Real Food. Healthy Fuel. For a Happy Life.

Nigella’s Gluten-Free Polenta Cake

photo-83Recently I’ve been treated to a lot of  delicious gluten-free cooking by friends and family.

It’s been one of the biggest benefits of my ‘coming out’ /this blog as gluten-free and I have been truly humbled and very well fed!

A recent highlight was Nigella’s Polenta Cake, which in this instance should be re-named Vicki’s Polenta cake.  As Nigella describes it in ‘Kitchen’ ‘it’s ‘a sort of Anglo-Italian amalgam’.  The sexier Italian cousin of a lemon drizzle. Equally at home at tea time or dinner party pudding.

I distinctly remember my mother berating me as a child, (when I was no doubt complaining about my name) about how awfully lucky I was not to be called Nigella after my father, unlike the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s daughter.

In her pre-cooking days I used pour over her weekly make-up column in the Sunday Times. It was not the make up tips (I have never read a make up column since) but her writing that I loved and her down to earth, yet authoritative and ultra glamorous worldliness air.

If Mary Berry is my first choice of fantasy adoptive Granny, Nigella would be my big sister.

I was also an avid reader of her late husband’s (John Diamond’s) column detailing his battle with cancer in the Saturday Times. Which these days would no doubt be phenomenal blog. Nigella’s mother and sister also died of cancer and I remember reading the following extract from an interview the year that my mother died and I was stuck by how accurately she describes grief.

She remembers something the theatre critic Jack Tinker wrote when his daughter died at the age of 23. He said that you only get over a death if you think of it as a life completed rather than a life interrupted. But the words are hardly out of her mouth before she repudiates them. “What is this thing about getting over it? You don’t get over it!” She remembers back 20 years, when her mother died, how well-meaning people would ask how she was coping and, by way of empathetic consolation, tell her how well they remembered the sad death of their puppy.

“The mourning process,” she says grimly, “is not a matter of universal understanding.” We cross the road when the widow walks by because we do not know what to say. We are embarrassed by her grief. We say, “Oh, she has taken it well” with admiration, meaning you can hardly tell she’s just suffered a bit of a setback. We use these ridiculous expressions – “Draw a line under it.” “Go on with your life.” “Put it all behind you.”

Lawson’s first child was born 10 days after the death of her sister. The well-intentioned seized the opportunity to assure her of the good fortune of this “compensation”. “But you can’t think, well, my sister’s dead but, hey, this will make it better,” she says. “And when people said, at New Year, here’s hoping you have a better year, you think, why, is she coming back?

“There is a kind of euphoria of grief, a degree of madness,” she says. “You are very distanced from other people because what is going on in your head is literally unshareable and you can’t focus properly on what is going on outside you. And, in a funny way, each death is different and you mourn each death differently and each death brings back the death you mourned earlier and you get into a bit of a pile-up.”

There is a process to grief, but it is not linear. “You don’t feel this on a Monday, that on a Tuesday, as though you are making steady progress from A to B while all about you are being supportive. It’s as if people think you are either happy or unhappy, one or the other. As though happiness is like some kind of domestic cleaning product you spray around to get rid of those nasty, dark, dusty corners.

I don’t think happiness is a remedy for unhappiness, like there, that was unhappy, now this is happy! What kind of a life is it if you don’t have both?

You don’t go around grieving all the time, but the grief is still there and always will be.

That John was so ill for so long is a cause of grief for as long as I remember it, and I have no wish to forget. I have room in my head. It’s all right. I don’t want to put my mind in order as I might with work or a store cupboard, because that wouldn’t be a fair representation of the way things are.

It is difficult to explain this to people. Language is more articulate than emotion, but it doesn’t do the job. Emotion is messy, contradictory … and true.”

Extract from The Guardian October 2004 Nigella Lawson talks to Sally Vincent

Most of all through out the many highs and lows of life Nigella for me is the epitome of a strong, independent, stoic woman who has always managed to keep her dignity.

INGREDIENTS 

for the cake

  • 200 grams soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 200 grams ground almonds
  • 100 grams fine polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (gluten free if required)
  • 3 large eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

for the syrup

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 125 grams icing sugar

TO COOK

  1. Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch springform cake tin with baking parchment and grease its sides lightly with butter.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/ 350°F.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.
  4. Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
  5. Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
  6. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin. remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
  7. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a smallish saucepan.
  8. Once the icing sugar’s dissolved into the juice, you’re done.
  9. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.

fullstoptA2

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8 Responses to “Nigella’s Gluten-Free Polenta Cake”

  1. vickiallen66

    Thanks for sharing Tabs your posts are always interesting to read – unlike some I am bombard with on a daily basis.

    Keep them coming, Vxx

    Reply
  2. New Beginnings | Tabitha's Gluten Free Dishes

    […] Nigella’s Polenta Cake – One of my very first posts and with extracts with an interview with my fantasy sister where she very aptly discusses grief  “There is a process to grief, but it is not linear. “You don’t feel this on a Monday, that on a Tuesday, as though you are making steady progress from A to B while all about you are being supportive. It’s as if people think you are either happy or unhappy, one or the other. As though happiness is like some kind of domestic cleaning product you spray around to get rid of those nasty, dark, dusty corners. I don’t think happiness is a remedy for unhappiness, like there, that was unhappy, now this is happy! What kind of a life is it if you don’t have both?” And here is Avocado Toast my first post for the Huffington Post. Which I am really excited about and can’t wait to do more of in September. […]

    Reply

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