So I have to start with an apology as I haven’t posted since about Wednesday. This is because of some super-fun I was having in my car, involving rear-ending a lady, then being rear-ended whilst waiting for the tow truck. It was a brilliant Friday. Let’s pretend it didn’t happen and I’ll catch up shortly with all the posts I had planned.
I had so much fun Wednesday. Not just because I visited a friend and her gorgeous toddler, not because it was just after said friend’s birthday and I brought her raw almond and coconut cake and a jar of tomato relish, not just because it’s holidays and roaming the streets of Brisbane is a lot of fun. Because I got to cook something entirely new AND it worked out first time. Whoa.
I made parmesan polenta batons with homemade aioli and tomato relish.
It was actually quite easy and, true to my style, done cutting many corners and over several days to make it super easy. I’m going to put tomato relish is a separate post, because it’s a preserve and therefore not made on the day. You can use a store bought relish or chutney if you prefer. Just buy quality so you’re doing the recipe justice!
The polenta was made on Tuesday. Now, I don’t make polenta too often, but when I do, I use Matt Preston’s recipe that I snipped out of the paper a couple of years ago. His recipe is for a wet polenta served with a sausage and mushroom sauce (I used vego sausages) and fennel salad. DeVINE. But as everyone who frequents wanky yet glorious cafes knows (and I sure do), your can “set” polenta, cut it up and grill/fry/bake it in wedges, sticks, or whatever shape your imagination wants (hmmm… I have a flower shaped cookie cutter. Maybe next time).
1. Make your polenta (in advance).
2 litres chicken stock (I use a vegetarian chicken stock)
20g butter (or margarine)
Salt and Pepper
3 cups of coarse polenta (not instant)
I had less polenta than the recipe advised, so this time, I reduced everything on the list by 1/3.
Heat your stock in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. When it’s hot but before boiling, whisk the stock so it forms a whirlpool and pour in the polenta in a fine, steady stream. Keep whisking. You’ll find you slow down quickly as polenta is THICK.
Keep the pan on low and bring to boil. Cook the polenta, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, until it starts to coagulate and swell up.
Make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan (mine does no matter what I do and is a bastard to scrub off, but never seems to actually burn). Polenta spits when being made, so have the lid and a cloth handy (and wear an apron if you have one. Plus, cooking in an apron is cool).
Now, at this point, Matt Preston’s recipe says it’s ready when it pulls away from the side of the pan (it looks like you’re cooking play dough), but mine does that from an early stage. Polenta usually takes 20-30 minutes to lose its “uncooked” taste, so I try it after 20 minutes and again after 5 if I need to. Taste it. That’s the best way to know.
Stir in butter, parmesan and salt and pepper. Use the best quality parmesan you can find. Because I don’t make polenta too often, I often justify going to the Swiss Deli on Boundary Street, which sells cheese and a plethora or fascinating cooking ingredients (as well as the best packet felafel mix I have ever eaten). They had an Italian and an Australian parmesan the day I went, but the Italian was over $40 and a good $9 more than the Australian cheese. I went Aussie. One day, Italiano, one day.
When the polenta has cooled a little, squish it into plastic containers of your choice, press down firmly and chuck it in the fridge. I made 3 square containers from this recipe. One went in the freezer and two stayed in the fridge, ready for last night’s goodness.
To serve, flip your plastic containers and turn the polenta out onto a board. Cut into desired shapes and thickness. I like fairly thin batons of polenta, because I love the crunch you get when you back them. You can brush with a little oil or do whatever works for you to avoid sticking, and put them in the oven (I don’t DO oven temps for experiments, only baking. I think it was one 180C). Turn once or twice so all sides brown. They’re ready when they’re heated through and at your favourite crispy level. My crispy level is about an 8/10. What’s yours?
For three years, I was vegan. I loved being vegan, and still eat and make a lot of vegan food. I love the clean, lightness much vegan food has, often with a less “gluggy” after feeling. I went vego again when I was studying again, as my stress levels were making me crave all sorts of things I just didn’t have time to make the vegan-ised version. It’s funny, because before I was vegan, I didn’t eat eggs and rarely ate cheese- only grilled on pizza really. I thought when I finished studying that I’d go back to being vegan, but by then I was hooked on cheeses my mother never thought I’d eat in a million years.
Eggs, however, still freak me out. I do a lot of baking without them and find their sulphur smell quite repelling. Everyone told me that making cakes with eggs would be an easy way to eat eggs if I wanted to, but I really love vegan cake alchemy. I ate a boiled egg from time to time and then at Lock and Load (oh local of locals) discovered two things: kick ass shoestring fries with garlic aioli, and poached eggs. Turns out, I like both.
I found this recipe on the superb Melbourne food and cooking blog Cook (Almost) Anything.
They used smoked garlic, but I used a clove of roasted garlic that I had chucked in the oven a couple of days before when I was cooking something else.
Here is their recipe and link:
SMOKED GARLIC AIOLI
1 egg yolk
1 clove, smoked garlic
sea salt flakes
finely ground white pepper
125mls neutral oil (not olive oil)
Take a clove of garlic and slice it finely. Sprinkle over with a few sea salt flakes and using the flat of your knife, mash the garlic with the salt flakes. The flakes are abrasive and will turn the garlic into a paste.
Place the egg yolk, the garlic paste and a dash of ground white pepper into a bowl. Whisk this mixture until combined.
The next part decides whether your aioli or mayonnaise will work out – it’s the addition of the oil. It’s important at the beginning to really just add a drop or two at a time until the mixture starts to thicken – you can then drizzle it at a steady pace while you whisk.
Once all the oil has been absorbed keep whisking until the mixtures looks glossy – add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or a white wine vinegar if you prefer) and whisk briefly. Give it a finely taste and adjust any of the seasonings as desired.
Store this in the fridge in a sealed container.
Serve all this up with polenta batons and tomato relish. Eat quickly, as if you are sharing, you may end up in a fight over the last baton and bit of aioli.
This aioli was good the next day in sandwiches as well!
Try it, totally worth it.