony
Time for some coffee and cake in the archipelago town of Vaxholm
Cake at Hembygdsgården, Vaxholm
 

 

The streets of Vaxholm
Lingonberry red.
Famously, the Scandis are big foragers and we had timed our trip to straddle the berry and mushroom seasons.  This meant that we could enjoy the last of the blueberries, raspberries, lingonberries and blackcurrants that were left on the bushes of the island’s forrest.  The chanterelle season, by contrast, was in full swing, although not on our island as some keen mushroom pickers had got there first (possibly my godmother, who admitted to hiding a patch of young mushrooms with branches in order to come back later and get them at their plumpest).  Fortunately for us, Vaxholm’s market were selling them by the punnet full.

Chantarelles


Chantarelle Toast
Carefully brush the mushrooms with a clean paintbrush, pastry brush or similar. 
Heat a large frying pan until really hot.
Add the mushrooms just as they are, no oil or butter at this stage.   
Leave them to cook for a couple of minutes and to release some of their juices. 
Toss occasionally, don’t crowd. Add a knob of butter, a splash of really top quality olive oil. 
Cook until slightly golden.  Sprinkle with sea salt and some chopped parsley.  
Serve on toasted and buttered sourdough. 

Picking berries- rasp and blue
A-foraging we will go


Raspberry tart

Breakfast on the back porch.
Blackcurrants in the garden

Blackcurrant Jam
Crepes with blackcurrant jam and crepes
  
Blackcurrant Jam
For about 2 L of jam
You will need:
1 kg black currants
250ml water
1.5 kg sugar
Method:
Wash the berries carefully.
Add to a large pan with the water and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 20 minutes over a gentle simmer. 
Add the sugar and wait until dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Do the jam test.
Pour into sterallised jars. 

Cassis
Afternoon tea on the veranda.  The view.

A slice of princess cake- sponge, jam, custard, cream and green almond paste.  What’s not to love?

Burgers and beer on the jetty. 

 
The end of July and begining of August is also traditionally crayfish season in Sweden.  Although these delicate little critters are now available all year round, the tradition of gathering your friends together at this time of year to gorge on the lobster-like creatures and sing snaps songs lives on.  My cousin and her friends treated us to a feast and we also enjoyed the island’s annual crayfish party in the local park.  They set up tressle tables and you bring your own chairs, crayfish and booze.  A band of local old timers kept everyone dancing till the wee hours.   
Crayfish
Crayfish party in the local park

Old timer band take to the bandstand. 

Cheery cherries


This is a gorgeously moist, very simple loaf cake that is just the thing to accompany a cuppa.  It’s a bit of a contemporary, lighter twist on the traditional fruit cake, with  retro glacé cherries sitting, gleaming, in the moist sponge.  I know they are a bit marmitey (you either love them or…), but I  had quite a lot of glacé cherries left over from making mincemeat and this is the ideal way to use them up.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with all those currants and raisins… 

Cherry and almond cake

You will need:

150g glace cherries
175g self-raising flour
160g butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 drops vanilla essence
70g ground almonds
4 tbsp milk

Method:

A small loaf tine, lined and buttered. 

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C/gas mark 3.  Halve the cherries.  Some may prefer to give them a quick rinse under the tap to get rid of some of the syrupy stickyness.  Either way, toss them in some flour to give them a protective coat.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs and add them to the mixture, along with the vanilla.

Fold in the flour and the almonds before adding the cherries and milk.

Pour the batter into our loaf tin and bake for about 1/2-3/4 hour, until a cake-tester comes out clean.  Don’t go off and watch the news and forget about it as I did, so that it burns a bit.

Leave to cool before tucking in.  Good with a glass of cold milk or dunked into hot tea.

A Bit of Brightness


There is a glut of clementines about at the moment.  Every shop I go into, every fruit and veg stall I pass, there they are in gargantuan, abundant piles.  Often accompanied by an enormous 2-4-1 sign.  This strikes me as surprising, given that I read a while ago that sales of oranges have actually gone down in recent years.  Apparently we are too lazy to peel them- we simply can’t be bothered.  Perhaps this is because these days we only really know how to use our fingers to text.  And, obviously, this ability will soon be replaced with only knowing how to use our thumbs for touch screens.  Other fingers will become superfluous.

But, all is not lost because clearly clementines are bucking the trend!  The supermarkets would have you believe that they are immensely popular, even this time of year, post Christmas.  The problem becomes what to do with them when you don’t have a stocking to put them in anymore.

