Have I ever mentioned my secrete love for polenta? Polenta might have been a topic in the past but I hadn’t posted a recipe yet, which is a shame of course. Golden Polenta is one of my all time favorite side dishes and definitely a comfort food in my world. It’s easily cooked, in fact you just have to add some liquids such as water, stock or milk, some simple seasoning and the polenta flour to create a quick and scrumptious polenta meal.
Polenta is a very Italian term for coarsely ground grains. In our time, we associate polenta with maize corn but it wasn’t always like this. Before the New world was conquered and corn was introduced in Europe, people would make polenta with farro and spelt grains. In the mystical 12th century fictional book “Baudolino”, by Umberto Eco, Polenta is frequently mentioned. I remember a special funny passage in the book where Baudolino’s friend has a regular polenta bath because he believes that it would keep away the black death. I am not sure if it makes sense having a bath in food to fight the pestilence while folks are hungry. The authors point was mostly that polenta, made with farro, corn or other, is very creamy when turned into a porridge so to say it’s ultra starchy and gelatin like and therefore apparently has great use that way in the fantasy world. The book itself is hard to explain so you will have to read it.
In real world, we tend to serve polenta as a savory side dish in Europe. However you can always turn polenta into sweet cakes too or eat it for breakfast as porridge. The latter is kind of a traditional breakfast pot in Austria and other parts of europe. I believe the best way to enjoy polenta is with a tomato based saucy main dishes such as stuffed tomatoes, shakshuka or the recent stuffed eggs.
If I am not too lazy I will turn the polenta porridge into crispy squares. You do that by spreading the polenta porridge on an even surface. You let it cool, you cut out and either grill or fry the “patties”. You can use a cookie cutter for that, but I try to avoid this because I don’t like the inconvenience of polenta border wastage, know what I mean? So instead I cut them into easy squares with a knife and I have to tell you, I prefer them smaller because they are easier to handle that way.
In India, Polenta can be bought in western style grocery stores (you get it online too). In Goa we get the Italian polenta which tastes a bit different to the one I grew up with in Austria. In fact polenta is not always polenta and it often depends on the brand you buy. Again, I haven’t tried all brands, simply because polenta is not always easy to get and it’s rather expensive in India compared to Europe.
By the way, apparently grits and polenta are the same just that grits is suppose to be ground from a fairer corn type. I am not sure since grits is rather known in the US and Canada. So in case you can try making those squares with grits but I can’ t guarantee that it will taste good. But if you use Italian style polenta for these polenta squares, you will be on the right path to infuse some flavor into your live.
- 700 milliliter vegetable stock or water+1 small veg Maggie cube
- 1-2 garlic pods halved
- 120 grams sieved polenta
- pinch salt
- pinch pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons Oil
- Add the veg stock or water with the crumbled in maggie cube to a cooking pot and keep on the stove. Throw in garlic pod(s) too. Wait until it cooks, then add the polenta and season with salt and pepper.
- Keep on low heat and stir frequently. The mixture will get cooked very quickly and it can burn quickly as well so keep on stirring with a whisk until it starts to pop out and it is thick enough. Fish out and discard the garlic pod(s)
- Take from the heat and evenly spread the still soft polenta onto a previously prepared tray with butter paper (baking paper). It should be about 1-2 cm thick.
- Once it's cooled and hard, cut out the squares.
- If you want to grill, brush your squares with oil first or fry on both sides in a frying pan with the oil until crispy on the outside.
- Best served with tomato based dishes. See recommendation in post above.