Tag Archives: polenta


So when my sister recommended The Little Larder recently I was taken back to stories from my last job where a colleague would Facebook photos of her all day breakfast with lewd tomato sauce messages written on her plate by her friend the waitress. The waitress and the colleague have moved on, but the story remains and makes me laugh.

Even though it was the weekend and busy, we were served promptly and our meals didn’t take too long. My sister ordered pesto scrambled eggs with salmon, so I didn’t photograph it, but I ordered the mushroom polenta with avo and poached eggs and a beetroot, carrot and orange juice.


The poached eggs were a little undercooked in my fussy opinion but the polenta was superb and with the balsamic, cherry tomatoes and hot sauce, was truly interesting and yummy. You’re going to pay New Farm prices here with most hot brekkies over $15 each. We finished with a stroll around New Farm, acting like complete tossers and behaving in a way that only sisters could probably understand. If you and your sister swear a lot and talk about Brisbane gigs, architecture, libraries and boys.

So exactly like you and your sister.

Little Larder on Urbanspoon

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Vego Dinner Party for Non-Vegos

So I had some work people over for a dinner party. None of them were vego or ever ate much vego food, so I wanted to impress. No pressure.

I think cooking for non-vegos is an interesting challenge. I want them to be full, but I don’t want to simply replace a steak with a mock-meat and most importantly, I want it to be delicious.

After thinking about my guests, I decided to compromise on the mock-meat rule and serve vego sausages.

The other great thing about my choice is that most of it can be taken care of in advance and all you need to do is cook the polenta and serve up the icecream at the end.


The main course was a recipe I found in the newspaper years ago. It’s a Matt Preston recipe I adapted for vegos by swapping the sausage for vego sausage. I forgot to add on my menu that it would be served with a fennel salad with a tomato mustard dressing and a rocket salad. The first time I made this, I used regular mushrooms instead of porcini and it still turned out brilliantly. As you can see, the page is a bit worn and splattered from use.


I’m pretty organised in the kitchen. I didn’t spend all day on this and I didn’t go any prep the day before, which I’ll also try to do if there are lots of steps.

I didn’t start shopping until after midday.

I went to the Swiss Deli Cafe on Boundary Street and bought porcini mushrooms and a nice piece of Australian pecorino.

At Coles, I bought the rest of the ingredients.

At home, I broke the prep into stages: Chopping and veg prep, making the dressing, making the sauce, preparing everything for later.

Chopping and veg prep:

From left to right: Onion waiting to go into the sausage sauce, bowl ready for tomato prepping, fennel all cut and ready to store until the night, scraps bin. I used my food processor to get the fennel sliced finely. Chunky fennel is a bit intense. In the other photo are porcini mushrooms soaking. When drained, you reserve the liquid for the sauce and chop the mushrooms finely. They smell amazing! Regular mushrooms are fine too.

Making the dressing:

The dressing a combination of the tomato gel sacks discarded from the sauce (from about 4 good sized tomatoes), a squeeze of lemon, 1/2 tsp of mustard and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You strain the dressing to remove the tomato seeds and press the gel through the sieve to get the most flavours.

Making the sauce:

Very easy. Brown two onions in olive oil and a little butter, add the sausage and brown, add the porcini, add the tomatoes, cook whilst stirring for a few minutes, add the porcini soaking water and simmer (I reserved half of the liquid for reheating).

Preparing everything for later:

Firstly I lined up my extra porcini water, measured out my polenta, grated my parmesan for the polenta, shaved my pecorino for serving, chopped and crumbled my dutch gingerbread biscuits, did the dishes, and left the kitchen. The fun part is preparing the table.

I didn’t start any prep until 3, but had from 5-6.30 to get ready and relax in time for our guests to turn up at 7. After cheeses and entrees (which my guests brought along with a bottle of Mumm champagne!), I cooked the polenta (which takes 20-30 minutes but as our kitchen and dining are the same room, remains social and easy to do).

I didn’t take a photo, but to serve, I grabbed a big board and tipped polenta down the middle, making a well. The sauce got pored over the top and then the pecorino goes on top. As it’s plonked down on the table, it got many “oohs” and “ahhs”, which is pretty much crack to a home cook. Eight people were invited, six turned up, but there was enough for about 10 reasonable eaters (or 6-8 starving people). We couldn’t finish nearly all over it and I sent people home with leftovers.

Sweets were chopped gingerbread biscuits with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and gingerbread crumbles over the top, with a shot of black coffee poured over, affogato style. It’s super easy, requires no baking or fuss and was delicious. The coffee (a triple shot long black bought earlier in the day at a local cafe) runs over the ice cream into the biscuit below and makes it all gooey. Heaven.

As I clear plates, I rinse and stack them. When guests are gone we take out the rubbish, tidy everything away and wipe down benches and tables. It was too late to do dishes without disturbing the neighbours, but they are neatly stacked and ready to go the next day. This is the cooking equivalent of taking your makeup off before bed- it saves you a lot of heart ache, even if it’s a pain sometimes.

This is really a fancy, maximum impact dinner for little work.

Leave out the dairy in the polenta and sausage sauce topping and choose vegan cheeses and ice cream and it’s a vegan meal, too!

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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)
100g parmesan
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?

2. Aioli
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:

1 egg yolk
1 clove, smoked garlic
sea salt flakes
finely ground white pepper
125mls neutral oil (not olive oil)
lemon juice

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.

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