Posts tagged polenta
Sweet berry polenta

I haven't made polenta for a while, and when I have it's usually been of the savoury variety either as a mash potato type side or set firm and sliced into rounds as more of a bruschetta base. 

This time however I want to sweeten it up just a little so that it became more of a dessert like base as a summer breakfast, desert, or snack.

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This is another versatile recipe that you could dress up however you wish with the simple notion that you whip up a batch of polenta as per usual but adding a little sweetness and spice to suit. I also added fresh raspberries to the mix and fresh blueberries on top by pressing them into the top of the mixture once i'd spread it out before chilling. Fresh berries are great here as the polenta is not baked so the sweet berries remain nice and juicy without risk of burning.... I usually use frozen berries if they are to be baked in this way.

Allow the dish to set in thin-ish layer (I used a brownie tin and flattened the mix with my fingers just under 1 cm thick) and then slice into squares or use a cookie cutter for pretty edges as I did. Once you have the top and bottom 'layers' you can add fruit, yoghurt, granola, nut butter, chocolate mousse....as you wish in between! The polenta layers remain soft and this suits more of a chilled desert since the layers are best served cold for firmness to hold their shape.

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Recipe: Sweet berry polenta

serves 2-3  (4-6 slices depending on size)

Ingredients

  • 50g quick cook polenta
  • 200g water
  • 80g apple puree (or 1 mashed banana)
  • ¼ tsp stevia (or sweetener of choice to taste)
  • 2 handfulls of berries ( I used raspberries in the mix and blueberries on top)

Method

Cook the polenta with the water according to packet instructions- mine was quick cook and took 3 minutes stirring continuously. Once thickened add the fruit puree and stevia and mix well, add some of berries if you want a pretty coloured/textured mixture.

Using damp hands or a rolling pin roll the mixture to approx 1cm thick and press the remaining berries into the top.

Allow to chill and then cut into slices with a knife or cookie cutter and serve in layer with fillings of choice.

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Crispy polenta crackers

I found myself in a polenta frame of mind this morning, triggered by this chocolate shortbread, of which there is now a gluten free version…recipe coming soon! It had been so so long since I’d made that shortbread, and I’d forgotten has delicately crisp and crumbly it was.

Anyway back to the polenta. There it sat in it packet on the kitchen worktop, waiting to be buried back inside my baking box, until another recipe then popped into my mind. Another recipe I’d first tried out months and months ago, and I seem to remember at the time the Boy had said, ‘Mmmm, this tastes like pork crackling’!

Er, well I didn’t think it tasted like crackling so don’t worry. But I do understand what he meant…these crackers are super duper crispy, you’d think they’d been deep fried to get that intense crunch, but nope they are simply baked.

The healthy way to a dipping chip!

The key is to slice the polenta as thinly as possible and then bake the slices on a lower heat for longer, and then double bake for extra crispiness. You can mix up the seasonings however you wish. I went for a slightly Mexican theme as I teamed these with my veggie chilli.

Recipe: Crispy Polenta Crackers

Makes one bowlful

Ingredients

  • ½  cup instant polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp cajun spice mix (chilli, garlic etc)
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

In a sauce pan mix polenta with water, add remaining ingredients and simmer for approx. 5 minutes stirring continuously until mixture begins to thicken but is still pourable.

Pour/spoon into a small loaf tin, smoothing the top as much as possible and allow to set then firm up in the fridge.

Once set firmly, remove the polenta loaf from the tin and using a sharp knife slice as thinly as possible, laying each slice on a greased/lined baking sheet

Bake at 150C for approx. 20-30 mins depending on the thickness of the slices. If the slices are not yet crispy in the centre but the edges are done, allow to cool and then re-bake for a further 10 minutes or as long as necessary.

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Pesto polenta bruschetta

I gave you a little teaser yesterday and now here it is…

Pesto polenta bruschetta.

The perfect light lunch option, it’s also a lovely twist on tradition since the polenta offers a tasty gluten free alternative to traditional crusty bread.

The recipe is pretty simple, but it’s more the concept that I was going for really. The idea of using polenta as a bruschetta base delicately flavoured with pesto and then topped with a pesto coated bruschetta medley. Perfectly delicate (dare I say it ‘summery’) flavours, you could mix and match with other ingredients to suit your tastes.

The polenta is simply made mixed with water according to the packet instructions. Just add a dollop of pesto to the mixture too. I used quick cook polenta and whipped it up in 3 minutes in my Thermomix, but it would also work in exactly the same way on the hob- just keep stirring until it thickens.

You don’t need to be too precise with the topping ingredients, below is just a guide so just throw in what feels right!

This really does seems like a summery dish, why is that?  What makes some foods comforting winter dishes, like my sweet potato coconut curry or chickpea and lentil soup, and some foods much more ‘spring’ like? Well I am going for the spring option today, we’ve had some glorious warm weather recently although I haven’t spent much time outside in it, and the daffodils are well and truly emerging now.

Spring is most definitely in the air…happy times!

Recipe: Pesto polenta bruschetta

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • Quick cook polenta
  • Water (amount varies depending on how much polenta used- see polenta packet instructions)
  • 2-3 tbs pesto divided between polenta and the topping
  • 1 onion- chopped finely
  • 2 handfuls tomatoes- chopped
  • Half a red pepper- chopped
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • A few sprigs of fresh basil
  • Vegan parmesan- optional

Method:

Cook the polenta according to the packet instructions and then pour/spoon immediately into a lined loaf tin (size based on the amount of polenta you’ve cooked up). Allow to cool and set in the fridge.

