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Polenta? In a Cake?

February 14, 2011

I love books. I have to restrain myself from buying too many. I don’t read as much now as I used to when I was younger (I was a proper bookworm back then) but now I especially love buying reference-type books. I’ve always thought that my ideal desert-island books would be an Atlas of the World ( I have a thing for maps) and the Oxford English Dictionary. How would you ever get bored with those two to pore through? I know, I know, I’m a bit odd. Anyway, I am most into buying gardening books – obviously; and cook books – because I like to eat well and therefore have to cook. That these books tend to look beautiful and scrumptious helps.

Buttery Apple, Honey and Polenta Loaf Cake

The latest cook book (ordered at a discount online after I’d seen it in an Oliver Bonas in Victoria – does anyone buy a full-price book in a shop these days?) to hit my doormat is Alice’s Cookbook by Alice Hart, published by Quadrille as part of their ‘New Voices in Food’ list. I liked the look and feel of the book and the fact that she’s fresh, young and owns an old 1970s bay v-dub camper – just like us – was a draw too. I flicked through it as soon as I got it and just loved the sound of practically everything in it. It talked to my taste buds and my appetite. Best of all, none of it seemed too difficult. I was inspired to immediately take to the cooker. Often I flick through a cookbook and, whilst I enjoy visually and mentally devouring it and picking up grains of ideas, I don’t always like the sound of everything. And even less often do I actually end up faithfully reproducing many of the recipes. But I’ve had this book less than a week and I’ve not only tried the Vietnamese Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry which was easy and delicious (sweet, salty, coconutty, comforting) but this weekend I also baked the Buttery Apple, Honey and Polenta Loaf Cake. I can happily report that it too was easy and delicious! I’ve not had polenta* sweet and in a cake before but I liked the idea of it and I enjoyed the slightly grainy texture too. Although not in the title the cake is also lemony. I’ve really been enjoying and craving lemon drizzle cake recently so this suited my taste just fine. Butter, apple, honey and lemon – what a luscious combination! I’m sure I will be following both these recipes again.

Recipes in the book are divided into menu ideas for different meals and situations – from picnics and camper vans to seasonal sunday lunches to suppers to share. But you can easily pick and mix as you choose. The book is nicely presented, fun and easy to follow. There are very few pictures of the recipes and dishes in the book (a cost-saving no doubt?) which some may bemoan but I don’t think this is going to affect how much I use this little gem. The names of the dishes alone are enough to make my mouth water. Next I’m planning on trying out the Staffordshire Oatcakes with Ham & Gruyere, the Slow Cooked Pork, Apples and Caraway and the Rhubarb Souffles. I’ve not turned my hand to souffles before but Alice assures me from the page that these are ‘not in the least bit hard to make’. And I’m inclined to trust her.

Polenta from Waitrose

* Polenta is Italian and is made from ground cornmeal. Traditionally it’s cooked slowly in water and needs constant stirring. Use it in a similar way to cous cous or instead of potatoes. I’ve eaten it in restaurants in savoury, main courses but I’ve never cooked it at home before. I couldn’t find it initially in our local Waitrose because it was in Italian packaging and didn’t have ‘polenta’ written anywhere on the front, but the staff were ever so helpful and found it for me whilst I carried on shopping! Gotta love Waitrose.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2011 5:34 pm

    Dear Sui, I have to confess that I am absolutely no cook but I do love eating and the receipts that you mention here sound [and I am sure taste] absolutely delicious. I came across Polenta in a cake many years ago via the River Café. Their Lemon, Almond and Polenta cake is beyond sublime….perhaps you know of it or might like to look it up.You are obviously a talented cook so I am sure that the receipt would cause you no difficulties and the end result would, I am certain, impress!

    • February 14, 2011 7:39 pm

      Hello Edith. I haven’t tried the River Cafe cake but it sounds very similar. The version I made from Alice’s book above also used ground almonds in the recipe. I will definitely look it up – especially as I now have polenta to use up! Thank you for suggesting it.

      I’m not sure I am a talented cook but needs must!

  2. February 15, 2011 11:19 am

    ooh the cake looks delicious. You have given me incentive to find the box mine is in now as I unpack m cookbooks. Can’t wait for the other New Voices In Food cookbooks coming out later this year too!

    • February 15, 2011 8:20 pm

      Ooh yes dig it out! Am really enjoying it. 3 recipes from it in 5 days – that’s never happened before! Not sure what else is on the New Voices list but am going to check it out.

  3. July 4, 2011 11:24 pm

    Hi GirlAboutGarden,

    Interested in your views on the Staffordshire Oatcake! Did you try one like you said you were going to?

    I work with a lot of chaps from Stoke (we are based in Stafford) and they are more than slightly obsessive of their cakes. I told them while watching a group of them devouring a packet that I had never had a nice one( I have tried 3) so they took me to a shop in Newcastle under lyme which is renowned for being the Mecca of all things Oatcake and had one with, of all things…Spiced Black Pudding and it was amazing. I was corrected!

    Interested in your views on this?

    Also, some of the lad call them ‘North Staffordshire Oatcakes’ !

    All the best

    • July 5, 2011 12:57 pm

      Hello – I’m afraid I still haven’t got round to it. I made the slow pork but then I got distracted by cakes and other sweet stuff in the book – but you have just reminded me to give them a go, so I will try to make them soon!

      You mention eating them from a packet which I’ve not seen before. Will keep an eye out for them!

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