Oh to have thick skin.

It’s got to be a good thing. For one, less bruises, papercuts and scrapes. Another, perhaps less chance of an  infuriating tiny patch of pregnancy hormone induced eczema that is fetching me from sleep every morning without fail, sometime between 3.32 and 3.48 am (too much information? Possibly).

But on a metaphorical level, the world must be a much different place for those harbouring the emotional equivalence of water resistance.

The Hungry One is in many ways a simple creature. A few years ago he began to cleave the world’s population  into two segments; copers and non copers. I think you can guess which side he has the most time for.

I fear that for the last seven days, he lost his wife to the other side.  It was a wrinkle in time which my emotional compass lost its true north. The magma was bubbling just a little close to the surface.

Every comment became interpreted as barbed criticism, not just of the specifics, but of all actions that had led up to that point. The world became foe and I bunkered down in a corner and bared my teeth.

Things that did not help;

  • Seeing Amour as part of Oscars feast. Yes, it’s searingly honest and beautiful. But by gosh that’s a downer of a film. It left a glum shadow for days, like ghostly scum on the collar of a bath.
  • Being at that stage of being knocked up in which you’re not quite showing, but rather seeing in the mirror a lady who once looked like you with errant spots, fluffier cheeks and a rounding in her stomach that could just as easily be the relict of a long cold afternoon spent on the couch with a Tupperware of  congealed macaroni and cheese and a foil cylinder of garlic bread.
  • Stupidly transferring all of our rent for this month not to our landlord, but to a doctor I saw twice last year who has very similar initials.
  • The sound of people sniffing on the tube.

I found it hard to discern if the itching was on my skin, or merely a calling card from a cranky emotional core.

And then, like a swift dervish, it passed.  There were things that helped.

  • My first coffee in 14 weeks was definitely an accelerator. It wasn’t just the taste I missed, it was the ritual.
  • Taking the time to talk to very old friends back in Sydney.
  • Getting a little bit of darn perspective; if you’re not in a Syrian refugee camp Tori, then cheer the heck up. It’s just hormones.

So for a final shot of glee, I baked this cake. We’ve now reached the stage where the stowaway is the size of an orange. And it feels right to celebrate a fruit with good, thick skin. I no longer have time for fragile plums and soft centred berries.

My favourite orange cake is already on this site – it’s sturdy with almond meal and studded with dark chocolate. It was inspired by time with family and the citrus trees that fleck their back yards. I made it at that time with clementines, but you could just as easily substitute oranges.

This one is a little heftier and a little more Italian in its roots. It’s still gluten free, leaning on fine polenta as well as ground almonds for bulk. It’s dairy free too, for those who are looking for that, though you’d never know from the taste. There’s plenty of richness from olive oil rather than butter. And instead of investing the time in boiling the citrus until they’re soft, here you just throw a seeded orange, pith and all into a food processor.

I like to add a more savoury lilt with a touch of rosemary which has infused briefly into the olive oil, before being blended into the cake. Those woodsy green leaves were the first thing I had an aversion to, more than eight weeks ago now. I’m taking the fact that I can not only tolerate it, but that I’m excited to eat it as a victory.

This is a cake that’s even better made before eating. It will sink a little, but take its cracked, pocked and slightly distended appearance not as something to be glum about, but a mark that it’s harbouring good things on the inside.

Orange, Olive Oil and Polenta Cake

The cake is better served a day after it’s baked.

Serves 6-8

Shopping/foraging


4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups  white sugar
1 orange
1 cup olive oil
1.5 cups polenta
7 oz./200 grams ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder (if feeding to gluten intolerants, use gluten free baking powder)
1 tbsp of rosemary, diced
2 tbsp of flaked almonds

Here’s how we roll:

1) Preheat the oven to to 180C/350 F.  Grease and line a 23 cm springform pan with baking paper.

2) Add the rosemary to the olive oil and let it infuse until you’re ready to mix it into the batter.

3) Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer to whisk the eggs and sugar for ten minutes, until they have tripled in volume (this is how you will get a nice rise in your cake).

4) Wash the orange and cut it into eights and pluck out any seeds. Put it in a food processor or blender (skin and all) and puree.

5) Add the rosemary olive oil to the orange puree.

6) Alternate folding the polenta, almond meal and baking powder  and the orange and olive oil into the eggs and sugar Start with the dry ingredients and end with the dry ingredients.

7) Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

8) Sprinkle the top with flaked almonds.

9) Bake for 1 hr, until golden brown on top and sides and a stick from the centre emerges with crumbs, not damp batter. Cool on a cooling rack. Cover lightly with foil and serve the day after. Is lovely with both chocolate ice cream or creme fraiche/greek yoghurt.

 

Forty Weeks of Feasting; the journey so far

Wk 14 Lemon Creme Fraiche and Parmesan Pasta. Recipe here

 

Wk 13 Clementine/Mandarin Curd. Recipe here.

Wk 12 Plum and tomato tartines. Recipe here

Wk 11 Sprout and mushroom gratin. Recipe here

Wk 10 Date tart. Recipe here

Wk 9 Baby chickens, with roasted grapes. Recipe here.

Wk 8 Raspberries and elderflower spritz. Recipe here.

Wk 7 Blueberry pancakes. Recipe here

Wk 6 Lentil and ginger soup. Recipe here

Wk 5 Sesame Miso Crisps. Recipe here

Wk 4 Poppy seed scrolled loaf. Recipe here.