Experiments with Polenta –

Half term has just finished ūüė¶

Making the most of ‘time’, I’ve been doing some seasonal Spring Cleaning‚Ķ therapeutic.

Going through the cupboards, I found that we had rather a glut of polenta.

So to correct the balance of ‘store cupboard essentials’, we had a polenta evening, trying lots of different polenta dishes. ¬†Here are the top two: Orange polenta cake steeped in fruit syrup,¬†&¬†Mushroom herb polenta – more tricky to make, but an education in polenta cooking if like us you’re not familiar with it. ¬†I have to say, I ¬†always just thought of polenta as something which lacked good looks and taste, even when served in the smartest restaurants, and never really ‘got‘ it..!

Mushroom, Herb & Polenta 'Pizza'.

Ottolenghi’s Mushroom, Herb & Polenta ‘Pizza’.

Orange Polenta Cake with orange syrup.

Orange Polenta Cake with orange syrup.

Mushroom Herb Polenta; like a homemade pizza.  Bubbling with mushroom juices, grilled cheese & fragrant herbs.  Orange Polenta cake; lovely for desert with a dollop of creme fraiche; equally good for tea the next day.

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Ottolenghi’s Mushroom & Herb Polenta. ¬†Vegetarian.

We found it best to let the prepared polenta rest a little before use, allowing it to settle.

I’d love to hear what other people do with polenta – do let me know (I’ve still got quite a stash in the cupboard!) ¬†We used thyme and sage in this recipe, as they both needed trimming ready for their spring growth!

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/mushroom-and-herb-polenta-shop

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Orange Polenta cake with Orange Syrup.  Vegetarian.

Light, textured and aromatic – a grown up cake to serve with rich ice cream, creme fraiche and / or dark berry compote. ¬†It’s plain, not a stunner – but simple is sometimes good…

250g softened butter

250g sugar (I used unbleached cane sugar)

4 large eggs

140g polenta

200g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

Grated zest and juice of 2 large oranges.  Grate gently or the zest will be bitter.  Save 100ml juice for syrup.

Orange Syrup – 100ml orange juice and 100g sugar.

Line a round 23cm cake tin with baking paper.  I used a smaller tin with only 2/3 of the mixture and it was perfect, so adjust carefully to suit your needs.

Heat oven to 160 / 140 / gas 3.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Gradually add eggs, beating well.  Feel the burn in those arms!

Reserve 100ml juice for syrup in a small saucepan.  Add the rest, with zest and dry ingredients to the creamed butter & sugar, sifting in flour and polenta.

Gently plop into the tin and smooth the top.  Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Make the syrup by gently dissolving sugar in remaining orange juice over a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Once dissolved, bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to reduce & thicken slightly.

Slowly pour the syrup over the cake, allowing it to seep in.  I did this before taking the cake out of the baking paper, to stop the syrup from running off.

Allow to cool on a wire rack. ¬†Enjoy – some people won’t like the texture of the polenta, but I think it’s quite sophisticated‚Ķ I’m going to try this again in late summer, with lavender flowers in the syrup to give it a more floral aroma.

Recipe from the fab¬†BBC good food website. ¬†What’s your favourite recipe website?

Kitchen cupboard - a bit more sorted, but will never be 'tidy'!

So for the moment, my kitchen cupboard is¬†sorted, but it’ll never be ‘tidy‘!

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Start the day with Zest – Lime marmelade muffins.

Last year it was all about Cupcakes…

This year, it’s Muffins.

P1000145They’re so very very easy – they could almost be called a convenience food. ¬†But a fun one – and one that you can be sure only contains good things. ¬† ¬†¬†And they’re a great subject for experimentation – you can make an unlimited range of flavours quick and easily – and because they’re batter based, there’s no need to soften butter, or for creaming, or any special skills.

Give them a go – you wouldn’t believe the transformation from lumpy, unattractive batter that goes into the oven to the domed little beauties that come out – magic!

Here’s a recipe to give you a tangy lift in the morning – best eaten ¬†still warm from the oven… yum!

Makes 12 muffins.

Preheat oven to 400F, 200C, Gas 6.

1/4 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup marmalade (I use lime marmalade for an extra zing)

2 cups self raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs – lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

2 tsp lemon or lime zest, and 2 tp orange zest

1.  Line your muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.

2.  Heat butter and 1/3 cup marmalade gently to melt together.  Stir and cool.

3.  In a large bowl, sift self raising flour and baking powder.

4.  Make a well in the centre of the flour.

5.  In a small bowl or jug, combine eggs, milk, zest/s and butter marmalade mixture.

6.  Add liquid to the flour in one go and stir a little Рit should stay lumpy Рif you over mix it, the muffins will have hard tops.

6.  Fill cases 2/3 full with batter.  Bake until golden brown Рaround 15 Р20 minutes.

7.  The muffins are ready when a skewer or thin knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

8.  While they are cooking, make the glaze for the muffins Рgently heat 1/3 cup marmalade.

9.  Brush glaze over the hot muffins and serve warm, or transfer to a wire rack to cool.

What are your favourite muffins – do you make them yourself, or where do you buy them from?