I’ve got used to policeman looking younger than me but now chefs are getting in on the act. Sad but true.
Still, when it’s Stevie Parle, one of the new generation (comparatively speaking) of culinary wunderkinds, I really don’t mind.
He is one of those people who creates the sort of apparently effortless food you really want to eat.
Having worked and/or trained at Ballymaloe, the River Cafe and Moro, he has the sort of culinary pedigree that immediately sparks my interest.
The Ballymaloe cookery school, run by Irish food guru Darina Allen, a legend in her own lunchtime: check. The husband-and-wife team, Sam and Sam Clark, and their terrific Spanish/Moorish-inspired restaurant Moro: check. And the justly famous River Cafe, set up by Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray and which has trained a series of chefs now hugely successful in their own right, including the Clarks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver: check.
Stevie Parle runs his own restaurant now, the Dock Kitchen in London, as well as writing cookery books, a column for the Daily Telegraph and making television programmes. And he’s still only 28. Ho hum.
His cookery writing is appetising and interesting while remaining refreshingly fuss-free. This is a recipe from his Telegraph column for a delicious and very pretty orange and polenta cake. It’s dairy- and gluten-free and makes a lovely dessert.
Stevie Parle uses extra virgin olive oil. I replaced it with extra virgin, cold pressed rapeseed oil, which tastes just as good and gives the cake an extra golden glow.
Blood oranges have a short season but you can still find them in the shops, labelled variously as blood oranges, blush oranges or sweet Sicilian oranges. Failing that, use ordinary oranges. It will still taste good but won’t look quite as beautiful.
The recipe suggests you use a loose-bottomed tin. Be warned, the juice can run, so stand it on a tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment when it goes in the oven. Or use a different tin. And do use fine-ground polenta.
You can find the original recipe here:
Stevie Parle's Orange Polenta Cake
5 large or 7 small oranges, preferably blood oranges
250g fine-ground polenta
200g ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 eggs, beaten
225 ml extra-virgin rapeseed oil
Put two of the oranges, skins and all, in a deep pan, cover with cold water and simmer for an hour until completely soft.
Drain, then remove any pips and whizz the oranges, including the skins, to a puree in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 170c/325F/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.
Scatter a tablespoon of the sugar over the base of the tin.
Peel the oranges then cut horizontally into 1cm slices, discarding any pips.
Arrange them in concentric circles, overlapping, on the base of the tin. I failed to do the overlap and the cake, while still beautiful (I think) had rather sad bits of batter showing between the slices. Harken to the maestro.
Combine the dry ingredients in a big bowl and add the beaten eggs.
Stir in the oil and orange puree, stirring well to avoid any lumps.
Cool in the tin before inverting onto a plate to serve. Lovely with creme fraiche.