|ottolenghi's blood orange polenta cake|
o became british on sixteenth april twenty twelve. it is of course no secret that thirty two loves ottolenghi and so it should come as no surprise that ottlenghi’s creations were an important part of the celebration of his newly acquired status. on the morning of o’s citizenship ceremony the sun decided to show its face in what has otherwise been a very wet april. sadly, a rather stubborn bout of laryngitis had claimed my voice and i remained mute through the celebratory lunch at the islington ottolenghi. the ceremony itself was relaxed and informal. the mayor of finsbury spoke a little bit about the history of the borough and the culture of freedom of speech, democracy and diversity in the united kingdom. choreographed pictures by a photographer who wore a silky tie with a huge tigger and piglet print accompanied the citizenship certificates. o became british to the soundtrack of the beatles playing softly in the council chamber at islington town hall.
after the ceremony concluded we walked the short distance to ottolenghi and sat down to lunch. the flagship minimalist decor and white crockery amplifies the brightness of salads made with vegetables with autumnal tones like butternut squash, heritage carrots and aubergines. earthy grains like farro and quinoa brightened with pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs were like the first blush of spring that is sorely lacking in the weather outside. o and h indulged in a glass of prosecco whilst i had to content myself with a pot of green tea. the three of us had a choice of two salads and a side of meat. h had the lamb, o the beef and i had a thick fillet of salmon that came with a crown of marinated artichokes. o’s butterbean hummus is silky smooth and heavy with the rich sharp taste of tahini. the artichoke on my salmon added a lemony freshness that cut through the fattiness of the fish. chunks of butternut squash that had been roasted until the flesh is tender is lacquered with a piquant greek yogurt dressing. ottolenghi always creates food that appeals to all the elements of the palate – sweet, savoury, tart and bitter. visually, it is a riot of colour and is enough to lift ones spirits no matter how british the weather is.
|a slice of blood orange polenta cake|
at home, i had made the new citizen ottolenghi’s orange polenta cake delicately scented with orange blossom water. the cake draws texture from polenta and moisture from ground almonds and citrus fruit. its exterior has that pleasing chewiness that comes from the caramel used to glaze the slices of oranges that give the cake its distinctive orange studded surface. this is a cake that keeps well and tastes better as it sits. if you do plan to put it in the fridge i would recommend bringing it to room temperature before you serve it. it is a labour intensive cake in the sense that you will have a pile of washing up to do but it’s definitely worth the effort. it isn’t a very sweet cake although that may well be because i dispensed with the optional marmalade glaze. it is for this reason that o did not take to the dollop of crème fraiche that i served it with. i however like the contrast…
the recipe for orange polenta cake appears in ottolenghi the cookbook on page one nine five. an adapted version of it with american measurements is on the gourmet website.