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
almonds, skinned and ground or use ready ground
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of half lemon
polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
powdered sugar (depending on sweetness of berries)