Did you know just how many lettuces three hens can destroy in a short space of time? I didn’t, until our hens decided to demonstrate, and it turns out to be pretty much all the lettuces they can find. Most of the time the hens live in a large run, but when I’m out in the garden I like to let them out. The idea is that they make themselves useful by eating slugs, snails and other garden pests. Only problem is that, unless they are watched all the time, they can do way more damage than the slugs they’re supposed to be eating by helping themselves to the tasty young vegetables.
One other thing I’ve learned is that hens, like slugs, prefer green lettuces to the red ones growing right next to them.
Whenever the hens devastate yet another area of the garden, I try to focus on the fantastic eggs they lay for us, and what better way to do that than by baking a cake. I know that it’s not so long ago that I posted another rhubarb recipe, but this cake was really easy to make and tasted great, so I wanted to share it. It has quite a firm texture, but is moist and not too heavily flavoured – great for a pudding, just add some fresh cream, or with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a cup of coffee for an afternoon treat.
The idea of cooking the rhubarb in orange juice came from a friend, who uses the juice to sweeten the rhubarb slightly and cut down on the amount of sugar needed. It works really well in this cake, adding moisture as well as flavour. A lot of polenta cake recipes use ground almonds, but I didn’t have any, so used flour instead. If you want to keep the cake flour-free you could use the same weight of ground almonds. I’m planning to try it this way, as soon as I remember to pick up some ground almonds.
Rhubarb & Orange Polenta Cake
225g rhubarb, cut into small chunks
Zest and juice of 1 orange
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
115g fine ground polenta
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 160oC, 325F, Gas 3, and line a 20cm (8″) cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the rhubarb and orange juice into a saucepan and cook over a medium to low heat until the rhubarb is soft enough to break up almost into a puree. Cut the butter into cubes and put in a large bowl. Then add the warm, cooked rhubarb to the butter and stir until the butter has melted through and there are no lumps left. Add the sugar, then the eggs and stir well. Add the orange zest, polenta, flour and baking powder and fold them in gently, until everything is combined.
Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin, and bake for 50-60 minutes – until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then cut into slices and enjoy.