Polenta cake with mascarpone and rosemary

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The name reads  really well – the sort of high maintenance dish that requires hours of dedicated work in the kitchen. The truth is that it is a lot easier to bake than it sounds… After all, it is a slightly modified pound cake, with 2 very easy elements on the side.  The cake itself has a pleasantly crumbly and grainy texture, ideal to combine with the rosemary infused honey. The creamy mascarpone sauce just makes everything come together. Try it with a double expresso for even better results…

Polenta cake with mascarpone and rosemary (adapted from a Eddie Russel recipe found in Food and Wine Magazine)

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 3/4  cup (=220g)  flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (=65g)  polenta
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks (=220g) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (110g) of  sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Rosemary syrup

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 rosemary sprigs

Mascarpone sauce 

  • 1 cup (=225g) mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (200mL)  heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped

Method

Preheat the oven to 325°F (= 190°C). Butter and flour a metal loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the polenta and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating the batter at low speed until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Turn the cake onto a rack and let it cool until warm.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey with the water and rosemary sprigs and simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs. While the cake is still warm, lightly brush the top of the cake with the rosemary syrup.

In a medium bowl, whisk the mascarpone with the cream, sugar and vanilla-bean seeds.

Using a serrated knife, cut the  cake into thick slices and transfer to plates. Top each slice with a large dollop of mascarpone, drizzle with the rosemary syrup and serve.


Gluten-free carrot coconut spiced cake

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Can gluten free cake be as good as “normal” cake? Well, it depends… in this case, it was. It is also a very long list of ingredients to make it taste like and feel like cake. Worthwhile the effort? Well, yes. It was pretty good cake, with a unusual texture. The beasts My lovely co-workers had it all in a single meeting… I still have to let them know this was a specially healthy version of what they usually get…

Carrot cake (gluten free; adapted from Dias com Mafalda blog)

Ingredients

  • 100g of brown or unrefined sugar
  • 100mL of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • 3 grated carrots
  • 1 grated apple
  • 100g of crated cocunut
  • 100g raisin
  • the zest of one orange and 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  • 175g gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 of powdered clove.

 

Method

Grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180oC

Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs with  wooden spoon. Fold in the grated carrots, apple and coconut together with the raisins, the orange zest and juice. On top of this mix, sift the flour, the spices, baking-powder and baking soda.

Put the batter in the tin  and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 20min. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should come out dry.

Take it out from the tin while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.


Spiced chia pudding with blueberries and crunchy chocolate muesli

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Mighty, gluten-free seeds, packed with omega-3, protein Blah-di-blah-di-blah-di-blah Eleven health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by science Blah-di-blah-di-blah-di-blah Great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fibre blah-di  and fortunately it’s an easy food to ad lalalalala. Indeed, I am trying to repurpose this blog into an healthy super foods outlet. The thing is that I actually like the gelatinous texture with some bite  and a nutty flavour. It make me feel full for a long time. It is super easy a pudding like dessert – all you need is milk or vegetal equivalent, add spices and you are ready to go. For extra healthy points, add another superfood.

Spiced chia pudding with blueberries and crunchy chocolate muesli (adapted from a recipe found in Food and Wine on-line magazine).

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2  cup  (about 120mL) water
  • 1 1/4 cup (about 300mL) of light or full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • fresh blueberries to task
  • crunchy chocolate muesli

Method

In a bowl, combine the chia seeds, water, coconut milk, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

To serve, stir in the sea salt and top with fresh blueberries, granola and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve chilled.


Almond cake

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A couple of years latter, with a different camera and the right almond meal… St James cake, take 2.  Also, it  doubles up as my birthday cake. A far cry from the formidable cakes years of the past few years, but still  a sophisticated, luscious and  almondy affair to put on the table with a glass of prosseco.

Almond cake (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)

Ingredients

  • Baking spray or butter and flour as required
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g of sugar
  • 150g of almond meal (make sure you are using the off white mixture, made with pealed almonds)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Icing sugar as required

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour). It has to be a large one,  like  a 40 cm round one)

2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and the sugar until you have a pale yellow foamy mixture

3. Add the the ground almond and the cinnamon to the egg mixture. Fold it slowly in the same direction with a wooden spoon, until you obtain a fluffy and airy mixture.

