May 30th, 2010

Orange, Polenta and Wild Sumac Shortbread

It’s nearly a year ago since we visited Simon and Libby Langford at their beautiful boutique guest house Swan Hill House in Devon. Simon and Libby have an incredible eye for detail and everything is super perfect. From the decor in the individually styled and decorated rooms to Simon’s spectacular but very carefully prepared and well thought out  top class breakfast. Everything was perfect even the biscuits that Simon baked and left in a jar next to the carefully selected tea and coffee making facility.

As a matter of fact these have been  on my mind and have featured on my “to do list” ever since and that is to recreate Simon’s Orange and Polenta Biscuits.

I remember the orange fragrance and grittiness of the polenta very clearly,so it was a challenge  but I finally  made the time to create and perfect my own version of my distant memory of last summer.

I made and tweaked the recipe a few times  before I decided that I have done Simon justice and I’m happy with the result. I wanted to capture the flavours and textures. These biscuits are very short and crumble easily but the radical contrast in the texture of the polenta grains and the shortness that the cornflour brings to this recipe makes it even more exciting. In order to enhance and compliment the sharpness and acidic level of the orange flavour  I garnished each biscuits with wild sumac.The sumac has a sharp sour twang and compliments and  magnifies the orange fragrance and the best of all is it’s all natural.

What is sumac? Sumac is a deep red purple berry that grows on a small tree like shrub and is one of 250 species of flowering trees from the genus Rhus and is in the family anacardiaceae. Edible wild sumac is not to be confused with poisonious sumac which also has red berries. The two varieties are related and are also distantly related to the mango and cashew trees. The purple red berry is dried, ground and often used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony tang to salads and meats. In Arabic cuisines sumac is used to sprinkle over mezze such as hummus. In Iranian, Kurdish and Persian cuisines sumac is added to rice and kebabs. Sumac is also best known for its use in the composition of Za’atar spice mix as its the main ingredient.

Orange, Polenta and Wild Sumac Shortbread

  • 125g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 55g caster sugar + extra for baking
  • 100g plain flour
  • 30g corn flour
  • 50g polenta
  • Zest or 2 oranges
  • Wild sumac

Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until pale and fluffy.

Add the polenta and cream the mixture for a further 1 minute.

Fold the flour and cornflour into the creamed butter mixture.

Transfer the dough onto clingfilm and form into a sausage shape about 3cm in diameter, refrigerate for 1 hour.

Unwrap the dough sausage, roll it in caster sugar and re-roll into its original shape and thickness. Refrigerate until hard, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Cut shortbread disks ½ cm thick slices, remove the clingfilm and roll each slice in more caster sugar, and place on baking tray, sprinkle sumac.

Bake for 12 minutes, dust with more sugar once it comes out of the oven.

Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack and chill.

Makes about 22 - 24 biscuits


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14 Comments to “Orange, Polenta and Wild Sumac Shortbread”

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  1. Dreamalittle says:

    Wow, I’ve been looking for some uses for sumac and never even considered this. They look beautiful as well, not so surprised as it’s you!

  2. Sally wollaston says:

    We had these biscuits when we came to the restaurant recently and they were divine! Thank you for sharing the recipe. This is the best restaurant I have eaten in Suffolk and one of the best I have ever eaten in.

  3. Alan North says:

    Firstly, thank you so much for your site and recipes. Top quality! We look forward to eating in your restaurant next time we are in the area.

    I made these biscuits early in November and loved them. Then I became diagnosed as coeliac and went through a period of gloom having baked since childhood. However, these biscuits made with Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Flour are even better! There are incredibly light and crisp.

    Thanks again!

  4. Sophia says:

    This is a really interesting combination of ingredients. That’s what I love about cooking! When someone can put together very different ingredients and come up with something delicious! When I make short bread, it’s usually just
    Scottish Shortbread

    Thank you so much for sharing!!
    ~Sophia

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