It’s only in the past few years that I’ve discovered the delicious wonder that is polenta.
Polenta is a maize porridge whose name derives from the Latin for hulled or crushed grain. Yellow in colour, the end result often has a soft texture and is gloopy-like, but don’t let this description put you off.
With a little love and a mixture of ingredients, you can come up with something that is quite filling and very enjoyable.
Here’s a take on this ingredient with added curry and cheese (don’t worry, if you can’t stand the heat, this is incredibly mild). I promise that it doesn’t taste like gruel!
- 140g polenta
- 900mls water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 100g Parmesan or Grana Padano
- Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan then add a teaspoon of salt.
- Add in your polenta steadily with a whisk and continue to stir in until it thickens.
- Turn your heat down to low and cook for about 40 minutes. Unfortunately you have to keep an eye on it, so I would recommend stirring or whisking every 10 minutes. If it starts to look a bit clumpy, simply add a dash of water and stir quickly to loosen it up.
- After 40 minutes or it looks swollen and doesn’t taste raw, stir in your Parmesan and curry powder. Take off the heat.
At this point you can choose to firm up your polenta by cooling, but I often prefer to eat it out of a bowl like rice pudding!
To firm the polenta, lightly butter a baking sheet or some sort of shallow dish and pour in your polenta. With a spatula, spread it evenly and leave it to cool at room temperature. This will make your polenta easy to cut into shapes for deep frying or baking.
There are many types of spring rolls in Vietnam, but the ones I’ve always adored are “Nem Ran”, which are the most popular rolls in the north.
Though they can take some time to put together, the end result is a really crispy roll that’s jam-packed full of goodies.
If you’re not sure where to head to buy supplies, you can find the ingredients in most Asian food stores – I know that recently Tesco have been stocking wood ear mushrooms and they have white crab meat too.
Here’s my recipe for homemade spring rolls and their traditional dipping sauce Nuoc Cham – good luck!
Makes about 14/15 depending on the size of your rice papers (I tend to use medium/small wrappers)
Spring roll ingredients:
- 200g white crab meat
- 250g pork mince
- 2 fresh spring onions
- 150g vermicelli noodles (soaked until soft in hot water)
- Handful wood ear mushrooms (soaked for 15 minutes until re-hydrated)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- A packet of circular rice papers
- Oil (for frying)
- White pepper
Dipping sauce ingredients:
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 ½ tbsp fish sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- Optional: chilies
- Combine the pork, crab meat, wood ear mushrooms and spring onions in a bowl.
- Drain your noodles well and then chop them finely.
- Add your noodles into the bowl with the meat mix and season with fish sauce, salt, white pepper and stir.
- For the next part I usually use 2 large plates, (one with the lukewarm water and one for placing the finished rolls on) and a chopping board, with paper towel on the side to soak up excess water.
- Soften your rice papers in the water for about 30 seconds and place on the chopping board (if you leave them in any longer they tend to tear apart and it’s hard to seal them).
- Place a small spoonful of the mixture in the middle of the wrapper and wrap the rounded edge on the bottom, up over the mix.
- Then fold the both sides inwards over the mix edges and roll up into a cylinder. Place the roll onto a plate and continue stacking them on top of each other.
- In a large frying pan heat enough oil so that it’s about 1cm in height on a medium heat (wait until it starts to sizzle).
- Fry the spring rolls for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, but place them apart so they don’t stick (be careful with the oil, I usually place a splash gauze over the pan).
- Drain the rolls on a paper towel and serve with dipping sauce.
Dipping sauce method:
- Place the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and water in a small dish and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Add garlic and lime juice, and stir to combine (add chilies if you so wish).
- Enjoy with your crispy rolls!
(Images and recipes copyright of Úna-Minh Kavanagh)
One variety of potato that I can gobble up time and time again are roosters and they make for an amazing baked treat.
With a floury, yellow flesh, the potato is perfect for being stuffed and baked and the combined flavours make it pretty darn tasty!
Here’s my recipe for stuffed rooster potatoes with goat’s cheese, vegetables and chorizo – if you’re going for vegetarian, simply leave out the meat. You can also prepare these potatoes in advance – they’ll need a 25 minutes to warm through.
Serves: 3 (2 potatoes each per person)
Time: 1 hr 20 minutes (or less, sometimes the rooster potatoes only need 45 minutes in the oven, dependent on size)
- 6 medium rooster potatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 medium courgette
- Half a medium aubergine
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of tomato purée
- 125g of goat’s cheese (I used the gooey kind but crumby also works nicely)
- Olive oil
- Handful of basil
- Salt and white/ordinary pepper
- Optional: chorizo sausage cut into slices (I just use as much as I like!)
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180°C.
- Prepare your potatoes by pricking them a few times with a fork and then popping them into the oven for 45mins to a 1 hour (or until cooked – the skins will look and feel looser).
- While they’re cooking, dice all of your vegetables, put them in a bowl and lightly toss them in a dollop of olive oil. You can add the chorizo now if you wish.
- Season with salt and white pepper.
- If you’ve an extra grill for the next part that’s great, otherwise you’ll have to wait for the potatoes to finish. Grill the mix for about 10 minutes until lightly charred, give them a toss about 5 minutes in.
- When the potatoes are ready let them cool slightly and cut the top off of them with a sharp paring knife.
- Remember to turn the oven on back to 180°C if you’re using just an oven/grill like I do!
- Scoop out the inside and mash it all up, add the purée and goat’s cheese and slowly add in the grilled vegetables and chorizo.
- Add half a teaspoon of shredded basil, and season again with salt and pepper (remember to taste as you go along!)
- Refill the potato skins as high as you can go with the mix and return to the oven for about 10 minutes to give them a warm through.
- Take them out and serve with shredded basil on top and an optional extra bit of goat’s cheese (I’m addicted to the stuff).
Note: I find that I did tend to have leftover filling after so I usually use it to stuff marrows or courgettes. Makes for a nice alternative! Also, you could make it into an alternative potato salad with a bit of mayo.
(Image and recipe copyright of Una Minh Kavanagh)