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)
In This Recipe
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.