Monday, 7 March 2011

Forever Nigella: Lemon Polenta Cake

I really wasn't sure what to make for the latest Forever Nigella Ciao Italia challenge. There were so many options! I considered making one of Nigella's many pasta dishes, hearty stews or risottos and on the baking side, the Venetian carrot cake or Rococo cake were terribly tempting. In the end, circumstances dictated what I should make - Tesco had brought too many lemons in the latest order and they needed using. Not a bad position to be in, particularly considering I'd probably still be agonising over what to make otherwise! I do love anything lemony flavoured and scented - growing up in a warmer climate than Scotland, we had a large lemon tree in our garden that was always fragrant and heavy with fruit every summer. Even lemon tree leaves smell beautiful - fold one over and you'll smell a woody citrus scent better than any perfume with that description. Even though spring is slowly starting to emerge and thaw the frozen north, it is still chilly and with more snow forecast this week, this cake was a much needed cheery burst of lemony sunshine. Nigella says that this cake is an Anglo-Italian amalgam with its mix of polenta, ground almonds and lemon zest. I tried thinking of ways to make it more Italian - I would have loved to have made this with blood oranges but instead decided to add some candied lemons and fresh rosemary to the syrup.

I've only been to Italy once - I visited Florence one summer and have amazing memories of riding on a Vespa in the Tuscan countryside, taking in the fresh air and sunshine. I was also blown away by the quality of the fresh and delicious food and, being a cake addict, I visited as many bakeries as possible. There were so many stunning cakes that I wish I could have tried them all but having to fit in all my pasta and gelati quota at the same time meant that despite my best efforts I couldn't sample every cake I wanted to.

I remember seeing a beauty of a cake covered in candied lemons (sadly unphotographed) and this is my inspiration for the topping. They provide an additional sweet sour tang to the cake, are incredibly easy to make and look very pretty too. I love the combination of lemon and rosemary together and the fresh herb is a subtle addition to the syrup and candied lemons.

The recipe for the cake is from Kitchen and can also be found here.

Candied Lemons in Lemon and Rosemary Syrup

4 thinly sliced lemons with no pips
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1.5 cups of caster sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

1) Blanch the lemon slices in boiling waters for 5 minutes (this takes away any bitterness from the pith).
2) Take the lemons out of the saucepan and put the water, lemon juice and sugar on a medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves.
3) Add the lemon slices and fresh rosemary and allow the mix to boil until thick and syrupy (about 15 minutes)
4) Use a toothpick to prick the top of the cake all over and use tongs to place the lemon slices onto the cake whilst still hot. Pour over any remaining syrup. Leave to cool before taking out of its tin.


Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Well done you for seeking out an Italian dessert rather than pasta - and I love how you've been inspired by a dish you've seen on holiday there. We have friends in Florence and it's way too long since I saw them.

Thanks for joining Forever Nigella 3. Ciao!

Unknown said...

Katey, congratulations on winning this Nigella cooking challenge! I came straight over here to check out your post and recipe, and I must say that the cake and the candied lemons with rosemary stopped me in my tracks... I'm going off to make this right NOW! ;-)

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

I have 'Kitchen' but hadn't noticed this wonderful recipe. I always have lemons in the house - given the choice over lemons or chocolate they would win hands down. Nice memories of flying about the countryside on a Vespa!

Katey said...

@Foodiva - Thanks! The rosemary flavour really lifts the taste up away from being too sweet, hope you enjoy it.

@Sally - I also prefer lemony fruity desserts to chocolate. They're just so more-ish and I can pretend that they're healthy too! :-)

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