4. Pour the mixture in the tray (it  should be must be about 1.5cm deep)

5. Put in the oven for about 20min, or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of tray when you take it out of the tray.

6. Sprinkle icing sugar on top of it before serving.

 

 


Raspberry and strawberry Eton Mess

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To keep up with the British traditional foods motif, a mess. Whatever fruits you were using, it us all in all, a very summery dessert, perfect to serve to a crowd. If you buy the meringue, you will have it done in no time, without the need to get close to the stove, even.

Raspberry and strawberry Eton Mess (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients

  • 250g strawberries
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 350mL double cream lightly whipped
  • 150g of meringue

Method

Halve the strawberries, thickly slicing any whoppers. Put in a large bowl with the raspberries and sugar. Roughly crush and squeeze some of the berries with your hands so the juices start to run. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for an hour or two.

To assemble the mess, break the meringues into rough pieces, then fold into the whipped cream. Now lightly fold in the chilled fruit, so everything is rippled together rather than thoroughly blended. Pile into glasses and serve. You can make it an hours or so in advance, but not more, or the meringue will go weepy in the cream.


Pearl barley, orange and sesame pudding

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The mix sounds a bit odd and way too healthy for pudding, but truth to be said, it was delicious…  Not the kind of thing you would expect coming from pearl barley. The orange syrup complemented to perfection the sweetness of the barley and the sesame seeds just added a bit of complexity to it. A total foodie moment, I’d dare to add…

Pearl barley, orange and sesame pudding (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp each white and black sesame seeds, toasted (or use 1 tbsp white)
  • 1½ tbsp unrefined  sugar
  • 125g pearl barley, covered with cold water and soaked overnight
  • 750ml whole milk
  • ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon,
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • Salt
  • 20g tahini paste

For the orange syrup

  • 1 medium orange
  • 40g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp orange blossom water

Start with the orange syrup. Shave off a long strip of orange peel, avoiding the pith, and put in a small pan. Trim off top and bottom of the orange, then cut down its sides to remove all the skin and pith. Working over a small bowl to catch any juice, cut out the segments by slicing between the membranes. Add the segments to the bowl and set aside.

Add the caster sugar to the pan with the peel and add 75ml water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves – this should take less than a minute. Set aside to cool, then add the orange segments and juices, and the orange blossom water.

Roughly crush the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoon of muscovado sugar, and set aside.

Drain and rinse the barley. Tip it into a medium saucepan with the remaining muscovado sugar, milk, vanilla pod and seeds, citrus zest and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the barley is cooked but still has some byte: if it’s becomes very thick, add a little milk towards the end. Leave to cool for five minutes, then remove the vanilla pod and divide between four bowls. Dribble a teaspoon of tahini over each portion, spoon over the orange segments and syrup, sprinkle with sesame and serve.


Poached pears with ginger, chilli pepper and star anise

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I saw it on TV, I did it and I ate it… well, with a bit of help from the mobile calorie intake units. It is just the perfect dessert – it is glamorous, delicious and can be made in advance. There is not much technique to it, except, maybe, peeling the pears. And, it might be the healthiest part of dinner, even…

Poached pears with ginger, red chilli pepper and star anise (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking) 

Ingredients

  •  8-10 ripe conference pears, peeled but with the stem intact
  • 200g of sugar
  • 3 thumbs of ginger, cut into thick slices (about 20cm)
  • 4 star anise, crushed to fine powder with a mortar and pestle
  • 3 peperoncino (or red chillies peppers, to taste)
  • Enough cold water to cover the pears.

Method

Peel the pears with a potato peeler, taking care to leave the stems intact.

Put the water, the sugar and the ginger in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the pears and peperoncino and poach for about half hour until their are soft and cooked through.

Set aside and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.

When you are ready to serve, just put the pears in the plate and sprinkle them with the star anise dust.

If you want, you can bubble the syrup for a a few more minutes to thicken a bit and serve with the pears. Or, you can prepare a chocolate sauce (just melt the chocolate in bain marie, with a bit of butter, being careful not to boil it. Add some cream and mix well). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper for an extra quick.