orange polenta cake

Gah! Isn’t that photo GORGEOUS? Don’t you just want to DIVE INTO that cake? Damn. Donal Skehan, your cake + photography looks SO good on this blog. Also, those beautiful orange twists? I’m desper for a zester (did I really just say that? Apologies)

With all the baking vested in me, I declare this cake a masterpiece to be-hold and be-eaten.

Right. Let me shed some light on what’s happening here. I’m still the full shilling, promise.

My dear friend, Donal Skehan, has just released his 4rd cookery book, Homecooked. And, to be prudent, I must add that not only has he put a book out this year, but he’s filmed two separate television food series, worked with Jamie Oliver on Food Tube, created and published a stunning new dinner journal/magazine that is Ireland’s answer to Kinfolk, went on a national “blog tour” where he brought his satire + cooking to the theatrical stage (absolute brilliant fun), and has also launched a new line of spectacular savoury pies with his family. I am sure I am missing more bits, but my point is that this man has the energy of a 26 year old.

Oh yeah, he is 26.

Sigh.

Home Cooked

Now his book itself is going on a (blog) tour too. Not kidding. Yesterday, it launched with Waterstones and Emily Holmes. Today it’s me. Tomorrow it will be Lily. When Donal’s publisher asked us to be roadies, we  jumped right into that virtual RV.

There isn’t ONE recipe in any of Donal’s books that I wouldn’t make, but my favourite recipe (so far) from Homecooked is this Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup. It was hard to choose because one (little) farmer is partial to the Mikado Coconut Cream Cake (tied with the Waitress Mermaid Pie), and another (big) farmer is crazy about Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Plus, there’s the fact that there is a shot of me in my mother-in-law’s pinny holding the most amazing Crazy Monkey Brownie Baked Alaska on page 169. But, I digress.

hen

I love this sweet, dense cake because it is especially good prepared with our woodland honey, but would taste incredible with any honey that is accessible. What is fantastic about Donal’s cookbooks is that they have been tested til the cows com home, and anyone can make his recipes, including his biggest fan, our 8 year old son, Geoffrey. Okay, Geoffrey needs a leeeettle help, but you get the gist of it. Delicious. Easy. Accessible. Comforting recipes to cook at home.

This fragrant and moist cake is not only visually beautiful, it also has the most delicious spiced sweet orange and honey flavour. The cake can be made gluten-free as long as you use a gluten-free baking powder.

ORANGE POLENTA CAKE WITH HONEY & ROSEWATER SYRUP

SERVES 6-8 (V)

Butter, for greasing

8 green cardamom pods

225g ground almonds

100g polenta

1 heaped tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

225g butter, softened

3 large eggs

Grated zest of 3 large oranges

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Creme fraiche, to serve

FOR  THE  SYRUP

Juice of 2 large oranges

3 tbsp honey

2 tsp rosewater

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm diameter springform tin, then line the base with baking parchment.

2. Bash the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract the seeds. Then bash the seeds to a fine powder and add to a bowl together with the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder.

3. Beat the sugar and butter in a bowl until the mixture is light and pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Tip the bowl of dry ingredients into this mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. Add two-thirds of the orange zest together with the vanilla extract, and just fold through.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place it on the middle shelf of the oven to bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the syrup by placing all the ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bringing to a steady simmer.

6. Pierce holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer while it is cooling and pour over half the syrup, a little at a time, until the cake has soaked it up. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, drizzle with the remaining syrup and sprinkle with remaining orange zest to decorate.

7. Serve in slices with a little creme fraiche.

I hope you enjoy Homecooked by Donal Skehan as much as we do.

Back in few days with new farm adventure + recipe, promise!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Cake photo by Donal Skehan 2013. Book cover supplied by Harper-Collins. 

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Irish Bacon & Cabbage

17 Mar 2011

It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and we have an array of brilliant celebrations to choose from even in rural Ireland. Since today is a national holiday, our little boy is home from school and we will be going to the nearby pretty village of Adare where there are loads of family festivities planned for the afternoon.

Across America today, people will be feasting on corned beef and cabbage washed down with a pint or two of green-tinged lager, which has long been a tradition. Little did I know, this is not the case in Ireland.

I remember asking my father-in-law on my first Paddy’s Day “will we be having corned beef and cabbage for dinner today?”…the answer was a resounding “No, not at all!” I was told that corned beef is not preferable in Ireland as it is thought of as a lower grade cut/style of beef that might have been eaten long ago, but certainly not today.

In fact, I’m told there really isn’t a specific dish that is eaten on the day, rather just something special like a roast dinner or possibly bacon and cabbage with parsley sauce. The most important part of this holiday here on the farm would have been picking a shamrock to pin on your shirt, going to mass and then to a parade or other local festivities to celebrate.

My mother-in-law makes an absolutely delicious bacon and cabbage dinner. She likes to prepare it in the customary way: boiling the meat, cabbage and potatoes and serving it us with a little butter and salt. Nothing fancy, but if you boil the bacon at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time, it is tender and superb.

Irish bacon is totally different from what we consider bacon in America.  Irish “bacon” is basically a chunky cut of cured pork loin, quite different to the strips of streaky, crispy breakfast pork that we refer to as bacon in the USA.

I’ve decided to take it a step further and boil the bacon, then glaze it with our farm honey and roast it in a very hot oven for 25 minutes. The cabbage was steamed and then char-grilled on the bbq.

A velvety parsley sauce is lovely served on the side as well

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri

 

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