Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

IMG_1955

Lemon polenta cake sounds like the sort of cake you would have in the oven in case someone popped in for afternoon tea. People don’t seem to drop by anymore though. Our society isn’t very conducive to this type of lifestyle. We are all so rushed and frantic trying to fit everything into our busy schedules that the thought of just popping over to a friends unannounced seems bizarre, as does the thought that said friend would just be waiting and available at home.

IMG_1960 IMG_1965 IMG_1975

In my grandmother’s day having a friend over for afternoon tea was the done thing and she still does it with her friends nowadays. And I think it’s lovely. It’s a time to enjoy something sweet, sip on tea and catch up. It makes me a little sad to think this tradition is being lost. It’s such a nice way to enjoy someone’s company – so quaint and charming. Slices, biscuits, fruit breads and teacakes are recipes from a different era but still no less delicious.

IMG_1972

This cake is an amalgam of Italian and English desserts. The polenta lends it it’s Italian heritage while the syrup saves it from being too dry, as while I love Italian food their cakes do err on the side of dryness. This dessert is a sweet yet sharp cake with a sticky syrup that highlights it English heritage. The cakes sweetness is not sickly-so, thanks to the sour nature of the mascarpone and lemon. The slightly gritty texture of the polenta paired with the nutty, fragrant almonds provides a lovely change from a simple flour cake. While there may be a fear that polenta in a dessert would make it stodgy, this fear is unwarranted thanks to the syrup, which brings a lovely wetness to this perfect afternoon treat. So why not whip this up next time you have a minute to spare, call up a friend and spend the afternoon catching up like we used to, not over a rushed coffee on the way to somewhere else.

Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

Cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 200g butter, softened and diced
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • Zest of two lemons + juice of one
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1½ cups almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

 Syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Mascarpone Icing:

  • 250 mascarpone
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Method:

  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C
  2. Grease and line 20cm springform cake tin.
  3. In a medium sized bowl beat together butter and sugar with electric mixers until pale and creamy.
  4. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks a little curdled and lumpy, once the polenta and almond meal are added it will regain a smoother appearance.
  6. Add lemon juice, almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon stir until mixture is smooth.
  7. Bake for an hour. Cake will be ready when an inserted knife comes out clean. If the cake looks to be browning too much while it’s cooking cover it with a layer of foil.
  8. Syrup: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and place on stove over a low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and let it come to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
  9. Icing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
  10. Assembly: Make indentations over the cake using a skewer or fork. Gently pour syrup over cake letting it run into the holes. Leave the cake in tin to cool. Once cool, remove from tin and spread with icing. Garnish as desired.

Zucchini, Mint and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Salsa and Poached Eggs

IMG_2019

Opening the fridge to discover that there barely seems to be any food in there is a rather upsetting state to find yourself in. However, there is always a way to make something with whatever you have handy. Fritters are one of my favourite ways to use up what looks like nothing and turn it into something delicious. These fritters use zucchini simply because that’s what happened to be in my fridge but there are many other standby vegetables that make great fritters. Carrots taste delicious, especially if you add spices like cumin coriander seeds. Then there is corn, the most famous of the fritters but grated potato, sweet potato or peas also turn out tasty meals.

IMG_1989

Zucchini to me is a vegetable that needs the addition of a few other ingredients to really enhance its flavour. Pairing it with mint and chilli makes for a fresh, zingy fritter that is great for either breakfast or lunch.  The mint adds that hit of freshness and lightness while the chili gives the fritter a punchier kick. While fritters are tasty in their own right I find they taste best when there is a sauce or salsa added just because it gives the dish a different textural element and makes it a party for the senses. Creamy avocado salsa with a hit of zingy lime and the addition of an oozing poached egg on top equals a rather scrumptious trifecta.

IMG_1997

Zucchini, Mint and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Salsa and Poached Eggs

Serves: 3

Avocado Salsa:

  • 1 large avocado, roughly chopped
  • ¼ clove garlic, grushed
  • ½ chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • ½ Spanish onion, diced
  • ½ tbs lime juice + extra lime to serve
  • ½ tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 Zucchini fritters:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs shallots, chopped
  • ½ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs flour

Poached eggs:

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tbs white wine vinegar

Method:

  1. Avocado Salsa: Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Using a fork, gently stir the ingredients together ensuring that the avocado still remains chunky. Season with salt and pepper and stir again.
  2. Zucchini fritters: Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Heat two-three teaspoons olive oil in a shallow fry pan over a medium-high heat. Drop 3 2tbs size dollops of the zucchini mixture into the fry pan and cook for 1½-2 minutes on each side or until cooked through and golden. Place fritters on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the remainder of the mixture.
  3. Poached eggs: At the same time as you are preparing the mixture for the zucchini fritters fill a shallow saucepan close to the brim with water and place over a high heat on the stove. Add in the vinegar. Once the water has boiled lower the heat to a simmer. Crack each egg into a cup and gently pour the egg into the saucepan on the water’s surface. Do not drop the egg from a height or the white will spread and fill the pan. Repeat with each egg and cook for 2-3 minutes for a semi-soft yolk.
  4. To assemble stack two fritters, place a third of the avocado salsa on top and then finish with a poached egg. Serve with extra lime.