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Author Notes: Speak to any seasoned blackberry picker and they'll tell you they have a favourite spot they return to year after year. That first picking is invested with more hope than expectation. Will the fruit be plump or seedy? Fit for a blackberry and apple pie or destined to be sieved for a fruit jelly? My first pickings this year proved to be packed with juice, making the seeds barely noticeable. Half of the berries were the basis for a classic apple and blackberry crumble. The rest I warmed with a little sugar to enjoy as a compote which would be good, I thought, with a little almond 'something'. I had almonds; I had polenta; and I had lemons. With those ingredients, The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers was the first book I reached for. Their recipe for Torta di Polenta, Mandorle e Limone is the basis for the recipe below.
Not wanting a cake as large as 30cm (12 inches), I cut down the recipe to suit a 17cm (7 inch) x 6cm (2.5 inch) round tin. It produced a beautifully light cake which is also gluten-free. I found the lemon didn't come through quite enough for me so I increased the amount of lemon zest recommended. I should mention the finished cake is fairly fragile so take extra care to prepare the tin. The cake keeps well for a couple of days but it will lose its crunch. —Evie
Almond, polenta & lemon Cake
ounces unsalted butter
ounces almonds, skinned and ground or use ready ground
teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of half lemon
ounces polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
teaspoon baking powder
ounces powdered sugar (depending on sweetness of berries)
- Preheat oven 170C (fan 150C)/Gas 3.
- Lightly butter the cake tin and dust with polenta.
- Cream the butter well with the caster sugar.
- Add the ground almonds and vanilla and mix briefly
- Gradually beat in the eggs.
- Gently fold in the lemon zest and juice, followed by the polenta, baking powder and salt.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out fairly clean (under-cooked is better than over-cooked). Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
- While the cake is cooking, put the blackberries in a heavy-bottomed pan with no more than 1 tablespoon of water. Heat just until the juices flow freely.
- Remove from the heat and mix in 1oz of icing sugar, adding more if the compote is too tart.
- Spoon a little compote alongside a slice of cake. I don't think it needs the addition of cream but you might.