Monthly Archives: September 2010

Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

We’ve summer, and it was great. I found myself free to enjoy the warm days that we were fortunate enough to have, but now, the sunny days have passed and there is a noticeable chill in the morning and evening air. We are being treated to some amazing sunsets at the moment in the early evening, and while occasionally you feel the sun on your face and enjoy the warmth, there is no doubt about it – autumn is here. There are apples on the trees in the park, and we’ve got a couple of months of falling leaves ahead of us, before we find ourselves huddled around real log fires and eating our own weight in festive biscuits.

At this time of year, I like to start cooking with warmer flavours like late season fruits and spices – Think plums, brambles, blueberries(*), and cloves, nutmeg, and my favourite, cinnamon. . Enjoy all of this, because you know that your organic vegetable box will soon lose all the summer goodies, to be replaced with week after week after week of root vegetables…I’m seeing more than a few root vegetable-cheese sauce oven bakes over the next months.

Today’s recipe is a classic, which combines two of my very favourite ingredients. I like to use lots of blueberries in these muffins, and just a little dash of cinnamon. I want a whisper, a suggestion of the spice. These are dreamy little cakes – not as crumbly as cupcakes or Victoria sponge, as the dough has a very slight chewiness to it, which is what you want from a muffin. Also not too sweet, so you do taste the blueberries, and the cinnamon dances across your tongue. In short: they taste great and I love them. I’ve been taking one to work each day as my mid-afternoon snack, attracting some envy from colleagues.

Fortunately, this is also a very easy recipe, using the simple three-step muffin process. Step one: mix the dry ingredients. Step two: mix all the wet ingredients. Step three: mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, and stir in the blueberries. In the oven, they  puff up in a very pleasing way. Of my sixteen muffins, fourteen formed perfect voluminous domed tops, and the other two went a little bit squint. They also cracked on top in quite a pretty way, revealing a saucy little peek of the deep purple inside. Such a vivid but natural purple. I was very pleased with how these turned out.

For the fruit, you can, in my experience, use fresh or frozen with equal ease. Fresh berries will not colour the mixture before cooking, if that worries you, but other than that, I’ve made this successful with both types. I mean, these are blueberry muffins. Warm from the oven, you just know they will taste fantastic whichever way you make them.

To make 16 blueberry cinnamon muffins:

• 350g plain flour
• 2 generous teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 115g soft brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• 300ml milk
• 115g butter, melted or 120 ml corn/grapeseed oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
• 180g fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Sieve well, and put to one side.

Place the eggs, butter/oil, milk and vanilla essence in another bowl, and whisk until well combined.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and combine with a metal spoon until just combined. Some small lumps are fine. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin. Fill until just below the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden.

Worth making? These muffins are utterly delicious. Be sure to use lots of blueberries, so that you get lots of fruit in each cake, as well as the amazing deep purple colour from the juice. I’ve tried different versions – sultanas, raspberries, cranberries – but this recipe, in my view, stands out.

(*) Or blaeberries as I called as I grew up. I still instinctively think of fruits and vegetables by the names we called them in Scotland when I was a child, hence to me blackberries are brambles, and blueberries are blaeberries. And what my English friends call swede, I call turnip, and what they call turnip, I call white turnip. Food and culture, eh?



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Coconut Macaroons

Are you watching the Great British Bake Off? A group of people compete to bake classic British fare, with one kicked off each week. We were discussing it at work last week and there were many sighs along the lines of “Oh, I love the show, but I wish I could bake, just don’t have the time”. So to make a little contribution to turning that around, here is an easy recipe for a British classic from my childhood: coconut macaroons.

French macarons have taken the world be storm over the last few years. Well kids, this is a world away from them. Whereas their Gallic cousins are complex, tricky, sometimes gaudy, and come wrapped in expensive boxes with fancy fillings, our dear coconut macaroons hark back to simpler times. They remind me of visits to my grandmother or being dragged along to coffee mornings in the local town hall when I was growing up. We would sulk until we were given a pound to buy a cup of tea and select a cake from the home baking stall. There is something familiar and comforting about them. They are sweet and straightforwardly honest. Bite into them, and the golden outside reveals the snowy-white coconut inside.