I’ve been looking at ways to use up ours and decided to whizz up this Clementine Cake, created by Rangemaster’s home economist Alison Trinder, brought to my attention by the ACHICA website.  ‘This wonderfully moist and tangy cake is very easy to make and perfect for fan ovens,’ is how it was described.  ‘Gentle, consistent heat ensures that the cake will cook evenly and retain essential moisture for an irresistible afternoon treat.’  All very well put, Alison.  And I would agree, it is a joyful cake, with almost Caribbean zest and zeal (just look at the colour!  Only really very slightly enhanced in post-production, I can assure you.  Sort of.)    Having said that, the cake was a bit too much of a faff for me.  I enjoyed eating it, as did my boyfriend, flatmate and colleagues (it makes for a mighty big cake).  However, I wouldn’t say that all the different component-y, bit-y stages (separating the eggs, whisking the whites, grating the rest, making the syrup from x many clementines, using the pulp from y, etc, etc.) was necessarily worth it.  Just my opinion.  But give it a go. Tell me what you think.





Clementine, Yogurt and Polenta Cake


Ingredients
12 seedless clementines, satsumas or tangerines
450g/16oz caster sugar
200g/7oz butter, softened plus a little for greasing
the grated zest of 1 lemon
3 medium sized eggs, separated
300g/10oz ground almonds
100g/4oz polenta or semolina
150ml pot of natural yogurt


Method


1. Melt 250g of the sugar in a small pan with 330ml of boiling water, bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice five of the fruits horizontally, discarding the ends. Add the slices to the pan with the sugar and water. Cover and simmer until the skin of the fruit is tender – this will take about 20 minutes.

3. Grease and base line a 25cm/10″ loose bottomed tin. Remove the fruit slices from the pan when tender, and arrange as neatly as possible over the base of the cake tin.

4. Grate the zest from the seven remaining fruits and put to one side.

5. Squeeze the juice from four and stir into the syrup. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until thick. Allow to cool.

6. Mix the remaining 200g sugar with the softened butter, lemon zest and the set aside zest. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

7. Peel the three remaining fruits, removing as much pith as possible, and whiz in a food processor until pulpy.  Add the fruit pulp to the cake mixture with the almonds, polenta and yogurt. Then whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold in to the mixture.

8. Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place into a pre-heated oven 160ºC Fan oven, 170ºC Conventional oven, Gas 4.

9. Bake until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour, when the cake will be golden brown and risen. Cool the cake in the tin.

To serve: Invert the cake on to a serving plate, spoon over some of the syrup to glaze the fruit slices. Serve with cream, ice-cream or crème fraiche and the remaining syrup.

Pickles, Pumpkins and Pigs.

Despite summer’s confused arrival at the start of October, the evenings are really drawing in now, the clocks have gone back and I could have sworn I saw a frost on the grass this morning.   I’ve got my massive box of woolly things out of our storage room/cupboard (which Toby’s mum calls the ‘glory hole.’  Someone pointed out that the term is actually quite rude, but it’s too late now.  Glory hole it is.)  My wardrobe is ready for colder climes but my pantry (ie a shelf in the kitchen cupboard) is not.  So I spent a weekend pickling, preserving and jamming some of the autumn harvest, with pretty decent results. The post on that is on its way. 

I also bought a pumpkin, in the spirit of all things autumnal.   Having gone to an American primary school when I was little, I have a real soft spot for Halloween.  It reminds me of being a kid, clutching a lunchbox and crayons ready for the new(ish) term, dressed in my AMAZING superwoman costume.
Originally I thought I could carve it for Halloween, using the shell for decoration and the fleshy pulp for soup.  However, the thing about pumpkins is this- they don’t actually taste of much.  A pumpkin is no butternut squash which is full of sweet and nutty flavour.  You really need to do more with a pumpkin, give it a bit more love and thought, simply blitzing the flesh into a soup won’t really do. But if you spend a bit of energy on it,  you will be rewarded.  I used my medium sized £1.50 pumpkin from Tesco for three different recipes, each of which fed the two of us with plenty of leftovers.  How’s that for a credit cruncher? 
First up, I made a pumpkin, chicken and peanut soup.  I was up in the Lake District recently, visiting a friend who doing a rep season at the Theatre by the Lake is Keswick.  It’s absolutely stunning there and despite the rain, we managed a 5 am walk to see the sun come up over a stone circle.  Ok, so there wasn’t any sun, but we watched it get lighter, which still felt like an achievement.  I also found some real treasures in the Oxfam in Keswick, which was full of charity shop gold.  A gorgeous dress with a suitably autumnal print (just needs a little taking in at the shoulders and a bit of a play with the hem) and a book on soups by Hannah Wright.  
This recipe is from that book:
Chicken, Pumpkin and Peanutbutter Soup
You will need:
2 medium onions
2 small sticks of celery
12oz (350g) sliced pumpkin
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with salt
8 allspice berries or 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, clove and ginger
salt
freshly milled pepper
1 1/2 pints (900ml) good chicken stock
1 heaped tbsp peanutbutter
meat from half a breast of half a leg of chicken or a few thighs, cooked. 
Method:
  1. Roughly chop the onion, celery and pumpkin flesh and put in a heavy pan.
  2. Add chili, garlic, spices salt and pepper and the chicken stock.  Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before stirring in the peanutbutter.  Blend with a stick blender or in food processor.
  4. When you want to serve it, dice the chicken into neat cubes and add to the soup.  Gently reheat and taste to season when hot.  Do not let boil.
You can add a garnish of sliced onions, pepper and parsley if you would like. 


