Polenta? In a Cake?
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.
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 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.