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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Good Mood Food

07 Jan 2010

One of my favourite things about living in Ireland is discovering exciting new people, places and things (and, of course, food!). Last week, I discovered one such remarkable person whom I am delighted to share with you all—that is, if you haven’t already heard of him. His name is Donal Skehan, a bright new star in Ireland’s culinary world and according to RTE (Ireland’s largest broadcasting network), “Ireland’s Answer to Jamie Oliver”.  Pretty impressive stuff for a 23 year-old fellow from Howth.

Donal’s book, “Good Mood Food” hit the stores in October and has been flying off the shelves ever since. Based on the blog that he started 2 years ago, Good Mood Food, is filled with delicious recipes that maybe even my husband could make (yes, that’s a hint honey). He’s young and fresh and his recipes mimic that style…healthful and light–many of which you’d think were coming from Northern California rather than Ireland. And let’s face it, sometimes on a gray, rainy Irish day it would be grand to have one of Donal’s yummy sunny recipes on hand just to put a little spring into your step.

When he’s not cooking, blogging or shooting, he’s recording music with his band, Industry, which makes him all the more fascinating. Still, the best bit about Donal is that for all the press and publicity he is an undeniably friendly guy with a genuine love for all things food (including a wonderfully quirky addiction to reading cookbooks). This lovely spirit of friendly foodie enthusiasm comes through in his book, blog…even his tweets.

Donal graciously took the time to share with me a little more about himself and his relationship with Ireland:

What was is the best thing about growing up in Ireland?

I grew up in Howth which is a fishing village 30 mins from Dublin city centre and as kids we had the run of huge green fields filled with horses behind the house, so one of my favourite things was to be lucky enough to have the freedom to spend the whole day out in the open air!  It’s only now that I really appreciate it and realise what a special thing it was.

Which Irish dishes do you love…or have you redesigned to be “good mood food”?

You can’t beat a good Irish stew and like most families, we have our own version, the recipe for which is on the blog. I also love baking Irish soda bread, it’s a flavour which tastes so distinctly like home to me.

In what ways do you support Irish farmers and producers?

I think one of the most important thing is to buy veg that is in season, Ireland produces fantastic fresh fruit and vegetables and by choosing home grown seasonal veg, we as consumers are not only helping the environment, but we end up eating more fresh food.  I actually got to visit a free range Turkey farm before Christmas and it was hugely inspiring, the birds lived a happy life, were extremely healthy and had a farmer that was incredibly passionate about what he did.  In the world we live in it’s becoming more and more important to know where our food comes, and the step by step process its goes through before ending up on our plates.

What are some Irish traditions or sensibilities that you love?

I think growing up I would always have been a little dismissive of Irish traditions, the music, the language etc, but having grown up a little more and travelled, I am so proud to be Irish and I love showing off our fantastic culture to any visitors we have!

What are your fave places in Ireland that you would recommend visiting?

In the last two years I have travelled more in Ireland than ever before and it’s been great because you get to see the amazing sights we have to offer on our doorstep.  We took a little road trip to the Burren and drive up to Galway from there and the views are just amazing.  I also went to Irish college on Achill Island in Mayo in my teens and it’s a really special place too!  Lots of good surf!  Of course I also have to mention my home village of Howth as well, it gets huge numbers of tourists right through the year, we have an amazing cliff walk which is a must see!

In your words, describe your book, Good Mood Food.

Good Mood Food is all about simple, healthy homecooking.  It’s full of really easy healthy recipes that are perfect for even those who haven’t done too much cooking before.  I like to think that I write recipes that become part of a routine, simple family meals which can be done with your eyes closed!

Donal is currently filming an episode of Market Kitchen for the BBC’s Good Food Channel which will air later this month. You can read his blog at: http://www.thegoodmoodfoodblog.com. His book, Good Mood Food is available online at http://www.mercierpress.ie/

I have decided to give one priviledged reader a copy of “Good Mood Food”. If you’re interested, please email me at imen.producer@ireland.com before Monday. I will be drawing a name and announcing the winner next week.

In the weeks to come I will be featuring more extraordinary Irish talents as well as blogging about my wee life as an Irish farmer’s wife.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

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