Sunday 20 July 2014

Friendship cakes: Rhubard, raspberry and polenta slices

Friends are awesome. Let's just be clear about that. This time last year, I was struggling in Dublin. I had moved back to find work that would make me enough money to pay off my credit union loan once and for all and to try and make a decent go of my life, my work and my then relationship. Now I can be honest and say that at the time, it all felt like an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. I had probably, generously speaking 5% fun in the whole summer last year, the first sunny summer in years. I rarely went out at all. When I did it was five hours late with my then manfriend and his friends. I was thankful for his and their company but I understood clearly what it meant to be lonely in a crowd.

I remember one time in particular when we went to an outdoor cinema in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin. I had wanted to go for weeks but events in the manfriend's life had always scuppered plans. We went on a whim with his housemates with blankets and beers and popcorn. It was a beautiful balmy night and technically speaking, the night had all the elements of a happy social occasion for me; friendly people, awesome man by my side, outdoor summer time event, creative film, spontaneous outing. But I was so lonely and disappointed in myself that I didn't have my own friends. I felt like a social failure. I promised myself that night that within a year, I would return to that square for an open air cinema night with my own friends, real friends, not rent a friend friends. A tribe.

Well, I found them. They were right under my nose all along. They're my workmates!
A bunch of crazy, creative, spontaneous, real, friendly, intelligent, understanding, curious, sensitive, charismatic individuals who probably don't "fit in" anywhere else and we somehow all managed to find each other. Nurturing my friendship with these individuals and seeing work as not just a place I go to work and pay bills but a place to be around, interact with and appreciate like-minded individuals is the single smartest life move I ever made.

Part of having friends is feeding them thoughtful food, in my mind at least. I meant to make these for the cinema night a few weeks ago but meeting another great friend meant I got delayed. So here I am making them now. The recipe for these delicious slices of swirly raspberry and polenta goodness are inspired by Emma Galloway's beautiful muffins here over at her website, My Darling Lemon Thyme. Caroline is dairy intolerant so no butter here. Rob gave me rhubarb that his "mammie got from a farmer down the road". Adriana lent me a muffin tray for the trial of these, which Rob, Caroline and Rob's mammie and me devoured at an earlier occasion.

Here goes:
Slices up into squares, makes 24 slices.


200 grams ground almonds
120 grams polenta
50 grams desiccated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
3 cardamom pods, crushed

2/3 bananas (depending on size) mashed
3 eggs
80 grams raw brown sugar/demerara sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 and 1/2 cups frozen or fresh rasberries

2 large rhubarbs, chopped into cubes (approx 150 grams)
1 tbs honey
1/4 cup water


Preheat oven to 180 C. In a saucepan, add rhubarb, honey and water and simmer on a low heat until rhubarb is soft. Drain with a sieve and mix until a rough pulp is formed.
Weigh out dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl, combine mashed bananas, eggs, vanilla essence and sugar and whisk well. Add dry ingredients to wet mix and stir through until evenly mixed. Add rhubarb mix and whole raspberries and stir through lightly so that the fruit swirls through the cake mix.
Line a rectangular cake tray with grease proof paper and poor the mix into the trays. The mix should be about 1-2 inches thick to bake into nice little slices.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and spongy. Because this is a polenta mix, the cake will seem under-cooked after 20 minutes but take it out and set it aside with a clean tea towel over it until it has cooled and it will be perfect crumbly goodness.

Once cooled, turn out onto a bread board and slice into squares. Share with your tribe and bring raspberry smiles to their beautiful faces! :)

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