Now, it’s confession time. I tried a couple of different versions of these macaroons. There are two schools of thought. One is the “easy” way, just mix coconut with sweetened condensed milk and a little flour, and bake. I tried this, but didn’t really like the result. The coconut seems to absorb the milk, and the resulting macaroons were a little too solid for my liking. Next, I tried the “complex” method. This time, I used egg white and sugar to make a simple meringue, then add lots of coconut. Now these were the sort of macaroons I remember. The outside is delicately golden, the inside snowy in colour and texture, and after a day or two, they soften and become just that little bit more luxurious.

These are just perfect as a petit four with coffee. They don’t take more than 5 minutes to make (assuming you have an electric whisk!), and they don’t involve any of the faffing around you have with macarons. No counting the number of strokes to mix in the dry ingredients, no piping, no worrying if the tops of the macarons are too dry, or not dry enough, no fretting that they will erupt, volcano-like, in the oven. Just whip, stir, roll and bake.

To make coconut macaroons (makes around 40):

• 2 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 100g caster sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt, finely ground
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or coconut essence, should such be available)
• 50g plain flour
• 225g desiccated or shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Line two baking sheets with baking parchment and grease lightly.

Place the flour, salt and coconut in a bowl. Mix well and put to one side.

In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until you have stiff peaks. Add the sugar, and whip until you have a smooth, glossy, stiff meringue-like mass. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and combine. Be gentle, but mix it all well. Take teaspoons of the mixture, form it into rough balls, and place on the baking sheets (2-3 cm apart).

Bake for 20 minutes until the macaroons are just starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If you can, leave to sit for 24 hours before eating so they soften a little.

Worth making? If you like little bites that are not too sweet, these are great. They also soften a little if you leave them overnight, so they are perfect is made the night before. However, I’m going to continue on my quest and try a few more recipes until I get “then one”. This is good, but I just want to experiment a little more.


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On Location: Konstam at the Prince Albert (King’s Cross, London)

Update: It seems the Konstam has shut in the last couple of weeks. Sorry to hear that.

It has been a while since I wrote about a London venue, so time to change that.

Konstam at the Prince Albert looks pretty cool and does something rather cool as well. According to its website “Over 80% of the produce used in the Konstam kitchen is grown or reared within the area covered by the London tube network“. Sounds kind of fun to eat stuff that mainly comes form the area. And they are also big on the idea of slow food. And mercifully, the London Underground reaches as far out as the Essex countryside in the east and the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire in the west, so the risk that you are eating things from traffic roundabouts is hopefully quite small.

Starting off with the superficial, the restaurant looks wonderful. The inside is a lot of black, green and wood, with spectacular glass chandelier-type lights. The sombre decor combined with lots of candles gives the place quite an intimate feeling. I like to go somewhere with friends where you can feel that it’s just you. Yes, you can see other tables with other people, but you’re not really aware of them and you can’t really hear them. It’s tricky to get right (too often in London you end up sat three inches from some screeching nightmare and her equally obnoxious beau), but Konstam seemed to do it beautifully.

Before I went, I admit that I was aware of their “local” concept, and thus I was prepared for the vegetarian options to be limited. And, of course, I was right. On the night, I was unsurprised to see there were four starers and four mains, meaning there was a choice of exactly one starter and one main that I could eat. But I did not fret, as I have been to places where there was only one “choice” and I nevertheless dined very well indeed. So, while there was not much choice, I just went with that was on offer and trusted the chef. However, to make up for the limited choice in what I would eat, I made sure to take the aperitif of the day, a rather lovely strong apple wine from the West Country. Not something I would usually start a meal with, but it was delicious and a great way to start the evening.

To make up for the lack of choice, I also agonised over whether to have the veggie appetiser, in the end decided that I very much favoured bread and pickles. When it came, it was surprisingly Nordic in nature, which I loved. Bread with a touch of rye, a dill-infused yoghurt sauce and pickled green tomatoes, which managed to tread the magic line between sharp and sour on the one hand, and mellow and sweet on the other. Mine certainly looked good, and a few fellow diners expressed that they wished they had ordered what I had rather than their non-veggie options. Result!