Then I roasted pumpkin with sausages (the pig in the title of this post.  Sorry, I was a bit stuck for inspiration), sage and red onion, a bit of olive oil and balsamic.  This has become a bit of a favourite with butternut squash.  We normally eat this with some rice, but you could add it to pasta as well.   Also works with the addition of fennel and chili, if you prefer a spicier version. 
This was then followed a few nights later by a  sausage (pig again!) and pumpkin cassoulet, which really did feel like the perfect antidote to the autumnal winds and drizzle.   
Pumpkin Cassoulet
You will need:
A knob of butter
A pack of sausages, chopped into chunky bits
2 red onions
2 garlic cloves
sage
pumpkin (about a quarter to half of a medium one, depending on how much you would like to use), chopped into chunks
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin cannelloni or berterolli beans
500ml chicken stock
salt and pepper
parsley to serve (optional)
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F or Gas mark 4)
  2. Heat about half the butter in a large casserole dish and fry the sausage pieces until brown and caramelised
  3. Add the rest of the butter and the chopped onions.  Fry until softened before adding the minced garlic and chopped sage.
  4. Add the pumpkin and stir well until combined.  Increase the heat and add the vinegar, let it bubble and evaporate.
  5. Add the tomatoes, beans and stock before seasoning.
  6. Bring this to the boil and then transfer to the oven for up to one hour, until the sausages are cooked through and the pumpkin is tender.
  7. Serve in hearty bowls, scatter with parsley.  Enjoy next to a roaring fire.
Finally, roasted pumpkin, chorizo and quinoa salad, which is a real winner.   I basically just used what I had in the fridge, roasted the remaining pumpkin and fried up slices of chorizo.  I added this to some quinoa, chopped tomatoes, avocado and basil.  I made a zingy lemon-based dressing to accompany this one.  Simple and incredibly moreish.   
Another brilliant autumnal ingredient is, of course, the humble apple.  I really enjoy apples in savory dishes- depending on the kind of apple it can add a sweetness or tangyness, crunchy texture or a soft one.  Here are two of my favourite seasonal apple dishes:  
Normandy pot roast chicken with apples
You will need:
Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery
1 pack of lardons
6-8 pieces of leg and thigh (depending on the size of the pieces)
300 ml (1/2 pint) dry cider
300mol (1/2 pint) chicken stock
3 apples of your choosing, Braeburn works nicely
4 tbsp crème fraiche (I always use half fat)
handful of chopped sage
parsley
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C.  Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and celery and cook until softened.  Remove from the pan and put in a large casserole dish or large pot.  Add the lardoons to the pan and cook until golden.  Add to the pot. 
  2. Add a little extra oil (or butter if you prefer), to the pan and brown the chicken pieces all over, seasoning as you go. 
  3. Remove the chicken from the pan and pour in the cider, scraping any crispy bits that have stuck to the pan.  
  4. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pot, so they sit on top of the onions, celery and lardoons.  Add the cider juices and the chicken stock and sprinkle with half the chopped sage. Cover with a lid and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Add the apple slices, rest of the sage and stir in the crème fraiche.  Cook uncovered for another 20 or so minutes, until the juices of the chicken run clear. 
  6. To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with rice or mash and a simple green salad or perhaps some tenderstem broccoli. 
And here’s one for those with a sweet tooth, although this honestly doesn’t feel too naughty as it is jam-packed with the fruit.  Sort of.  
Apple streusel cake or Apple crumb cake
Taken from the newest Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, p. 42.
You will need:
120g butter, unsalted (40g cold and diced, 80 g softened)
250 g plain flour
100g caster sugar
70 g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
80ml whole milk
3 large, crunchy apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced. 
Method.
  1. Preheat your oven to 170C or 325F, Gas mark3.  Then grease a 20cm (8in) spring-form cake tin (or the closest thing you have) with about 20 g of the softened butter.  Also add a dusting of flour (40g)
  2. First off, make your crumble topping.  Sift 70g of the flour with the cinnamon before adding 40g of the cold, diced butter.  Use your fingertips to rub the ingredients together until you’ve got a breadcrumb-like mixture.  Stir in the light brown sugar and then set to one side.
  3. Use an electric whisk to cream the remaining 60g of softened butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.
  4. Sift together140g of flour,  baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Add about half of this mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, followed by half the milk.  Mix well with your electric whisk, then repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.  Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles ontop of the batter, then sprinkle with the crumb topping to form an even layer. 
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 min, until it is golden brown on top and a skewer or knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

Set aside to cool before removing from the tin.  Can be enjoyed warm or cold, with crème fraiche, whipped cream, ice cream or custard.  Or all of the above.