Saturday, 19 July 2014

Simple warm weather salad and strawberry polenta cake

Sultry heat has Holland in its grip. We're hoping for torrential downpour tonight to freshen things up: things being our rapidly wilting garden as well as our cranky selves. Nights are spent under a single sheet, but somehow I find sleeping without my duvet unsatisfying. I'm hoping for some thunder and lightning tonight - if I'm going to lie awake I may as well have something exciting to listen to.

I have found it difficult to cook in this heat. Yesterday we went to the beach in the evening (beach visits during the day when it's sweltering hot are way too exhausting in my opinion)  and we took along a delicious and easy quiche, the recipe of which I will reveal in a later post. This evening I threw together the simplest of salads because that is what this weather  requires: simple, straightforward food with a minimum of fuss. The salad bowl was empty in no time and everyone felt instantly revived. I also used a punnet of strawberries to make a delicious summery cake.  Here are the recipes.

Simple Warm Weather Salad

(Thrown together with what I could find in my fridge and pantry - obviously a very versatile recipe, you could also add mozzarella or goat cheese)

5 tomatoes
1 bag of washed and chopped mixed lettuce
1 red onion
a few strips of bacon (organic)
140g pasta shells (we use spelt pasta)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
black pepper

for the dressing:

2 tablespoons extra vierge olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of dried basil (fresh - chopped up - would be nice too)

  • cook the pasta in salted water, then leave in a colander to cool down completely
  • finely chop the onion
  • slice the bacon roughly and fry in olive oil; set aside to cool down
  • roast the pine nuts in a heavy-based non-stick frying pan (watch they don't burn!); set aside to cool down
  • chop tomatoes into quarters
  • now toss everything together in a salad bowl; add a few generous grinds of black pepper
  • for the dressing: whisk all ingredients together, then taste whether you need a bit more of one or the other
  • put dressing on salad and toss: done!

Strawberry Polenta Cake
Adapted from Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson

(this cake will keep until the next day but should then be eaten)

A punnet of strawberries
150g coconut palm sugar
125g coarse polenta
200g spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • oil or butter a 20cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin. I prefer to line the tin with oiled parchment paper (see picture below)
  • preheat the oven 180 degrees Celsius
  • combine polenta, flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl; add butter and rub in with your fingertips until you have something that resembles breadcrumbs
  • break the eggs into a bowl, add milk and vanilla essence; whisk together; add to the crumble mix
  • blend everything together using your hands and/or a wooden spoon; you can do this using a food processor, but I enjoy doing things by hand
  • you should now have a soft and sticky dough
  • press two thirds into the tin, pushing it up the sides slightly and making sure there are no holes or cracks
  • place the washed, drained, hulled and sliced berries on top and throw blobs of the remaining mixture onto the berries
  • bake for forty-five minutes

The result first

Lined tin

Just out of the oven

Onto a plate and into my mouth: delicious


  1. Die polenta cake.... Jongens, jongens, ik zou een ongeluk kunnen begaan om daar een stukje van op te eten op dit moment !! Jammer genoeg geen polenta in huis, anders was ik er direct aan begonnen....

  2. What a gorgeous looking cake made with polenta. I've never heard of coconut palm sugar. How interesting!

    1. Coconut palm sugar is a healthier type of sugar because it still contains its minerals due to the fact that it hasn't been refined. An added benefit is that it doesn't spike blood sugar as much as normal sugar. It's a wonderful sweetener, to be used as you would normal sugar, and sold in health food shops.

    2. Thank you for explaining! Over here, I use something called Sucanat, which is also an unrefined brown cane sugar and still contains its minerals and gives a wonderful, almost caramel-like flavour. I'll look out for the coconut palm sugar next time I go shopping in the health food store!

    3. Oh yes, sucanat is great stuff too. You could definitely use it instead of the coconut palm sugar if you can't find any.

  3. The cake sounds yummy I make a polenta and rhubarb cake which is delicious not thought of trying it with other fruit might have to give that a go!

  4. That cake looks delicious, I wonder if I could adapt it to be gluten free

    1. Yes, I think you could substitute almond meal for the spelt flour - that should work fine, because I've made gluten fee cakes using only almond meal and polenta before and they were great.

    2. I will give it a go, thanks x

  5. Your cake looks delicious!!!!! I hope that you find some cooler weather comes your way soon. xx

  6. It's not so hot here as the rain arrived yesterday. Still struggling to join your site so I've missed lots of posts. Love the look of that strawberry cake.

    1. I've had quite a few technical difficulties joining sites - how annoying! Hope it will work soon. The rain arrived in the night and it is now a lot cooler, thankfully. What a relief!

  7. Both sound delicious, thank you for sharing. Strawberries are my favorite food, so I will definitely keep the cake in mind.


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