Tag Archives: polenta

Polenta ‘pizza’ with cherry tomatoes and some sort of cheesy topping.

This is not, of course, pizza. But it is delicious.

Polenta featured large in my father’s home cuisine – northern Italy. But it didn’t feature in my mum’s – southern Italy. And because my mum was the cook when we were growing up, I feel I can safely say we never had polenta. I would hear about it, but I could not get my head around what it was. Sometimes it was a powder, then it was solid, then like mash.

When I got older I tried making polenta and it was a disaster. Since then things have improved and it features in my home cuisine and I always find it comforting.

This recipe is from Delicious magazine. I like that the making of the polenta doesn’t involve loads of butter and parmesan – sometimes you want that, but not all the time. Of course you can vary the topping to have what you want on it. Because my children aren’t so keen on dolcelatte I bought some brie with truffles in it as a treat.

Anyway this is just delicious. It easily fed four of us and I had the left overs for lunch the next day (heat up for a few minutes in a dry frying pan, if you can cover it to catch the steam) and it was wonderful.

2 courgettes, sliced thinly (I used a potato peeler)

200g or so of cherry tomatoes, halve them

Olive oil for drizzling

600ml of milk

400 ml of chicken stock, either your own or made from a cube

250g instant polenta

50g cheddar, grated (or use some other cheese it’s okay)

80ml of passata

80g of dolcelatte or brie, thinly sliced

a handful of basil leaves to scatter

Method

Heat the oven to 200C. Spread the courgettes and tomatoes over a large baking tin, drizzle with the oil, season with salt and peper and roast for 10 minutes. This bit is important as you won’t be cooking the finished pizza for long enough to get the courgettes and tomatoes sufficiently roasted. When done set aside but leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, put the milk and stock in a large sauce pan and bring to the boil. Put the polenta in a jug and when the liquid boils, pour the polenta in a stream and stir continuously with a wooden spoon or large whisk. You want the mixture to thicken and bubble on the surface, like larva. Now turn down the heat and stir in the cheddar and season well.

Pour the polenta mixture onto a baking sheet (I find some baking parchment helps but is not essential), spread out thinly to a circular or rectangular shape. Spread the passata over – it will be very thin. Top with the roasted courgettes/tomatoes and the thin slices of cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Scatter basil leaves atop.

You can serve this with a salad but I like it on its own, with one fork, and my feet up on the sofa.

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Rosemary, polenta and olive oil biscuits

IMG_2679These won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I loved them. They’re easy to make, almost impossible to get wrong (unless you chucked them on the floor or something) and unusual. Like rosemary shortbread but with the advantage of no butter at all. I gave these to my father waiting, waiting, for him to say “too rich, too much butter” (this is what he always says about all my baking). So i could pounce and say “aHA, no butter in these NONE NONE and by the way, that New Year’s Even when I said I wasn’t out in a club aged fourteen I WAS and I’ve sustained the lie over thirty years.

Ahem. Exorcising a few ghosts there. I think this would be lovely with some rich vanilla ice cream or maybe a very strong espresso.

The recipe is here, on the Easy Living site. I have to say, I was very much not impressed with Easy Living the magazine in recent times. It had gone all silly and light weight; but they really lost me when they described women who breastfeed (and, I suppose, go on about it?) as breastfeeding Nazis or the Breastapo (I can’t remember which, but you get the idea). This is such an offensive term and belies a real ignorance of history.

I complained, and some flippety gibbet replied, completely not understanding my point. That was it, it was over for me and Easy Living.

The magazine has since folded but exists on line and its recipes are really good, and definitely worth checking out, even if the rest of the content, in my opinion, is as sustaining as a rice cake.

 

Polenta, that which binds us to the stove.

So. My dad is from the north of Italy. Parma. Yes where parmesan comes from and Parma ham, which obviously we just called prosciutto crudo (‘raw’ ham, as opposed to cooked ham: ‘prosciuto cotto’). And polenta is a big thing up there.

I’ve never made polenta. We always have some in the house, but I just sprinkle it onto trays before I make sourdough bread or pizzas. I love it though and far from being the peasant food of yore I see it as a real treat. Today, I saw this recipe from Angela Hartnett. Chard with polenta and blue cheese.

Looked nice. Looked easy. Looked warming.

“Cook the polenta according to packet instructions,” says Harnett, after you’ve added the milk and butter she recommends “the coarser type takes longer – about 20 minutes compared to five – requires more attention and stirring, but in my opinion is far better.”

Waitrose sells a polenta that is £5 for a bag. But hey, I thought, it’s the main component of the meal, I’ll get it. Bound to be nicer. Organic. Nice bag, from Italy.

What could possibly go wrong?

Lots. I’m not going to tear apart a recipe written by a Michelin starred chef, because I haven’t made it and if you make it with the readily available polenta it’s probably delicious and entirely do-able. I’ll never know. What I can tell you is that the polenta I bought – the lovely old fashioned kind – requires 90 minutes NINETYFUCKINGMINUTES of cooking. And it sucks up the liquid Hartnett tells you to put in within five seconds.

I rang my mum. This couldn’t possibly be true. She talked me through how you cooked polenta. You boil the water until it’s really angry boiling, put some oil in, then you sprinkle in the polenta and stir. If you get lumps in it at this stage, they never come out. Then she regaled me with tales of how in the old days, you had to cook it for two hours! And stir it continuously because otherwise it lumped up and if it lumped up at, say, the last moment, it was as if those preceding 119 minutes of stirring had never happened. She said this with a laugh as if she were telling me about how people used to send telegrams and could now just pick up a phone.

“I bought polenta that takes 90 minutes to cook” I told her.

“Whya didn’ta youa buy the quicka cooka polenta Annalisa?” she said, incredulous, quite rightly thinking what was the POINT of progress if her daughter had just spent so much money to go back in time, and not in a good way. Not to see Jesus and find out if he was, as I have always suspected, married. Or shoot any number of dictators or find out what happened to Lord Lucan. But to root myself to the spot for an hour and a half, stirring, have I mentioned, continuously.

I had no answer. I had created my own ball and chain.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am no slackard in the kitchen, but this was insanity. The fury of generations of Italian women before me welled up. (No wonder women didn’t have bingo wings back then. Stirring polenta for ninety minutes is a serious work out.)

My mum gave me this advice: “Just stirra it for as longa as you can stand it, then put itta in a tray, leave it and cooka it in the oven or slicea itta up and fry it.”

And this is what I’ve done. I’ve rebelled.

Be warned people, if you buy this polenta be prepared to spend 90 minutes chained to the hob. If you hate someone, buy it as a present for them.