Sunday 8 June 2014

Inspiration: Orange, Cardamom and Polenta Cake Style

I've been thinking again. I've come up with some pretty life changing thoughts that are so simple, I don't know what took me so long. Time to yourself and cake are vital components to a happy and fulfilled life. I've spent plenty of time on my own but therein lies the key word, "own", lonely, alone. I was really lonely going to the market, taking photos, gardening. All along, all I wanted was some company, somebody around me to take that lonely feeling away. In the last two months, I've managed to get a job, find a beautiful house in a park (!!) and be more sociable than I've ever been while living in Ireland. I've gone to outdoor cinemas,  music gigs, picnics, pubs, cocktail bars and houseparties. And I've never been happier. Not because of this new found sociability but because I've taken time to put the love into not just spending time with friends but time with myself, for myself. This concept of taking the time to really enjoy my own company by doing whatever the hell I wanted, has been fantastic, liberating goodness on a grand scale because for the first time in my life, I've felt truly fulfilled and content in my own company.

What, you now ask, does this have to do with cake? Time. Time to get the right ingredients, time to balance the components of a cake recipe to make it your own. Letting the cake bake for just as long as it needs. Patience. Delicate hands. Savoring the color of the free range eggs, the buttercup yellow polenta brings to any cake mixture, the light scent of cardamom drifting through the house, the juiciness of fresh oranges. Letting everything come together in its own time. And then enjoying every last mouthful. That's what cake is all about but that is what life is all about too.

On a foodie adventure in Dublin last weekend, I went with one of my best mates Richard to 3FE coffee at the Twisted Pepper and savored the sticky goodness of mini orange and cardamon polenta cakes.
I had to make my own. I've been stalking street food and middle eastern cookbooks lately, especially Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty, which is just so beautiful to look at. Since I hadn't baked in the new house yet, I set about making my own version of a Cardamom and Orange Polenta Cake for a charity bake sale at work (perfect excuse).

Taking the time to make this cake made me eternally happy. Especially when I realized just how easy it was. The sticky orange syrup infuses the crumbly polenta texture. The natural yogurt gives it an extra flavor onto its own. Serve after dinner on a special occasion with yoghurt or creme fresh and roughly chopped pistachios for extra yumminess.

Just remember, all good things take time. Take time for yourself and practice loving it. In the end, the switch will flick on and you'll suddenly savor that quality time just for you.

200 grams butter
200 grams soft brown sugar
200 grams ground almonds
100 grams polenta
1 tsp baking powder
10 cardamom pods
3 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbs set natural yoghurt
1 handful pistachios

2 oranges
4 tbsp thick honey
2 tsp rosewater

Preheat oven to 170 C. Grease and line a spring 10" cake tin and line with grease proof paper.
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until blended through. Add vanilla. Bash and grind up cardamom seeds and in a separate bowl to the butter mix, add to polenta and ground almonds, mixing thoroughly. Add polenta mix to butter and sugar and fold through. Stir yoghurt through. Scoop into the prepared tin and place in oven for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and a clean skewer shows it's baked through. Leave to rest with a tea towel over it. (This stops the top forming a crust).

In a pan, add the juice of two oranges and honey and simmer until it reduces down to a syrup. Stir rosewater through. Take tea towel off cake and with a fork, prick holes into the top of the cake. Pour 2/3 of the syrup bit by bit onto the cake, allowing it to soak through. Allow the cake to cool completely then remove from the tin. Serve with yogurt and drizzle with more syrup and chopped pistachios. Spread the love and share with friends and family and of course yourself.

To Richard: Good friends with hangovers sometimes just need coffee and cake

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