Archive for ‘Polenta’

September 12, 2012

So September has come and the days are suddenly a little cooler. Summer is gone – what we had of it. But between the rains of June and July and the collective moment of forgetting everyone took through the Olympics and Paralympics, there were some occasional sunny, warm days. Summer did happen. We have the evidence here in the shape of some pictures of a back garden barbecue.

But what do you cook for a vegetarian at a barbecue? Nothing? C’mon! Buy some frozen veggie burgers and heat them through? Ugh. Make them a salad? What, to soak up the beer and wine? Don’t invite them? Jeez.

It’s a shame that more people don’t realise how much can cooked on a barbecue. Grilling vegetables, fruit and even cheese is simple – much easier than cooking meat, from what I gather from watching others – and is pretty much a surefire way of welcoming non carnivores to the party.

My theory is that a barbecue involves two things: smoke and good quality ingredients – ones that you’d enjoy eating if they were cooked in another way. Simple.

For us at ETP Towers, that means grilling skewers of mixed vegetables over charcoal. Try florets of cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke and beetroot. Mix the veg with cubes of halloumi and fruit – my favourite, mango, or even a strawberry. We also grill flat mushrooms, strips of aubergine and courgette and, of course, corn on the cob, par-boiled for a few minutes first.

For a marinade we often use a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a herb – thyme maybe, or rosemary – and chilli maybe, too.

Ella’s fab veggie burgers, here, would also go down a treat.

There are more spectacular things to barbecue – aubergine rolls with all kinds of fillings, chilli polenta slices, for example – but some of the above is so easy, so quick, that the question of what to feed a vegetarian at a barbecue should never need be asked again.

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December 30, 2011

2011 leftovers: Chilli and parmesan polenta recipe

Before we made this, a couple of months ago, I think I had eaten polenta about twice in my life. Each time it was bland and distinctly, well, horrible. I never wanted to go near t again. I’d see it on a menu and think “Ha, well they’re trying to be clever, but it won’t work,” or see it cooked on TV and think “They’re gonna taste it and say it’s nice, but they’ll be lying”.

Polenta. Italian peasant food. But I kept on seeing it and some of my favourite cooks feature a polenta recipe every time they release a new recipe book. So what was my problem?

Well, blandness and texture were the big things and, fortunately, they could be sorted. I wanted a polenta that was rich with flavour and didn’t feel like gritty mush in the mouth. Actually, it’s easy to achieve and, typing this up, I’d like some more of it now.

We cooked 250 grams of ‘coarse maize’ polenta in around a litre of simmering vegetable stock until it was soft, stirring regularly. I think that took about 20 minutes (to remove the granularity) but I could be wrong – so keep checking. We then stirred in some chopped birds eye chillis and a handful of grated parmesan/pecorino cheese, gave it a good mix and spread into an oiled shallow baked tray. After about 20 minutes, the polenta is cool and set firm. We could then cut it into triangles and grill/griddle it. This would work well on a barbecue, though it’s too chilly to be thinking about that at the moment.

We served our polenta wedges with greens and peppers – thinking of it as the carb on the plate in place of potato, pasta or rice. And it was really tasty. Honest. Consider me converted.