Back in the mid 1990’s I first came across an actor – who was to become one of my all time favourite actors and one of defining character actors of his generation – in a wonderful foodie film called, ‘Big Night’. Stanley Tucci both wrote, directed and starred in the film and I followed his career from then on. Anything he was in was worth a second look. And for those who love food ‘Big Night’ is a fantastic picture, a film that plays tribute to the deep emotional and cultural relationship we have with food; preparing, cooking and sharing meals that are passed down from one generation to the next.
In his cookbook, ‘The Tucci Cookbook’ – he has written quite a number – we get this delicious plum and polenta cake, a typical Italian cake that makes the most of the Summers bounty. If plums aren’t your favourite fruit, or you can’t get your hands on some, Tucci suggests swapping them for figs or pitted sweet cherries. Your call. Either way. yum.
87 g plus 2 tablespoons cornmeal
120 g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
185 g butter, softened
150 g granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 °F/176 °C. Grease and lightly flour an 19 x 5 cm round cake pan or an 19 cm springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
I’m going to buy the book. I’ll report from it at a later date. In the meantime enjoy.