I have spent a lot of time this past week out in the garden and it is really starting to look like a different place. Now when I look out of the kitchen window I see a pretty, restful space I want to spend time in, rather than a seemingly insurmountable task. It’s taken a lot of hard work but it will soon just need maintaining rather than a complete overhaul. One of the things I am looking forward to is growing fruit and vegetables again. It used to be high on my list of priorities but has slipped down over the last few years. I have a little greenhouse out in the front garden which housed a broken running machine that went in there as a temporary solution when I moved in last July and has only just moved out… I am hoping to use it for its proper purpose instead this year. I already have a blackcurrant and a blueberry bush that seem to have survived the move and my parents discovered several blackcurrant bushes when they blitzed the garden last summer. I have a small pear tree and of course my quince. I think I’ve found some wild strawberries as well although the chance of getting any fruit before the birds do is minimal.
A little while ago I took enough notice of my garden to realise I was walking past a large rosemary bush every time I went in or out. I hadn’t realised that rosemary has such beautiful flowers: these are a bright purple but I also have a couple of very neglected plants in pots whose flowers are much paler so I assume different varieties have slightly different coloured flowers.
And it turns out that they are edible too so are perfect for decorating cakes or salads. I read a post on The Kitchen Witch’s blog about edible flowers and she mentioned how beautiful rosemary flowers look against lemon cakes. Which got me thinking about how to use my flowers: there is nothing more exciting than using food straight from your garden, even if it is something as simple as a flower. A polenta cake seemed suitably rustic and then instead of just using rosemary as decoration I thought it would be good in combination with the lemon. Which turns out to be the case.
The flowers will wilt and lose their vibrant colour but when they do it is easy enough to take them off and replace them with fresh ones: if your cake should last more than a day, of course. I used a teaspoon and a half of rosemary so it is quite a subtle flavour but it is enough to give it a bit of interest. As it doesn’t contain gluten this is a crumbly cake, but although it cuts well into slices, it does tend to crumble a little when you eat it: next time I am going to try adding a teaspoon of xanthan gum and see if that makes a difference. Alternatively, if you don’t need it to be gluten free, just try substituting some or all of the ground almonds for plain flour.
150g golden caster sugar
2 large or 3 medium eggs
Zest and juice of a large lemon
1½ teaspoons rosemary, finally chopped
125g ground almonds (or flour, or a combination)
100g icing sugar, sieved
Juice of half a lemon plus water to mix
Rosemary flowers to decorate
Set the oven to 180ºC and grease, and line the base of a loose-based 8″ sandwich tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time and beat to incorporate.
Stir in the lemon zest and juice and the chopped rosemary.
Add the polenta and ground almonds (or flour) and fold in carefully.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level gently.
Bake for around 30-35 minutes, until risen, browned and firm to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for about ten minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
When the cake is completely cold make the icing:
Put the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Mix well and add enough cold water, no more than about a teaspoon at a time, until you get a thick pouring consistency.
Decorate the cake by drizzling the icing from a spoon back and forth across the top.