Sunday, October 31, 2010

Orange polenta cake

I have been meaning for some time to try making a gluten-free cake for my gluten-intolerant wife. This is a slight adaptation of a recipe I found on the Cake Baker website - which, unusually these days, gives measurements in ounces.

200g butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g ground almonds
200g instant polenta
1 orange, zest and juice

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Fold in the almonds, polenta, and lemon juice. You should have a stiff batter.

I cannot give very helpful advice about oven temperatures. The recipe advises you use an eight-inch (20cm) cake tin, whereas the one in the picture has a base of 15.5cms. That was one reason why my cake took a lot longer to set than the 20-25 minutes specified; another may be that my oven is behaving a bit strangely, often failing to reach the temperature on the dial.

I started cooking the cake at gas mark 5/190C (but at what may have been a good deal cooler than that). After half an hour, the centre was runny. I turned up the dial to 6/200C. Fifteen minutes later, I moved the cake to a higher shelf. It took an hour in total.

You need cream or ice cream as an accompaniment, to offset the dry graininess of the polenta.

Or perhaps this Telegraph version, with less polenta but more ground almonds, is worth trying. Like many polenta cake recipes, it includes baking powder - which usually contains gluten. I don't think my cake suffered from the lack of it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Floury potato cakes

A potato cake is a kind of pancake with mashed potato as an extra ingredient. A floury taste is fine in pancakes or batters; but I'm not sure it's welcome here, when your taste buds, registering the potato, miss the buttery smoothness of true mash. (I wrote about flourless potato cakes here.)

Still, I may get used to them.

450g mashed potato
4tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
Sunflower oil, for frying

Mix the potato, flour and egg, and form into small patties. They will be very squidgy. You will have to handle them gently, and plop them on to a plate, or half of each will stick to your hands. But you do not need to worry about the consistency, because they will firm up and form a crust when fried.

Warm a thin layer of oil in a heavy pan, over a low heat. Drop in the cakes, and fry them gently, turning once. They brown quite readily, in my experience, so keep an eye on them.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Plum crumble

You do not need to pre-cook the plums in a plum crumble. Sprinkling them with sugar about an hour before you add the topping will help to soften them; and you could cook them in the oven for longer, at a lower heat, than you would a crumble with pre-cooked fruit. The plums I used were similar to Victorias, but larger.

Two of us ate the crumble in the picture. It would have served three.

12 plums, halved and stoned (not a job that you can carry out with precision - I used a small knife to work round the stone and prise it out)
2tsp caster sugar
75g plain flour
40g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1tbsp brown sugar


Lay the plums snugly in an oven dish, cut sides up. Sprinkle them with sugar, and set aside for a while.

Work the butter into the flour with your finger tips. (It's not worth getting out a food processor for this job. You can do it very quickly by hand, because you don't have to keep rubbing until every bit of butter has disappeared.) Stir in the sugar.

Tip the crumble mixture over the plums, and bake at gas mark 4/180C for about 40 minutes.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Guinea fowl stew, with shallots and pancetta

The guinea fowl may not have been free range, I am afraid. The price - £7.20 for a bird of about 1.6kg - does not suggest luxurious rearing conditions. But it was flavoursome.

As is the case with chickens, you should cook the breasts for only 30 minutes or so, to keep them tender.

1 guinea fowl, in four pieces
Knob of butter, tbsp of sunflower oil
450g shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic - 2 chopped, 2 left whole
80g smoked pancetta, cubed
50ml balsamic vinegar
80ml chicken stock

Warm the butter and oil in a heavy casserole, and gently fry the guinea fowl pieces, salted. You may need to do this in two batches of two. Keep the heat low; you don't want the fat to burn. When browned, transfer to a plate.

Throw in the shallots, garlic, and pancetta. Cook for a minute or so to allow the garlic to soften. Pour in the vinegar, and let it bubble and reduce for a minute. Pour in the stock. Return the guinea fowl legs, but not the breasts, to the casserole, cover, and transfer to an oven. (I might have added some bay, or perhaps thyme or rosemary.)

The oven setting will depend on the heaviness of your casserole. The Le Creuset pictured above will simmer stews quite gently on gas mark 4/180C, whereas my smaller, round Le Creuset, once heated up, will perform efficiently at gas mark S/130C.

I like to cook forgiving cuts of meat until the meat is falling off the bone. I gave the legs 90 minutes before adding the breasts, and giving them another 30 minutes.

There was plenty of sauce. But stews can dry out in certain dishes or atmospheric conditions. Add more stock or water if necessary.