For the starter, it was chilled cauliflower soup. Now I admit that I was well on my merry way when ordering, and did not quite appreciate that I would be getting something cold, so it came as a bit of a shock to the system. Cauliflower is a rather peculiar flavour, and while I adore is when covered in a pillowy white cream sauce crammed with very sharp cheddar or as part of an Asian curry, this just didn’t do it for me. I think it would have been rather lovely if warm, or even at room temperature, but the fact is was chilled really did kill some of the flavour in there, which was shame as I did like the pairing with the fennel.

Main course was mushroom, dill and cheese pierogi – which looked, quite hopefully, like little tortellini made from pastry. Now we will ignore the fact that any vegetarian was getting a double hit of dill with this meal, and I put my hand up as a big fan of pierogi in their various guises in European cuisine, but there was a fundamental error here. Salt. It’s obviously essential to enhance flavour, but these were just waaaaaay too salty. I checked with another vegetarian in the group, who was similarly taken aback by the saltiness of this dish. This really was a shame, as they had a great texture, and the mushroom and Tunworth cheese flavours were nice. It was just that the salt kept coming back again and again. So here is the niggle: it’s not as if there was just a little too much salt in a sauce, there was clearly too much in this batch, and I would imagine that someone must have tried at least one of them in the kitchen at some point. So either someone loves salt, I am over-sensitive, or no-one checked before serving. I would recommend that Konstam check this out, as it rather overshadowed the rest of the meal.

By the time we ordered dessert, I decided to skip it, and instead took the apple dessert wine that was on offer. As with the pre-dinner aperitif, this was a cheeky little stunner which did round off the meal beautifully.

So the big question…would I go back? As I ate the pierogi, I didn’t think I would. But thinking about it, the rest of the meal was actually pretty nice, and I didn’t actually tell the kitchen that I wasn’t happy with the level of salt in my food (albeit because the waiter was too busy flirting with another diner by discussing the Slow Food movement…). On this basis, and as we like the idea of the local food and the atmosphere, and given that I’ve checked the website a few times since and the new dishes do sound rather nice, I would be willing to give it another go. But over-salt again, and it goes on “the naughty list”.

Konstam at the Prince Albert, 2 Acton Street, London WC1X 9NA. Tel: 020 7833 5040. Tube: King’s Cross St Pancras.

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Ashtalieh (Lebanese Cream Pudding)

There is a piece of dinner party wisdom which says you should not cook something you have never tried before, in case it all goes wrong and your guests hate you.

Alright, perhaps a little dramatic, but you get the idea and the theory behind it (*). Well, last New Year, I threw this concept to the wind, and made Ashtalieh as a dessert. It’s a smooth, creamy pudding, covered in softened nuts and a fragrant sugar syrup. I figured that my guests were sufficiently worldly to want to try anything, I was good at reading recipes and had an idea how they would work, and finally, this just sounded very, very delicious. That, and I had a couple of other desserts to serve, just in case it did go wrong.

Well, predictably enough, the curse of the “don’t get too bold and try something without testing first” fairy did actually strike in the end. Not so much a mistake or a disaster, but something unexpected did happen. I had used mastic gum in the recipe. It’s a marvellous fragrant, fresh-smelling resin from the Greek island of Chios, and I love it, but the amount I used (which, incidentally, was less than the amount the original recipe specified) was just too much. There was a too-strong pine taste in the cream pudding. Now, by the time I added nuts and the sweet syrup, it was actually quite nice, with the mastic gum providing an aroma rather than being the dominant flavour, and it was really quite delicious. Delicious, but it was drenched in syrup, which usually makes anything taste good. As I liked the pudding in general, I made a mental note about how to improve it next time I made it (i.e. bye-bye mastic).

And today, I unveil my version. The only tweak is an extra smidgen of sugar in the pudding and a complete lack of mastic gum. Result? Creamy, just a little aromatic, rich and luxurious. Mastic gum, it’s nothing personal, but you deserve to be the star of the show, so I will leave you to sparkle in loukoumi instead (**). I promise to do a post using mastic gum at some point, just not today.

