Showing posts with label polenta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label polenta. Show all posts

Monday, July 6, 2015

Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing

Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing

I feel so blessed to be food allergy free. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Makes eating out and just cooking in general so easy. I have quite a few family members and friends who aren’t so lucky. Whilst there is a variety of allergies I sometimes have to cater for, the most common one is gluten. Unfortunately for those friends, the gluten intolerance and allergy generates fairly full-on, sometimes hospital inducing reactions. It’s a little more serious for them than the discomfort that some gluten-avoiders get, so every single ingredient needs to be gluten free.

At a recent cousins catch-up Lance and I hosted, I needed to make a gluten-free cake. Now, because I am fine to eat everything, I don’t buy gluten-free flour, and I didn’t want to buy some especially for the occasion. Which led to a decision – make my own gluten-free flour out of things I do buy, like buckwheat flour, rice flour, chick pea flour, or go flourless? I decided to go flourless. This cake does call for gluten free baking powder, which I have as a default. You can leave it out altogether if you need it gluten free and don’t want to buy new baking powder. The cake is already a dense style, so it’s not especially missed, just make sure the whole thing is well beaten whilst mixing.

The pink grapefruit that we planted when we first moved in has had it’s first fruit-bearing season, and I wanted to make a citrusy cake to celebrate this fact. I love pink grapefruit so much! Tart and tangy and refreshing. So good! And seeing as our basil plant clearly hasn’t been informed that it’s actually winter now, and is still growing like crazy and given the success of a previous lime and basil cake (for a cousins catch-up on my side of the family), my flavour profile was decided. I didn’t have enough almonds to make an almond meal cake, so I adapted Nigella’s Lemon Polenta Cake, which uses a mixture of polenta and almonds, and is drizzled with a lemon syrup to make a wonderfully moist cake.

Just because I wanted to show off, I added a toasted meringue icing, also grapefruit and basil flavoured. The cake doesn’t really need the icing – but I figure, if you’re making a cake for an event, you might as well go all out, right? Go big, or go home!

Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing

Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue


200g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
6 large basil leaves
2 cups almond meal
¾ cup fine polenta (cornmeal)
3 eggs
Zest 1 pink grapefruit


Juice of the pink grapefruit above
½ cup icing sugar
6 large basil leaves

Preheat oven to 180C. Spray the sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with cooking spray and line the base with baking paper. I like to allow a little overhang, then clip the base into the ring to secure it.

In a coffee/spice grinder, finely grind the basil leaves with half of the caster sugar. Add the basil sugar, remaining sugar and butter into the bowl of a standmixer and beat on high until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Turn the mixer down to low/medium and add 1 egg, then 1/3 of the dry mixture. Alternate the egg and dry mixture for the remaining 2 eggs and polenta. When this is fully combined, beat in the grapefruit zest.

Scrape the mixture into the cake tin, and bake for around 40 minutes. The top will be a little golden, and will be pulling away from the edges a little. Place the cake tin on a cooling rack. Don’t remove the cake yet.

Just before the cake is done baking, bring the icing sugar and grapefruit juice to the boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar fully dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir well, then set aside to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the leaves

When the cake is out, prick all over the top gently with a cake tester (or thin toothpick). Pour the warm syrup over the cake. Leave it to soak in and cool in the tin.

Whilst the cake cools, make the meringue icing

Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing

Pink Grapefruit and Basil Toasted Meringue Icing

2 egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup caster sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
Juice of 1 grapefruit
Handful of basil leaves

Get ready by wetting a pastry brush and placing the eggwhites in a clean bowl of your standmixer, and attaching the whisk attachment. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a pot large enough that the end will be submerged in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan.

Place the grapefruit juice in a measuring cup and add water to make it up to 100mL. Add this, the sugar and the basil leaves to a medium pot and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and carefully remove the basil leaves.

Brush down sugar crystals with the wet brush. Continue heating the syrup until it reaches 115C, this will take around 10 minutes. Leave it on the heat, but start whisking the eggwhites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Keep an eye on the thermometer, and when it reaches 120C, take it off the heat, increase the speed of the mixer to high and slowly pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream down the side (avoid it touching the whisk). When all of the syrup is incorporated, lower the speed to medium and continue beating until it’s cooled to room temperature and the meringue is thick and glossy.

Spread the meringue over the cake with a spatula, deliberately creating peaks and swirls. Fire up your mini-blow torch and gently brown the edges of the meringue swirls, being careful not to let it burn.


Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing
Entertaining without Gluten - Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue Icing

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks

Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks

In keeping with my ‘learning to cook new things’ decision, I decided to tackle something that’s been on my list for a while. Polenta. The thing that mainly worried me about polenta is that in most recipes I had seen they contained the one phrase that strikes fear into my heart – ‘stirring constantly’. When something is a side dish, I can’t be ‘stirring constantly’. But there’s been a few blog recipes about that had somewhat demystified the process somewhat and used the phrase ‘stirring here and there’. Stirring here and there I can do! I wanted to make polenta cakes, rather than the polenta ‘mash’ and every recipe for that that I had ever come across insisted that you needed to refrigerate overnight, then cut the polenta into shapes, then either bake or fry to make the crispy polenta cakes. I also didn’t have the time and patience for that. Not on a weeknight. So I just spread it out in the tray and baked it immediately, leaving the cutting until it was baked. It takes about 40 minutes to bake, but it was a good result for a lazy man’s version of this. I will give the chill, cut and fry method a go at some point, but this is a good option for week nights. The chill, cut, fry method also lends itself more to thicker polenta squares.

The sauce you might recognize as my hot white bean dip. It’s almost identical with the removal of the oil and the addition of using some water to thin it out. The texture becomes almost like a tomatoe-y herby b├ęchamel. The roast pumpkin and capsicum work perfectly with the sauce and polenta. And being lazy again, I scrubbed the skin of the butternuts but didn’t bother peeling them. If you don’t want to eat them, simply peel them off after they’ve cooked.

While I am telling you about how lazy I am with midweek cooking, let me tell you about Mexican chorizo. Unlike Spanish style chorizo, Mexican chorizo isn’t cooked/cured and it has to be cooked before eaten. It’s essentially a flavoured mince. I haven’t ever seen it available here in Perth BUT, you can make it really easily at home, following Alejandra’s recipe. When I do have a spare half hour or so on the weekend, I whip up a batch of this, freeze it into individual ‘sausages’ ready for a super easy flavor hit. It makes the most amazing tacos and scrambled egg and potato hash and…the list goes on. It’s so much easier to be lazy during the week if you can occasionally do some prep work. The spicy chorizo here really makes this dish, but if you really don’t want to make some yourself, simply find a nice spicy style sausage, remove the filling from the casing and fry up as below. Or, at a pinch, dice up some normal chorizo and fry until some fat renders out and it’s crispy. But you really want that smokey/spicy hit to bring out the rest of the flavours in the dish.

A little sriracha on plating adds a little extra chilli kick. And if you’re really feeling lazy then you can serve the components separately and not even bother making it look fancy. But how pretty is this?

Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks


1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan

Roast Veges

Top half of 1 small butternut pumpkin, skin scrubbed and sliced into 1cm thick rings
1 large red capsicum
Olive oil


1 tin white beans (cannellini)
4 sundried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
3 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
1 tbsp oregano, minced.

200g Mexican chorizo (or other spicy raw sausage, skins removed)

Line a lamington tray with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 170C

In a medium saucepan, bring water, pepper and sea salt to a boil. Pour the polenta in to the boiling water and stir quickly for a minute or so. Cook for around 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes until it thickens to a creamy mash potato consistency. It should pull away from the sides cleanly as you stir it. Stir through the parmesan, and then the olive oil.

Spread in a layer around 2cm thick in the baking paper and smooth over the top. Pop in the oven.

Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the pumpkin slices out. Drizzle with olive oil. Cut the capsicum in half lengthwise and remove the core and seeds/membranes. Place skin side up on the baking tray . Chuck in the oven.

After 20 minutes, turn the flip the pumpkin slices. Check the polenta. If it’s solid and getting golden on top, gently flip the whole thing over with two spatulas.

Rinse the beans, then add to a medium pot with a cup of water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Using a stick blender (or a real blender), puree until smooth. Add the salt, thyme, oregano and sundried tomatoes, puree that all together too. Check for seasoning, then set aside, keeping warm.

Heat a frypan to medium heat and add the Mexican chorizo. Break it up with a wooden spoon and keep it frying until brown and crispy. Set aside, keeping warm.

Remove the capsicum and gently pull the skins off and discard. Slice into ribbons.

Take the polenta out, and cut into squares about the same size as the pumpkin rings. Cut one square into thin ‘chips’ for decoration.

To plate, add a slice of polenta, a ring of pumpkin, a few ribbons of roast capsicum. Spoon a few tablespoons of the bean sauce, then sprinkle some Mexican chorizo over the top. Repeat the pattern. Balance a few polenta ‘chips’ on top, then decorate with a thyme sprig. Dot some sriracha about the plate decoratively.

Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable StacksFancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks
Fancy Midweek Meal - Polenta and Vegetable Stacks

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recreating Deliciousness - Coppelia Calamari with Tamarind Dressing

On my recent holiday, I ate a lot of Cuban. A lot. It started at Bar Pulpo at the Melbourne Airport. And it was good. So rare to get good food at an airport! But I was really impressed. It made the 5 hour plane delay bearable! Then in the states, I went to a restaurant in New York that was recommended to me - Coppelia. And even though it's been two or so months since I've been there, I still consider it one of my favourite restaurants. It's a funky Latin diner style restaurant with ridiculously good, well-priced food. We went to another 4 Cuban restaurants in our trip and loved every single dish. So I came back and wishlisted a few Cuban cooking books on bookdepository (but if you have any recommendations for other good Latin and Cuban cookbooks to add to the list, I'd love to hear). So you can look forward to Skamp's versions of other Latin dishes!
Lance and I both fell in love with Coppelia's blue cornmeal crusted calamari with tamarind vinaigrette. We are haunted by it, so I am trying to create an "at-home" version. We don't get plantains in WA (or if you know of a place they're available, please, please, please let me know!!!) so I substituted bananas. Here's a photo of their version:

I couldn't find blue cornmeal, but I already had some blue corn flour (blue masa), which I used for the flour for the dusting as well as in the coating cornmeal. I get mine from one of my favourite shops in Perth - Kakulas. Using masa for the whole dish makes it naturally gluten free, if that's an issue for you.
To make the tamarind dressing, firstly you have to make tamarind syrup. There's a recipe here on my Kale Tamarind Salad recipe. You'll see in the pictures of my version, that it wasn't nearly saucy enough compared to theirs. When I heated the sauce, it reduced right down, so this recipe is double.

My verdict on it's similarity? Well, it's not quite the same, but it's still delicious. But my memory might also be failing me. I think the best thing to do would be to go back to New York to re-acquaint myself with the original!
200g squid rings
1 cup rice bran oil for frying
2 firm but ripe bananas, cut into 3cm chunks

Flour mix
1/4 cup blue corn flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

2 beaten eggs

Cornmeal mix
1/4 cup blue corn flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp ancho chilli powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder

Tamarind Dressing
16 tbsp tamarind syrup
8 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp cachaca
salt & pepper to taste

Have the flour mix, egg wash and cornmeal mix in three separate bowls, ready to go. Then an empty plate for the coated ring.

Dip each calamari ring in flour mix, shake to remove excess. Then the egg wash, shake to remove excess. Lastly coat with the cornmeal mix. Then coat the banana pieces in the same way.

Heat the rice bran oil in a wok or frypan - enough to create a shallow layer. Carefully splash a drop of water into the hot oil. If it sizzles, it's hot enough. Without crowding the pan, fry the calamari rings a few at a time, allowing to crispen and darken before turning over. It'll take a few minutes per side.

Place on paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with all rings until they're all cooked, then do the banana pieces, cooking each side until crispy.

In a separate pan, add all of the dressing ingredients and heat the pan to medium. Stir as it cooks for a minute or two until it reduces into a sticky sauce. carefully put the calamari and bananas in the sauce and stir to coat. Plate up, the drizzle the remaining sauce over the top.

Served here with a bean sprout, coriander, ginger and peanut salad.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Comfort Food - Pina Colada Pudding Cake

Do you like pina colada? I actually don't like the cocktail so much, they're usually a tad too sweet for my drink tastes - but I do love the pineapple and coconut combination. It's a classic! Remember my Greek Yoghurt Souffle with pineapple, mango and coconut fruit salad? It was amazing! Loving the combo, when I saw a recipe for pina colada pudding, I was intrigued. And then disappointed and overwhelmed by all of the sugar in it. So I decided to make my own version, using a basic self-saucing pudding recipe as my base. Then, instead of using regular flours, I decided to use coconut flour, for fairly obvious reasons and superfine polenta to give it a nice golden colour. Which then makes this pudding cake gluten free!

It should be saucy at the bottom, but the pictures I've got show mine didn't turn out super saucy. Namely because my dish wasn't large enough, and I spilt most of the boiling water on the floor while trying to put it in the oven. Not my finest culinary moment, and I knew it was a bad idea when I was doing it. With an audience. But the cake still came out nice and moist and the pineapple pieces added a nice juiciness. That's why I've called it a 'pudding cake' instead of a straight pudding.

It is a decidedly unglamourous cake in presentation - but great for putting out as a serve-yourself dessert for a large amount of people. It will serve 10-12 easily. And then if you're lucky, you'll have leftovers for breakfast the next day (or three) reheated in the microwave!

Pina Colada Pudding Cake

825g can pineapple pieces - juice drained and reserved
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp dark rum
1 cup superfine polenta
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 small tins coconut milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp honey
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 160C

In the bottom of a big casserole dish, empty the drained pineapple pieces, the dark rum and the dark brown sugar, stir to combine, then spread evenly over the bottom of the dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, polenta, baking powder and bicarb soda. In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the reserved pineapple juice, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla and honey. Whisk together the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, then spread this batter over the pineapple.

Sprinkle the sugar over the top of this mixture, add the remaining pineapple juice to the boiling water and carefully pour this over the top of the batter. Don't mix it in.

Pop it in the oven to bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until the cake is cooked all the way through, and the top is golden.

Serve warm with vanilla or coconut ice cream!