Glazed Lemon & Thyme Polenta Cake

So. That Coldplay concert was certainly something. Blazing pyrotechnics in gorgeous colours, dazzling laser lights sweeping the stadium, dozens of massive inflated balls bouncing above excited heads, fifty thousand glowing wristbands flashing in time to the music, and best of all: the electrifyingly mind-blowing performance. It was almost surreal, being part of the audience. Chris Martin and his amazing band didn’t disappoint. Neither did The Temper Trap; they were superb. And, despite not being familiar with them, The Pierces did a lovely job as the opening act.

A few days ago, I made a lemon polenta cake infused with thyme and olive oil. Why? Because I simply adore a good lemon polenta cake. So why not subtly spice it up with the taste of zippy thyme and fruity olive oil? Damp and crumbly, dense and refreshing. This is a cake you’ll want to make again. And again. And again.

The first time I actually tried a lemon polenta cake was when I baked a simple version from Nigella Lawson’s fantastic repertoire. I thought it was absolutely phenomenal. The texture was so unique, the taste was divine. Not quite a cake in the traditional sense (thanks to the pleasantly crunchy and gritty texture provided by the cornmeal), but a gorgeous Italian classic nonetheless.

This thyme and olive oil version comes glazed in a sharp, tangy lemon syrup filled with hints of thyme. You may omit the glaze if your taste buds prefer a subtler zest in desserts. The cake tastes amazing on its own, especially when chilled in the fridge. And trust me when I say that this is the type of cake that tastes even better the next day!

Glazed Lemon & Thyme Polenta Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup polenta (fine cornmeal)
1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup (scant) raw caster sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the lemon & thyme glaze:

Juice of 1 large lemon
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup raw caster sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C and generously grease a shallow 7″ springform cake pan.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the polenta, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until well combined and creamy.
  4. Gradually stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Mixture will start to become foamy.
  5. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and thyme leaves. Mix well.
  6. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.
  7. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. A good indication that the cake is almost done is when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes. In that time, prepare the glaze.
  9. To make the glaze, place the lemon juice, sugar and thyme sprigs in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil on low heat, stirring continuously so the sugar dissolves. Once mixture becomes fairly thick, remove from heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Pour the liquid into a small bowl and leave to cool for awhile.
  10. Once cake has cooled significantly, very carefully, remove the cake from the pan and place on a large plate. Cake is quite soft and fragile, so be gentle!
  11. With a spoon, drizzle or spread the glaze over the cooled cake. Decorate with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves if desired!

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme & Sea Salt

My mother just got back from a long business trip in Perth and presented me with one of about ten books she bought over there. I am not quite sure how she managed to fit so many books into her suitcase to bring home, but she did it. The book, Parrot and Olivier in America, is written by Australian author Peter Carey. I must tell you that Carey is one of only two writers in the world to have won the Booker Prize twice. My mum seemed excited about giving Parrot and Olivier in America to me. I’ve been told that the keeper of the shop highly recommended the book.

The little synopsis on the back cover is simple, whimsical and alluring.

Olivier is a French aristocrat, the traumatised child of survivors of the Revolution; Parrot, an Englishman who always wanted to be an artist but has ended up a servant. Through their picaresque travels in the New World – in love and politics, prisons and the world of art – Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy with dazzling wit and inventiveness.

It’s about time I read a good book.

There is something beautiful and rustic about homemade flatbreads. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s terrific recipe for flatbreads with honey, thyme and sea salt, this is a slightly healthier version that works well. The addition of wholemeal flour gives more texture to the flatbreads, as well as a wonderful crusty, bronzed appearance once baked. Without a doubt, a genuine crowd pleaser.

The luscious, fruity flavour of extra virgin olive oil mixed through a simple part-wholemeal dough. The crumbly, complex tang of parmesan cheese melded with the rich, syrupy sweetness of warm drizzled honey and the refreshingly zippy aroma of thyme. Oh, there are so many things right about this dreamy combination! The bold flavours of each individual component blend together seamlessly, creating a mouth-watering, savoury-sweet experience.

Crisp Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup organic honey
1 tablespoon fresh/dry thyme leaves
Flaky sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C. You will want to leave the baking tray you’ll be using in the oven while it heats up.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and add the water and oil. With a wooden spoon, gently combine the ingredients until a soft dough forms.
  4. With your hands, gently knead the dough a few times.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll out each piece on separate sheets of baking paper into longish, rustic shapes. Roll them out thin!
  6. Remove preheated baking tray and slide the baking paper with rolled out dough onto the tray. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  7. Working quickly, remove tray from oven and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated parmesan. Return tray to oven and bake for an additional 3 – 4 minutes, or until brown and crisp at the edges.
  8. Remove tray from oven and drizzle desired amount of honey over flatbread. Be generous! Then, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and thyme leaves.
  9. With a sharp knife, cut flatbread into smaller pieces.
  10. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough.
  11. Serve warm. Best eaten the day it is baked.

Sesame and Thyme Almond Meal Crackers

These little gems are very simple to make and entirely gluten free! You may use either dry or fresh thyme, depending on what you have on hand. You may also substitute the sesame seeds with poppy seeds if you wish. Get creative! These taste absolutely divine, especially when paired with a sweet dip or some cheese. Best of all, they make an excellent low carb alternative to wheat crackers and still manage to pack a powerful crunch.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (white or black, it’s up to you!)
3 tablespoons water

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine almond flour, salt, thyme and sesame seeds.
  3. Add in a tablespoon of water at a time and mix slowly until the dough clumps together but isn’t too moist.
  4. Form the dough into a huge ball, flatten it slightly, and place on a piece of baking paper.
  5. Roll the dough flat into desired cracker height with a rolling pin. The thinner, the crisper the cracker will bake.
  6. Carefully pick up the sheet of baking paper and place it on a large enough baking tray.
  7. Score the dough with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to make desired cracker shapes.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.