Finally possessing the best possible recipe, there are two ways you can present this to eager diners. Either you can pour into a large dish, and serve it in squares covered in nuts and drizzled with syrup. Nice and easy. Or, you can be a masochist like me, and try pouring into individual moulds. This undoubtedly looks very pretty, and it allowed me to try our the new silicone canelé mould that I bought last time I was in Brussels, but I have learned that it really is a bit impractical to try turning out individual puddings from a tray that holds 12 in one go. So what have we learned? That we need to invest in some individual moulds.

Anyway, after a bit of delicate manoeuvring and one pudding flying in the wrong direction and impaling itself on the stove, the puddings did turn out. And they are so cool! They have that very sexy wobble you get from proper jelly, but as they are not thickened with gelatine, they are veggie friendly. They also melt seductively on the tongue, and you get fabulous flavours, textures and aromas from the cream, nuts, sugar, orange blossom and rose water.

To serve 6 people:

For the cream pudding:

• 500ml milk
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
• 2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
• 1 tablespoon plain flour
• 170g cream cheese
• 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water

• 1/2 teaspoons rose water (***)
• 25g blanched almonds, soaked overnight in cold water
• 25 g pine nuts,
soaked overnight in cold water
• 25g unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
• sugar syrup (see below)

Put the milk, sugar, cornflour, flour and half of the cream cheese in a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring all the time with a whisk, until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to the boil, then simmer until the mixture thickens.

Add the orange blossom water and rose water, then keep simmering for another 5 minutes, stirring all the time.

Pour the mixture into a shallow serving dish, and allow to cool. Once cold, spread with the remainder of the cream cheese. Alternatively: divide the mixture between individual silicone moulds. In this case, you don’t need the remaining cream cheese.

To serve: cover each portion with two tablespoons of sugar syrup. Sprinkle over some almonds, pine nuts and chopped pistachios.

For the sugar syrup:

In a saucepan, heat 250g white sugar with 125ml of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Once the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for two minutes. Finally, add a teaspoon of orange blossom water and a teaspoon of rose water. Stir well and leave to cool.

Worth making? Absolutely. This is one of my favourite new dessert recipes from those that I have tried recently. It’s easy to make, and the ingredient are the sort of thing you have in the store cupboard, but they combine to make something that, in my view, is really quite special.

(*) Not sure that this idea really is so good after all. Taking it to its logical extreme, we would never try anything new, ever, and how much more boring would that make life? Exactly.

(**) Which in Britain we call Turkish delight. Except the Greek version is called loukoumi, and as mastic gum can only come from Greece, I’ll use loukoumi here.

(***) By “rose water” I mean the lighty scented water. DO NOT replace this with a teaspoon of the strong rose extract. You will be overpowered and feel like you are eating perfume. If you do have the strong stuff, use 1-2 drops instead.

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Pomegranate Couscous Salad

It’s been getting colder recently, so it was a pleasent surprise that yesterday was a little warmer than we have come to expect. Rather than chowing down on soups, stews and bakes, I made this salad as a final salute to the summer that we will soon be leaving behind. My inspiration was that finally, finally, pomegranates have appeared back in the fruit section of the local Turkish shop. I just had to buy them. I mean, they look so pretty. A pain to remove the fleshy seeds, but so pretty!

I learned to make something similar when I attended a course on Lebanese cuisine at the Corden Vert cookery school in London. The theory is simply – take some couscous, and throw in bits of everything that has even the faintest suggesting of the Middle East. And this I did. Fresh flatleaf parsley, unsalted pistachios, cumin seeds, sumac, black onion seeds, toasted pine nuts and, of course, the star – pomegranate.

This might seem like an odd thing to put in a savoury dish, but the fruit lightens up the whole thing, and the tart, sharp juice from the pomegranate explodes in little burst of flavour as you are eating. All this, and they sparkle like little rubies strewn across the salad. For the couscous, I used bulgur wheat, which is much coarser than “normal” couscous. And unlike fine couscous, it doesn’t form into lumps when cooked, and it looks prettier in the finished dish. Eat with your mouth and your eyes!

