skip to Main Content

Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Polenta Cake

  • April 7, 2014
This may look like a savarin (say, what? savarin? – yes, savarin – a yeast-like babà type cake with a hole in the middle.)  But it’s not.
It’s just an impossibly moist, wickedly delicious, lemon cornmeal cake that happens to sink slightly in the middle. At least for me it did. But you know what? Just like in that Johnny Mercer song “Accentuate the … ” You know the one I mean. Well, turn the negative into a positive by heaping some seasonal fruit in the center of the cake. People will think it was supposed to look that way. And maybe it was.
The little crater certainly presented the ideal vessel for this tumble of sugared berries.
Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Polenta Cake
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups almond meal/flour
3/4 cup fine polenta/ cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free if required)
3 eggs
Zest 2 lemons (save the juice for the syrup)
Juice 2 lemons (see above)
Heaping 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Special Equipment: 1 (9-inch) springform pan
For the cake: Line the base of your cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.

Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup: Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the confectioners’ sugar has dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Make Ahead Note: The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.

Freeze Note: The cake can be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.


Insalata Di Rinforza

  • February 16, 2012
 It’s healthy, low-cal and the perfect antidote to all those rich Valentine’s Day goodies. This recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson, the sensuous English beauty and noted cook. She’s not Italian, but in my opinion, she’s got the best recipe I could find for insalata di rinforzo, a Neapolitan salad generally made at Christmastime. Even so, I added and changed a few things to make it more to my liking. Throw in a little more of this and a little more of that to suit your taste. Quantities don’t really matter that much here.
To me, the salad cried out for more dressing, so I added almost triple the oil and vinegar the original recipe called for. Carrots are a beautiful, colorful addition too, as are the multi-colored bell peppers. I added one green pepper, but would skip that next time in favor of another red, orange, or yellow pepper.

Artichoke hearts would be terrific in this salad too. If I had found broccoli romanesco, I would have added that too. Some people add anchovies as well, especially if it’s being served on Christmas eve.
Insalata di rinforzo literally translates to “reinforcement salad” and there are a couple of reasons for the name. One is because you can keep adding more ingredients to “reinforce” the salad for eating later on. The other explanation is that the salad helps “reinforce” your stomach for the rest of the meal to come. Either way, it improves with age and is best eaten after the ingredients have had a day or two to co-mingle. Any leftover can be placed in jars and covered with more oil and vinegar and kept in the refrigerator for weeks.
Insalata Di Rinforzo

Inspired by Nigella Lawson
printable recipe here
My changes are in red.

For dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I tripled the amount of the dressing – maybe even quadrupled it.)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For preserving as a pickle:

  • 1 bottle white wine vinegar
  • 1 bottle olive oil (not extra-virgin)


Put 16 cups of water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the cauliflower florets and cook them until tender-crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the cauliflower florets with a slotted spoon and plunge them straight into a bowl of iced water.
Pour out half of the boiling water and add the white wine vinegar, remaining salt, fennel seeds, and garlic cloves. Bring the pan back to a boil and add the celery, onions, peppers, fennel, and whole chiles; cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Refresh the vegetables in the same way, plunging them into iced water; when they are cold, drain them along with the cauliflower florets.
In a large bowl, mix the cauliflower and other vegetables with the garlic, olives and capers. Whisk together the vinegar and oil for the dressing and pour over the salad. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the chopped parsley. Combine everything really well, which is easiest done using your hands. At this point you have a pickled vegetable salad which serves 8 generously, or you can stuff everything into wide-necked sterilized canning jars and pour in a mixture of half vinegar and half olive oil to cover the vegetables.