It’s been a New Year’s resolution of mine for a few years to make polenta – i always enjoy it in restaurants yet have never cooked it myself. Yesterday was the day!
My dear friend Laura who lives in Florence sent me a wonderful Tuscan cookbook for my birthday and after a long 3 days completing the 3 Peaks Challenge the Tuscan Ragu recipe provided inspiration for a comforting, warming, tasty dish that kept me happy in the kitchen yesterday afternoon.
For the Ragu
1 Carrott – diced
2 sticks Celery – diced
1 Onion – diced
2 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
Sprinkle dried Chilli and Oregano
20g Pancetta Cubes
300g Minced Pork
2 Sausages – remove the skin and mash the meat
Handful Chestnut Mushrooms – chopped
Handful dried Porcini Mushrooms – chopped (save the soaking liquid)
3/4 Pint Sangiovese Wine (or any Italian Red)
1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tin Plum Tomatoes
3/4 Pint Beef stock
Handful Basil leaves – torn
For the Polenta
5tbsp Extra Fine Polenta (Cornmeal)
2 Bay Leaves
2 handfuls Grated Parmesan
In a large saucepan, gently fry the celery, onion and carrott in some olive oil until softened. This is a classic trilogy of ingredients called a Mirepoix or Soffritto and provides the flavour base for the dish. After 15 minutes or so, add the pancetta , garlic and the dried herbs and continue to sautee for another 10 minutes.
Add in the pork mince and sausage meat – mix thoroughly and mash together. Stir in the mushrooms and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the wine in – don’t be surprised by how red the dish turns, allow the wine to reduce and once the mixture is dry, add in the stock, porcini liquid and tomatoes. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for at least an hour – add more stock if the dish starts to dry out.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Boil the bay leaves in a pan on a medium heat in 3/4 pint of water with some salt and olive oil. Add the polenta and whisk to avoid lumps. Turn the heat down and continue to whisk – add more water if needed. After 20-30 minutes the mixture should thicken up – you want it the consistency of a very creamy mash potato. At this point stir in the parmesan and add black pepper to taste.
To serve, scatter the basil leaves into the ragu and amend any seasoning.
Place the polenta at the base of the bowl with the ragu on top. Enjoy this warming, autumnal dish with some kale, tenderstem broccoli and sauteed sprouts.
As I am now a qualified nutritionist, it seemed only right that I put myself on a cleanse so that I am best placed to give advice to people as and when life takes me there.
The cleanse that I have chosen aims to nourish the tummy by repairing and rejuvinating the gut – taking out foods which are harmful to the digestive system and replacing them with foods which rebalance, replenish and nourish. My aim is not to lose weight but its to get my body to the best possible place to be fit, healthy and glowing! Anyway – more about that next week – for now I am sharing the recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Bustrengo which is a Bolognese Apple and Polenta Cake. Before the cleanse I am going out with a bang!
We ate similar cake in Bologna – its not too sweet – similar to bread and butter pudding I suppose. Best served warm with either custard or creme freche.
Serves 10/fills a 28cm loose bottomed cake tin
100g Fine Polenta
200g Plain Flour
100g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs – beaten
100g Runny Honey
55ml Olive Oil
100g Dried Figs – chopped
500g (approx 2) Apples – peeled and diced
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Zest of an Orange
Zest of a Lemon
Pre-heat oven to 180 degs and grease the cakes tin.
Mix together the polenta, flour, breadcrumbs and sugar in a large
mixing bowl. In a seperate bowl beat together the milk, eggs, honey and olive oil. Add this wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix together. Pop in the dried fruits, apples, zest and cinnamon and stir together.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes to an
hour or until a skewer comes out clean when poked through.
As i said earlier – devour whilst still warm with creme freche or custard and a glass of Italian red wine.
See you next week when I’ll be a week into the cleanse and on my way to a new, healthier self!
To cheer myself up today….and also start to use up some of the food in the cupboard before we move house – I baked a Marmalade, Coconut and Polenta cake. I know it sounds like a random mix of ingredients but the end result is lovely and tasty.
The recipe makes enough for two loaf tins worth….il admit, the first batch i forgot to put sugar in (oops!) but…..I can attest to the fact that the sugar-free version tastes nice as it benefits from the sweetness of the coconut and orange juice but obviously the sugar helps to balance out the slightly bitter marmalade taste. So…..its upto you which version you make!
Makes 2 Loaf Tins
180ml Rapeseed Oil
240ml Orange Juice
Grated zest of one Orange
70g Dessicated Coconut
70g Caster Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
180g Polenta (fine)
2tsp Baking Powder
For the Syrup
50g Caster Sugar
10ml Orange Juice
Preheat the oven to 180 degs.
Whisk the wet ingredients together including the marmalade, until it dissolves. Mix the dry ingregients together so all incorporated. Gently add them to the wet ingredients and mix together. The mix will be slightly runny – don’t panic – the oven will sort that out!
Line the loaf tins with greaseproof paper and fill them with equal measures of the cake mix.
Bake for 45minutes or until a skewer comes out clear.
To make the syrup, slowly heat the sugar, juice and water until bubbling and slightly syrup-y in texture.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven generously brush the syrup over the top so that the whole cake can soak it up for extra sweetness and moisture.
Leave the cake on a wire rack to cool and serve with some greek yoghurt.