This was intended to be dinner, end of. Then unknown to me, the number of people at the dinner table started to grow, so I turned this into the centrepiece of a Middle Eastern dinner – grilled halloumi cheese, hummus and burnt aubergine salad. Nothing like cooking under pressure!

To make pomegranate couscous salad (serves 4):

• Seeds of 1 large ripe pomegranate (I use the tedious pick-pick-pick method, or try like this)
• 250g bulgur wheat (or coarse couscous if preferred)
• 1 large onion, cut in half and into thin strips
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
• 1 teaspoon black onion seeds
• 2 generous handfuls flatleaf parsley, chopped
• 1 handful unsalted pistachio nuts, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon sumac powder
• 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
• salt, to taste
• 1 handful pine nuts, lightly toasted

Put the bulgar wheat in a bowl. Cover with boiling water, and put a pot lid on the bowl. Leave to sit until the bulgur what is soft (around 15 minutes). Add more water if necessary. Once cooked, drain.

In a pan, cook the olive oil, onion, cumin seeds, black onion seeds and a pinch of salt on a high heat. Stir constantly, and cook until the onions are a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In  a large bowl, combine the couscous, 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds, onions, parsley, pistachio nuts, sumac, chilli powder and salt. Toss gently so the ingredients are combined.

Transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the rest of the pomegranate seeds and the pine nuts. Serve with a lemon-olive oil dressing on the side.

Worth making? Yes! This salad has a real “wow” factor when you bring it to the table, and has a lovely combination of flavours and textures. You can also customise it according to your tastes – different nuts, coriander (cilantro) in place of parsley, grilled halloumi cheese or feta chunks. Let your creativity run wild! Just don’t forget the pomegranate. It really makes all the difference.

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Pan-Fried Paneer with Coriander Sauce

Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery?

A while ago, I went to Colony in Marylebone. They have a luxurious lounge area with inspired cocktails and a delicious selection of bar snacks. Not just crisps or nuts, but something that is best described as “Indian tapas”. Little dishes to graze on before going for dinner.

Today’s recipe is my attempt to recreate one of their dishes, a block of paneer cheese with a fresh coriander (cilantro) sauce. It took a few attempts to get something that I was happy with. First time round I marinated the paneer in oil and the spices overnight, but when I fried it, it just seemed to have a thick coating of rather flavourless spices. Second time round was much better. I abandoned the marinade, and instead fried the paneer until golden, the added the spices, with salt and some water. The theory was that this would form a spicy “sauce” that would reduce down, and at the same time flavour the paneer. And, happily, this worked like a dream. The paneer stays soft and moist, and the flavours worked together beautifully. And, ahm, the use of a little salt makes all the difference to the flavour.

The blocks of spicy paneer work well with the coriander sauce. Mint might have seemed like the more obvious choice, but the coriander flavour is more subtle yet also fresh, and the combination with the turmeric and curry was just delicious. As good as Colony’s version? Well, not quite, but then they are the experts, and I still need to have some incentive to go back there for dinner. But in the meantime, I am still pretty thrilled with how this turned out and will be looking to serving this as a starter some time soon.

To make pan-fried paneer with coriander sauce (serves 4):

• Block of paneer (around 200-250g)
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 10g fresh coriander leaves
• 6 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Cut the paneer into slabs, depending on the number of people to be served. Add the oil to the frying pan, and cook the paneer on both sides until browned.

Add the spices and salt to the pan, and add 150ml water. Stir so that the spices and salt are combined with the water. Keep cooking on a medium heat. The paneer should start taking on a neon yellow colour.

Cook over a gentle heat until the water has evaporated and the paneer is coated in the spices. If the paneer looks too dry, add another tablespoon of oil

To prepare the sauce: place the coriander and yoghurt in a blender with salt (to taste) and blitz until smooth. The sauce should be a fresh, light green colour.

Serve the paneer warm with the sauce and a sprig of fresh coriander or mint.

