Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Orange, Polenta and Honey Cake

It is way past my bedtime. 
My eyes are sore and my legs are throbbing, the old terracotta floor tiles are unforgiving in this kitchen. But I love working in a kitchen like this. I love cooking for a large group from a small space, producing cake after cake from one little oven, I like multitasking, washing leaves for dinner in the sink, cooling fresh lemon curd on the draining board, while tortillas hiss on the stove. The heat has been problematic and I've been having to ice a cake and then shove it in the freezer to set, peaches ripen and go soft in the same day and it can make stirring big steamy pots a tad exhausting but it's all worth it when you can run to the pool, jump in and splash about like nobodies business.
I've written on here before about what makes Spain special to me, but in terms of cooking so much has to be said for going to the market and having only the choice of what is in season and local. I also love how although our village is changing all the time, there will be snapshots, moments of when I feel like the place hasn't changed in a hundred years. The other day we had a festival through the streets and families bring their chairs outside their front doors to watch the processions in the street. I took this photo on my I phone a couple of weeks ago and I love it so much, the grandmother with her fan, her granddaughter waiting patiently for the procession to reach her street.
To think all this family has essentially come from this woman. I hope when I'm a Grandmother there's someone in the family who will want to hear my stories and try my recipes. For now though, I will pass you on one of my favourite recipes from good old Mr Slater.
A moist cardamom and orange-scented cake with a nutty texture that works both as a cake for tea and as a dessert. You will need a non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin about 20cm in diameter. Incidentally, the cake is gluten-free.
Orange and honey polenta cake
Serves 8
220g butter
220g unrefined caster sugar
150g almonds
150g ground almonds
3 large eggs
150g polenta
1 level tsp baking powder, finely grated zest and juice of a large orange
12 green cardamom pods
For the syrup: Juice of 2 lemons, juice of 2 oranges, 4 tbsp honey
Line the base of the cake tin with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4. Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy. Put the almonds in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Remove a few at a time with a draining spoon and pop them out of their skins. Discard the skins. Blitz the almonds in a food processor till they are finely chopped, then add them, together with the ground almonds, to the cake mixture. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork, then stir into the mixture. Mix the polenta and baking powder, then fold into the mixture, together with the grated orange zest and juice. Crush the cardamom pods and extract the little black seeds, grinding them to a fine powder. Add the spice to the cake mixture. Transfer the cake mixture to the lined tin and smooth the top level. Bake for 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 160C/gas 3 for a further 25 -30 minutes or until the cake is firm. To make the syrup, squeeze the lemon and orange juice into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil and dissolve in the honey. Keep the liquid boiling until it has formed a thin syrup (4-5 minutes). 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 almost cool, then lift out of the tin. Serve in thick slices with thinly sliced fresh oranges and - if you want something more decadent - a little natural yogurt.

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