Roast Leek, Feta and Lemon Polenta Cake

The idea of a savoury cake is somewhat peculiar to me, however, the ingredients in the title tempted me to give it a go. I’m really glad I did. It’s very tasty and not at all cake-like. It’s more of a cross between a quiche and a bread. I served it with a couple of salads for a main meal, but this would be perfect picnic food as it’s summery, easy and robust enough to be portable. I made this when my mum came to visit, and she loved it. This recipe comes from Anna Jones’s, The Modern Cook’s Year.


4 leeks (about 500g) cut into 1cm slices

2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing

150g plain spelt flour

120g polenta

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon flaky sea salt

A good grinding of black pepper

2 tablespoons nigella seeds

The zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1/2 bunch of thyme leaves, picked

150g feta, crumbled

4 organic eggs, lightly beaten

100ml milk

200g plain yoghurt


  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Butter a loose bottom 24cm cake tin and line with baking paper.
  2. First, sauté the leeks in a tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat until soft. This should take about 10 minutes.
  3. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and use it to brush the baking paper. Meanwhile, put the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of the nigella seeds into a bowl and whisk to get rid of any lumps. Add the lemon zest, red chilli, thyme and the crumbled feta.
  4. Put the juice of the lemon into a small bowl and whisk together with the eggs, milk and yoghurt.
  5. Mix the yoghurt mixture into the flour mixture until just combined (being careful not to overmix). Once the leeks have cooled,stir half of them through the batter. Pour the batter into the lined cake tin and scatter the rest of the leeks on top, then sprinkle the reserved nigella seeds.
  6. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack to room temperature before slicing. 

Matcha, Pink Peppercorn and Cherry Madeleines

For my birthday, a good friend of mine gave me a book on Japanese patisserie by James Campbell. It’s a stunning book with beautiful photographs of high-end patisserie, a lot of which is way beyond my culinary ability. However, these madeleines caught my eye; very easy to make, exotic flavours and I already had matcha powder and pink peppercorns in the cupboard. All I had to do was to wait for an excuse to make them.

Two things happened in the same week. First, a colleague told me it was her birthday and then another colleague gave me a gift of an edible gold spray, goldas in real gold! So out came the madeleine recipe. It was really very straight forward. I used the spray to add a bit of birthday sparkle to the tops of the madeleines. Admittedly, madeleines are probably not the ideal vehicle for edible gold spray as the contrast of the colour was not strong enough. However, the birthday girl was delighted with her luxurious, exotic madeleines.


150g unsalted butter

50g ground almonds

¾ tablespoon matcha powder

50g plain flour

150g egg whites (about 4 large eggs)

½ teaspoon pink peppercorns, ground

12 cherries, halved with the stones removed


  • First make a buerre noisette (browned butter). Put the diced butter in a saucepan and set over a medium-high heat for around 5-7 minutes until melted and boiling. The fat at the bottom of the pan should go a nutty-brown colour, but be careful this does not darken too much and burn. Transfer the browned butter immediately to a heatproof dish and set aside to cool until just warm.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the ground almonds, matcha powder and flour.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the egg whites with the sugar until frothy.
  • Carefully fold the dry ingredients, the buerre noisette and ground pink peppercorns into the sugar and egg mixture until fully incorporated and no lumps remain. Transfer the mixture to the fridge to chill for at least an hour. You can also put the madeleine tins, greased with butter and dusted with flour into the freezer.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas 4.
  • Put the chilled madeleine mixture into a piping bag and pipe in enough to almost fill the prepared tin. Alternatively, you can spoon the mixture in.

Pistachio Gelato

One of the culinary highlights of a recent trip to Florence was the gelato. Naturally in the name of research I wanted to try as many flavours as possible: lemon and basil, tea and rose and even liquorice. However, the  hands down winner was the classic pistachio; nutty, creamy and very green. When I came back, I was keen to keep some of that Florence magic. So, what better way than to master pistachio gelato?

For me there is only once ice cream maker to go to for a recipe; David Lebovitz. His book, The Perfect Scoop, is devoted to ice cream, gelato and sorbet. His website is pretty cool too: David says that the key to making a truly outstanding gelato is the quality of the pistachio cream. The secret is to use a cream made with at least 40% Sicilian Bronte pistachios. These pistachios are often used in patisserie because of their beautiful green colour. I bought my pistachio cream in Florence, but you can buy it on the internet. It takes a while to make this gelato as the milk needs to chill, preferably overnight before the pistachio cream can be added. Also, you do need an ice cream maker. I can guarantee it’s worth it.

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 litres)

500ml whole milk

65g caster sugar (I only used 50g)

2 tablespoons corn flour

200g Bronte pistachio cream (my jar was 190g)

a few drops of lemon or orange juice


1. Make a slurry by mixing the 125ml of the milk with the corn flour, mixing until the flour is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

2. Heat the rest of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar.

3. When it almost starts to boil, stir in the corn flour mixture and cook at gentle simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl, and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

5. Once chilled, whisk in the pistachio cream and just a few drops of citrus juice until smooth.

6. Freeze the gelato in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.