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Orange & Rosemary Polenta Cake

Fresh herbs cut from the garden have to be one of my favourite things to cook with. I like to add them to all manner of salads, pasta dishes, tarts and puddings as they can lift any dish. In my little courtyard garden I have many herbs growing in pots - oregano, chives, thyme, lemon thyme, chamomile and from the mint family - garden, strawberry, lemon, black pepper and ginger varieties. At this time of year though there isn't an awful lot ready in my little garden and what with the late cold spell we've had this Spring, it's taken even longer to get things going. One plant that seems to thrive no matter what the weather throws at it is my rosemary bush. I planted it over ten years ago and it sits in a super sunny spot with dry soil, happily providing us with much needed colour throughout the seasons. I tend to use it in Italian savoury dishes but it does work well in a cake too.  

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This orange and rosemary polenta cake was based on one that I saw a contestant make on Masterchef recently. He served it with a gelato and caramelised orange slices but I think it's a lot simpler to serve it with cream! Sadly he got voted out of the competition after that round (sorry if that's a spoiler!) but Gregg and John did say his cake was delicious. Having never baked with polenta before I was intrigued to give it a go and I'm really glad I did. This cake is moist but firm with a sharp citrus kick and a subtle undertone of rosemary. It's best to make it in advance as it takes a little time to prepare (the oranges need to boil for an hour).  It's suitable for gluten free diets and it will keep in the fridge for five days.  

Ingredients:

2 large oranges

6 medium free-range eggs

150g polenta (ground) 

150g ground almonds 

250g golden caster sugar

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped 

1 tsp demerara sugar 

For the orange drizzle:

100g caster sugar

3 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

grated zest from one orange

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Method:

Grease and line a 23 cm springform cake tin

Put the whole oranges in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for one hour until the oranges are soft. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. 

Halve the oranges and remove the pips. Pop them into the food processor (including the skins) and whizz to a puree. Add in the eggs, polenta, ground almonds, golden caster sugar and rosemary. Whizz to combine. 

Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for one hour until the cake is risen and golden. 

For the drizzle:

Dissolve the caster sugar in a small saucepan with 100ml  hot water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes but don't let the sugar colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly. 

Add the liqueur, fresh rosemary and the orange zest. Stir to combine. 

Cool the cake in the tin, turn out onto a plate and then drizzle with the syrup.