That’s quite a lot of ingredients in a title, isn’t it: Green tea, lime, passion fruit AND polenta. What I didn’t mention was the olive oil, lime leaves and the almonds. No kitchen sink though. It’s just that I couldn’t decide what ingredient to emphasise so I typed them all down; I hope that doesn’t put you off. It sounds a bit fussy, I know, but I promise you it is anything but. If you have ever made a polenta cake, you know that this will be easy. If you haven’t, please just trust me. You won’t regret it. It easily works as a dinner party pudding when paired with the fresh passion fruit curd; an easily-kept, lunchbox-friendly cake on it’s own; or maybe even a fresh and zingy alternative to the traditional simnel or chocolate cake this Easter Sunday.
Other than the pick and mix assortment of flavourful ingredients I also have a tweak that I think makes this cake as light as any containing flour, of which this cake has none. And I even have Claudia Rodin‘s blessing. Well, not directly of course – that would be a no-brainer blog title: I Got Thumbs Up From The Iconic Cooking Goddess, Claudia Roden. What actually happened was I was listening to an interview with her on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour (old-fashioned title; great show) while actually making this cake for a nutrition class (spooky, huh) and she was discussing, among other foodie Spanish things, her almond cake (no polenta). She mentioned, in her beautiful Middle Eastern/French accent, how she separates the eggs, folding in the stiff whites to lighten the batter. I do that too and it really does give verticality and airiness to what should be a gloriously stodgy cake. And it can still be made enticingly heavy and puddingy if you soak – and I mean soak – it in sweet syrup. But I have gone all modern with this one and ditched the traditional Mediterranean, almost baklava-like sweetness, opting for seasonal freshness from super zingy passion fruit. I hope you approve.
And passion fruit, the most beguiling and intensely scented of any fruit, is my favourite. Despite the unpromising leather jacket and the poor ratio of seeds to flesh (pulp really), the passionfruit more than pulls its weight in flavour and colour. I love it best scooped straight out of the skin – seeds and all – and into my gaping maw, baby bird style. But I also like it mixed with Greek yogurt for the simplest of puds, in banana bread, in Asian noodle dishes, on pavlovas and in salsas. The strained juice is magical when added to soda water – or a cocktail. It is astonishingly versatile, probably because it isn’t too sweet or too sharp.
Nutritional Information: Sharp-sweet and heavily perfumed Passiflora edulis is certainly not local to these parts, originating in South America but also cropping in the US, South Africa and Kenya. But I don’t mind buying these non-local fruits because they are available when nothing else is doing in the fruit department except cold-storage apples. And their high hit-rate of nutrients makes it even more of an attractive proposition: Vitamins B2, B3, C, beta-carotene, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and fibre. Incidentally there are two main varieties: the purple ones are higher in Vitamin C and sold as produce, whereas the yellow skinned ones fruits are higher in beta-carotene and sold as juice. And lastly, cool fact of the day, passion fruit juice has a slightly sedating effect, and is highly prized by Brazilian mothers for just this reason!
Buying and Preparation Guide for Passion Fruit: Pick deeply wrinkled fruits – the heaviest and largest examples – as this should indicate a decent juice content. If you can only get smooth ones they will ripen up in a few days at room temperature. Otherwise store passion fruit in the fridge. To prepare, just cut in half and scoop out the seeds and orange, pulpy flesh. If you don’t want to eat the seeds, or if you can’t tolerate them, just press both seeds and flesh in a sieve. Not very much juice will pass through but it will be highly flavoured and aromatic. For actual juice, you will have to press a heck of a lot of passion fruits and I would just go for a best quality bought juice or go to a juice bar where they have clever machines to do all the work for us.
And, starting from now I will be asking my music-mad daughter, Rachel, to recommend a piece of music to go with the recipe – either the making of or eating. She has an eclectic musical palette but I trust her judgment implicitly. I really hope you like her sizzlin’/cookin’/smokin’ tracks.
What’s your favourite fruit? Do you like it best ‘straight’, or in a recipe? What fruit are you most looking forward to eating come summer time?
A fine cake for Easter Sunday or any Spring day, when passionfruits are in season and at an (almost) reasonable price. And don’t worry if you don’t have the matcha green tea; although it gives a subtle taste and gorgeous glow to the cake, it is absolutely fine without it. Some of my photos are without it. Same goes for the lime leaves.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and well-risen. If it seems to be browning too quickly just cover it loosely with baking parchment.