Once set, cut into 1cm thick slices before frying on a griddle for approx. 5 minutes. each side to achieve a slightly golden crisp coat (mine should have had a little longer ideally). You couod oven bale the polenta.

Note any extra polenta can be stored in the fridge for a few days prior to its second cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare the bruschetta topping by combining all the remaining ingredients and toss together with the remaining tablespoon of pesto. 

If serving the polenta hot, heat the topping through before spooning over.  Alternatively, both polenta and topping can be served cold.

Dust with a little vegan parmesan if desired.

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Chocolate shortbread

I had been wanting to make shortbread for a long time, but for me it was a battle of wills- shortbread is traditionally so full of butter and refined sugars and flours and... hmmm not a lot else!  It sat at the back of my mind for a while until enough was enough and I was determined to find a way to create a tender crunchy, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread style cookie.  I think I have succeeded here! I may well need to make a few more batches to really 'test' out the recipe properly... that will keep the boy happy as he claims these cookies to be the best so far!

The main ingredients I subbed were coconut butter for the traditional butter (any mild flavoured oils would also work well) and a mix of agave, stevia and rapadura (raw evaporated cane juice) for the refined sugar. It is worth noting here that the runnier the oil/butter is the easier it is to use as otherwise it can become more difficult to create a dough if the coconut butter is too solid- I had a few troubles here initially so I think it is very much down to getting a nice runny butter consistency and then mixing the ingredients together without delay!

I have been going a bit crazy recently trying to come with a way to make crunchy cookies without any (or much) granulated sugar. Typically granulated cane sugar provides the structure that creates the crisp crunch and chewy texture of cookies. Many of my earlier cookie experiments with agave just didn't have this elusive crunch! I'm still working on it and have a few more ideas up my sleeve. The recipe for the shortbread uses part granulated sugar but also supplements some of the flour for polenta which helps bring back the crunch, the coconut butter also creates the delicate texture.

....... Enjoy!

Recipe: Chocolate shortbread

Ingredients

(makes approx. 20)

  • 200g coconut butter (homemade from coconut flakes- could use coconut oil also)
  • 40g agave
  • 40g rapadura (or other unrefined granulated sugar)
  • ¼ tsp pure stevia
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 40g ready to cook polenta
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 70g arrowroot

Method

Whisk melted coconut butter with sugars and stevia and vanilla in a large bowl for a couple of minutes.  Mix dry ingredients together and slowly add to the wet ingredients until a thick but pliable dough is formed. Roll into a cylinder approx. 6cm diameter and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (may not be necessary if stable enough). Cut into 1cm thick rounds (nice if they end up a bit ‘squashed’ circle looking). Lay on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake for approx. 15 mins at 180C.

This is another versatile recipe and you could add other spices, chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit to the mixture. I made a second batch with coarsely ground cranberries and cacao chunks. You could also reduce the cocoa powder slightly and add up to 1 tsp chocolate extract to make the cookie a richer chocolate taste if needed (however I haven’t yet tried doing this).


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Spicy polenta with greens and beans

First up- polenta! 

I was pretty happy with my first attempt yesterday so feel it justifies its place on my blog. Simple, versatile, healthy food… what more could I want?

So polenta, or more appropriately cornmeal as that is what it is. Having never cooked this stuff before I set about my research. From what I gather traditional polenta is made from coarse cornmeal stirred slooowly and continuously for a long time, ( about 30 minutes) however the product I came across was instant polenta, by Merchant Gourmet, which cooks in 5 minutes ( however still arm-ache inducing!). For a first timer like me this approach appealed.  From reading various reviews it seems that many now opt for the instant variety (even the Italians to whom it is their tradition), however the texture and richness may not compare but I guess this largely comes down to personal choice. I will give it a go one of these days with the real thing.

The options for serving polenta seem almost endless, another good reason it appealed to me and is sure to succumb to further experimentation:

  • Soft and creamy like mash potato or porridge
  • Formed into a firm loaf and sliced
  • Cubed and used as ‘croutons’
  • Spread thinly and sliced into ‘crackers’
  • Used as a base for Italian bruschettas
  • Served as pancakes for a sweet or savoury topping

….Then to serve: baked, grilled, fried…. with herbs or a marinade.

Choices choices!

Recipe: Spicy polenta with greens and beans

Serves 2 but can easily be doubled

I decided to spoon the polenta (once cooked as per packet instructions in a large sauce pan stirring for 5 minutes in 4 times the amount of vegetable stock to polenta) into a loaf tin. Once chilled I cut this into thick slices, sprinkled it with chilli powder and paprika for a bit of a kick and then oven baked the slices laid out on baking parchment for approximately 15 minutes, flipping over half way through. Yummy!  I served this up with a fusion of tomatoes, onion, beans  and spinach.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 2 large handfuls spinach (or other leafy greens)
  • Handful of fresh chopped basil (optional)
  • 1tsp mild chilli powder (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

In a large saucepan or wok (I always seem to use a wok for everything as I find it more forgiving for eager stirring of the contents!) heat 1 tbs oil and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add the spice (if using), tomatoes and kidney beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer and str fry for 2 mins or until wilted. To serve, arrange the polenta slices around the edge of a shallow bowl (again my favourite form of dish due to practicality!) and spoon the tomato mixture into the centre. Garnish with chopped basil and seasoning.

P.S you can also make a larger batch of polenta and store the cooked (but unbaked) leftovers in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.


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