In June this year, I travelled to London. I arrived very early on Sunday morning after two long-haul flights and a middle-of-the-night (or was it day?) stopover in Dubai. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours. I couldn't check into my hotel til the afternoon. To drop my suitcase there, I'd spent a good half an hour wandering aimlessly around Victoria Station, following the vague directions of people who meant well but clearly had no idea. I couldn't get my phone to work. Despite the fact it was techically summer, it was cold, colder than the winter I'd left in Sydney. It started to rain. Putting on my raincoat, I got my hair caught in the zipper. So basically, I was not in a good mood. And then somehow, in my jetlagged, cranky, sodden, sleep-deprived state, I stumbled into this:
At the Yotam Ottolenghi deli in Belgravia, I ordered a flat white and a little lime polenta cake and things suddenly seemed somewhat sunnier, despite the grey gloom outside. In the above photo, you can see my selection tucked away up the back, on the right, just below the glorious pile of pink-tipped meringues. Though they weren't the showiest of the offerings on display, there was something incredibly cheery about their warm citrus glow. This weekend, I had a go at recreating it for a picnic with friends.
This recipe is not the original Ottolenghi - alas, that's not reproduced anywhere I could find - but it comes from no less reputable a source than Mary Berry, the 80 year old British cake doyenne, and judge of The Great British Bake-Off. I've mucked about a little with the recipe, but only as so far as to swap her preferred glaze for a shimmering sheen of lime-infused frosting sprinkled with pistachios, as that was my memory of that Sunday morning in London. Made with almond meal in place of flour, it's gluten-free, should you need any of those recipes in your repertoire. Or need your mood changed, for whatever reason. Guaranteed to turn grey skies blue.
Lime polenta cake
Recipe adapted from one by Mary Berry, and inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi
At Ottolenghi, the lime polenta cake is served not as a slice but as an individual mini-loaf. If you have that sort of tin (I don't), by all means go that route. Or you could always use a cupcake tin, either greased, or lined with wrappers. If you do decide to scale down, just bake for less time in the oven. I'd check after 20 minutes, but see recipe below for indications of done-ness. Whatever size you choose, the/se cake/s can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
300g (11oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
300g (11oz) caster (superfine) sugar
finely grated rind and juice of 2 limes
4 eggs, beaten
300g (11oz) ground almonds (almond meal or almond flour)
150g (5oz) polenta
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
juice of one lime
chopped pistachios, for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
Grease a large loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Put the butter, sugar and lime rind in a large bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs, then add the ground almonds, polenta, lime juice and baking powder and carefully fold in until thoroughly combined.
Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the sponge is golden brown and springy to the touch. If the top of the cake is getting too brown before then, cover with foil. Set aside while you make the icing.
Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add lime juice til a nice pourable consistency is reached - not too runny, not too thick. Drizzle over cooled cake and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.