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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Orange and Polenta Cake

I am constantly exasperated by the number of almost empty bags of pasta, polenta and bulgar wheat which accumulate in my dry goods cupboard, despite the fact that it is almost certainly me who is to blame for their presence there.  I am not sure why I repeatedly refuse simply to up end the packet and use up the last few crumbs of cous cous, but I do.  What's particularly irritating is that the failure to throw away the empty wrapper means that I do not make a mental note to buy more so that the next time I venture into the cupboard to cook (insert starchy mainstay here) there's not enough left.

The following is a recipe which I adapted from the first Moro cookbook and which could come in useful if you are at a loss with what to do with the remnants of a bag of polenta.  I had a hankering for a dense syrupy orange cake much like the "Orange Torta" which appears at page 266.  It calls for eight Seville oranges and 230g of ground almonds.  Inevitably I had an insufficient amount of almonds and no Seville oranges, so decided to see whether I could compensate with other ingredients which were readily to hand.  Here's what I used:

5 oranges and one lemon
Six eggs, separated
200g plus one handful of caster sugar
100g ground almonds
130g quick cook polenta (the stuff which purports to cook in one minute - Merchant Gourmet does one)
100ml of sunflower or other flavourless oil
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.

Butter a springform cake tin or a bundt tin (using a bundt tin makes the cake very easy to portion and serve, and the result looks super impressive too.  If you are using a regular shaped springform tin I would line it with greaseproof too).

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar (200g minus one tablespoon) together until pale and creamy.  Add in the finely grated zest of two oranges, the polenta and almonds, the oil, the salt, and the juice of one orange and mix until combined.

In another clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and tablespoon of sugar together until stiff peak stage.  Loosen the orange and polenta mixture with one spoonful of the egg whites, and then add in the rest of the egg whites, spoonful by spoonful, using a metal spoon.  Try to retain as much air as possible - it's all in the wrist.  Ahem.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  Using a bundt tin speeds up the process so I would recommend checking on the cake's progress after about 25 minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven when it is golden on top and firm to the touch.  Allow it to cool slightly in the tin and then carefully transfer it to a wire rack.  Put it on a plate once it is cold enough to handle.

Whilst the cake is cooking make a syrup from the remaining four oranges and the lemon.  Put the juice in a pan with a handful of sugar and reduce until it is darker in colour and syrupy.  I reckon on this taking about ten minutes.  The syrup should be quite sharp in order to counter-balance the sweetness of the cake, but do sweeten it to taste with a little additional sugar if necessary.  Allow the syrup to cool.

Once the warm cake is on the plate, prick it all over with a knife and slowly pour over the syrup.  I filled the centre of my cake (hollow as a result of the bundt tin) with blueberries and poured some syrup over them - the result was beautiful: golden cake and shiny black berries.  Serve the cake with thick cream or Greek yoghurt and any additional syrup.  This cake keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, although as with most things, I would recommend bringing it up to room temperature before serving.

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