Worth making? This was a little tricky for me to get right at first, but the above method works well and the result is delicious. Worth all the effort in developing it, and happy that it’s actually quite easy to make.

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Polenta and Ricotta Cake

We’ve just had a long weekend in London, so of course someone decided to organise a barbecue. Normally a cause for celebration, but there is this rather odd phenomenon in England, where by a long weekend seems to pretty much guarantee that the weather will be bad. In fairness, we’d had three days of solid rain, so at some point the skies were due to run out of water, but it seemed that Sunday was not the day that we would be lucky. I can assure you that it was pretty hard to coax me out from under the duvet, as a wet day in someone’s back garden is always far less appealing that reading the papers in bed with endless cups of tea.

I digress. Attending a barbecue, I had to take something, and I was on dessert duty. I could have gone for those staples such as fruit salad, chocolate cake or Eton Mess, but I just fancied something different. Then I remembered a recipe for (surprise, surprise) a polenta and ricotta cake that I had been meaning to try. My experience of such cakes to date has been good, and this one is jazzed up by adding a decent amount of apricots. I also liked the idea that this was vaguely  Italian, thus keeping alive the memory of my holiday, which seems so long ago when you look outside and see dozens of umbrellas and people battling the wind as they walk.

Always feeling the need to improvise and tweak recipes, I swapped cognac for Japanese plum wine as the medium in which to soak the apricots, infusing them with a delicious plummy, port-like flavour. I also omitted the walnuts suggested in the original recipe. I like walnuts, but I didn’t think they would fit this cake. I also cut down the amount of sugar, added a little lemon zest, and swapped some of the polenta with fine maize meal (because, eh, I ran out of polenta and had fine maize meal in the cupboard. As I said, it has been raining and I didn’t want to go outside more than necessary!).

This cake was a breeze to make. No messing around with eggs. Just melt some butter, then throw everything into a bowl and use and electric beater to get everything nice and fluffy. With the orange of the apricots and the yellow of the lemon zest, polenta and the butter, it was quite a “sunny” baking experience. And just to force the point, the cake was then glazed with apricot jam, leaving it with a pleasant orange glow. And a good way to use that home-made apricot jam you happen to have lying in the fridge.

But given the eggless character of this cake, how was it? Compared to something like a Victoria sponge, the cake does have a slightly more solid, dense character to it. The addition of the alcohol-soaked apricots therefore makes a welcome addition to the texture. I really liked it – more of an old-fashioned teacake than a big, fluffy bit of sponge, with little notes of freshness from the lemon and the texture of the polenta coming through. When paired with a spoonful of smooth room-temperature mascarpone, this made for a superb afternoon treat.

For the polenta and ricotta cake:

• 250g dried apricots (the soft type)
• 4 tablespoons plum wine or cognac
• 200g plain flour
• 70g coarse polenta
• 130g fine maize meal
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 100g butter, melted and cooled
• 200g sugar
• 250g ricotta
• zest of 1 lemon
• 180ml water, lukewarm
• apricot jam, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°C). Line a 20 cm springform cake tray with baking parchment.

Slice the apricots into slivers (easiest with clean scissors) and mix with the plum wine or cognac. Leave to sit for at least 15 minutes, ideally until all the liquid has been absorbed.

In a bowl, combine the flour, polenta, maize meal and baking powder. Pour in the melted butter, sugar, ricotta, lemon zest and water. Mix with an electric beater until creamy and smooth (around 1 minute).

Finally, fold the apricots through the batter.

Pour into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Try to get a swirly pattern you are happy with, as the top will not become smooth during baking.

Loosely cover the top of the cake tray with tin foil, and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the tin foil. Keep baking until the cake is risen, golden and springy to the touch. An inserted skewer should come out clean. Total cooking time will be between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the cooked cake from the oven, and allow to cool in the tin. Before serving, glaze the top of the cake with apricot jam, and serve slices with a dollop of mascarpone or crème fraîche.

Worth making? This was a lovely cake which made a change from the usual sponge cake. The flavours work well together, and it looks rustic and pretty, so minimal fuss necessary in terms of decorating. Well worth trying.

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