Lemon semolina cake with rosemary drizzle

IMG_3880I know I am back home in Turkey because a) I have to have a shower or throw myself into the pool every time I’ve completed even the least arduous of chores, owing to looming heat exhaustion, and b) when I bent to pick up a towel that had blown down from the line, I realised I also seemed to be holding on to a viper. Ooops. That tends not to happen in Cornwall, though I am sure there is a first time for everything.

Anyway, said viper was not in the best of health and I lived to tell the tale – AGAIN – this would be about the eleventy-twentieth time I have picked up something that I didn’t intend to. Despite rescuing said asp on the long-handled dustpan and brush we keep for this very task, and taking him to a ‘safe place’ in the long grass across the road, he didn’t make it in the end. I suspect there had already been some foul play on the part of one of our moggies before the poor thing took refuge beneath the fallen towel.

Today is Thursday, so it is market day in Gökseki, the little village where we bought our house 16 years ago. This is a precursor to the weekly Friday market ten minutes away in Kaş, so it’s a great place for snaffling the freshest of fruit and vegetables the day before the rest of the town gets to them. Today’s seasonal offerings included plums, figs, damsons, pomegranates, enormous sweet melons, pumpkins, many types of bean, and cauliflowers the size of medicine balls. Our own trees are loaded with figs, oranges, lemons, limes and pomegranates, so there is plenty to go at without paying through the nose for imported bananas and last year’s apples. The veg lady also sells olives, homemade pasta, soup mix, a plethora of dried beans and lentils, pomegranate molasses, and various other essentials for stocking your kitchen ready for winter.

The other stall on the market (there are usually only two, though a kitchen paraphernalia stall does sometimes join in during the winter) sells clothes. This stocks everything from 1970s-style crocheted waistcoats and baggy fleece trousers to vaguely saucy underwear. I am always fascinated by the image of the village matrons sorting through the saucy underwear selection under the close scrutiny of the groups of elderly men sitting nearby drinking their tea, on a stall which sits right in the shadow of our village mosque. Apparently nobody but me thinks this is a somewhat quaint scenario.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to cake. Last weekend the charity which looks after our local dog sanctuary, and neuters and vaccinates the huge population of stray cats and dogs, as well as generally keeping tabs on their health and welfare, held one of its twice-yearly fund-raising coffee mornings. Yours truly was on a three-line whip to provide cakes for the bake stall and I decided to make something other than my usual offering of Bakewell tarts and fruit cakes (which do have quite a loyal following, so I was slightly nervous about deviating from the norm).

At the moment, I am experimenting with using semolina instead of ground almonds, as it seems to give a very similar open texture to cakes (or to soak up the juice in a fruit pie) for a tiny fraction of the cost. If you want to try this with a different ground almond-based cake, just substitute the same quantity of semolina for the almonds and, if you still want the almond flavour, just add a drop or two of natural almond extract. Polenta will also give a similar result, but with the added attraction of a beautiful yellow colour, so that’s worth a try too.

I found a recipe for a lemon and rosemary cake by Tamal Ray (former GBBO contestant), published in the Guardian, so tweaked that accordingly. It is made with olive oil, so happens to be dairy-free too. If you only have strongly-flavoured olive oil, or you want to economise on cost a little, feel free to substitute sunflower oil for some of the olive oil, though it will slightly change the flavour. Of course you could also make the cake using butter for yet another flavour and texture variation. For the avoidance of doubt, there are no raising agents in this cake – the eggs do that job.

Note: This is better made in a tin that is not lined with baking paper, as you may find some of the syrup trickles beneath the paper instead of being soaked up by the cake. If your tin is loose-bottomed, then obviously you’ll need to line it – just make sure the liner comes well up the sides of the tin so that the syrup remains on the correct side of the paper.

Lemon semolina cake with rosemary drizzle

200g olive oil
125g sugar
2 lemons (zest only – zested on a fine grater)
3 large eggs
150g plain flour
90g semolina

For the syrup
6 sprigs rosemary
Juice of 2 lemons (left over from cake mix)
100g sugar
60 ml water

You will need a 20cm cake tin, well greased (see note above)

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan).

Put the flour, sugar, semolina and grated lemon zest into a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the eggs and olive oil and whisk until smooth. (There are four eggs in my photo because my eggs were tiny).

Pour into the tin and scatter sugar generously over the top. Bake for around 35 minutes – the cake should be firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.


Once cool, poke small holes all over the cake with a skewer, then pour over the warm syrup – some of the syrup will pour over the sides of the cake, but the cake will absorb this from the bottom. Leave to stand for at least an hour before serving. Decorate with sprigs of rosemary if you wish – our rosemary is in flower at the moment, so it seemed rude not to.

For the syrup:

Put everything into a small saucepan (I used a Turkish coffee pan, which was perfect for the job). Over a medium heat, bring to the boil, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved, then turn down the heat to low, and simmer for five minutes.

NOTE: If you want to serve this warm as a dessert (which would be rather nice with some sour cream or thick yogurt), make the syrup ahead and allow to cool. Then skewer the cake and pour over the syrup while the cake is still hot, and leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.





3 thoughts on “Lemon semolina cake with rosemary drizzle

  1. Give it a go – it’s very easy – plonk everything in, stir it up! It would be rude not to, especially as your rosemary is in flower – Saturday evening pudding? Have you tried that new (I think it’s new anyway) yogurt that they sell in Migros? It is called Sek Ciftlik Gurme (kaymaksiz) – in a tall pot with a turquoise lid. It is SO yummy – like having sour cream or full fat creme fraiche, but only 10% fat (not that I really care about that bit, but not quite as bad for us as cream).


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