Saturday, 24 August 2013

Polenta Chips

Truffle Risotto, Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Onion and Roasted Peanuts, Hot Apple and Almond Crusted Pie with Vanilla Cream. These are just some of the answers I have given in reply to that infamous question, “What is your favourite food?” all foodies get asked. These rich and interesting dishes with complex, layered flavours offer no less than what would be expected to satisfy a foodies taste buds. But in all honesty, if I had to eat Green Papaya salad with Crispy Onion and Roasted Peanuts as my final supper then, well, I really wouldn't die entirely satisfied.

If I were to tell the truth, my ultimate favourite food of all time is the very unrefined, unsophisticated British chip. Actually chip doesn't cut it, because let’s face it no one on this earth can ever stop at one. A grand plate of salted chips would do me just fine; accompanied by an equally grand dollop of ketchup.

Favourite foods are so much more than just taste qua taste. Favourite foods are about the memories those tastes evoke. Every time I eat chips I am taken right back to my entire childhood - mainly because I spent most of my childhood scoffing my face with chips. And those were happy, happy days.

I remember being in Canada, on a kids adventure with my brother and two cousins. We were on our way to a theme park all squashed together in the back of a car with a Canadian relative. Well prepared, he had packed some snacks in his backpack to keep us going for the journey. He asked “Does anyone want any chips? I have some in my bag.” My face lit up. I couldn't believe it. How had he managed to pack fresh, hot chips into his backpack? I was a little dubious. But then I thought ‘Canada is an entirely different country, miles away from England; maybe they have innovative solutions for packing hot foods into backpacks. What else could have meant by chips in his backpack?’ Alas, you can imagine my disappointment when he brought out a bag of crisps. Of course what I was dreaming of were what the Canadians call fresh, hot fries - I was completely lost in translation!

Polenta Chips
So, with a nod to my ultimate favourite food this week I have decided to share my recipe for Polenta Chips – a slightly more refined, sophisticated Italian cousin of the great British chip. These chips are packed full of flavour. The polenta gives the chips a soft interior and crisp exterior once they are fried. And rather than ketchup, I paired my Polenta Chips with Italian tomato sauce – the kind you would make with pasta. Semplice e delizioso!

Polenta Chips (serves 4)

100g polenta
530ml water
100g cheddar cheese, grated
2 small chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
A large handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

//Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Chopped chilli, garlic, parsley

Finely chop the chillies, garlic and parsley. Fry for 3 minutes until the parsley shrinks and darkens in colour.

Pouring in Polenta in a stream

Boil the water. Once it is bubbling pour in the polenta in a stream stirring constantly. Do not add all the polenta in one clump as it will be difficult to un-clump it once it hits the water. Keep stirring until the polenta is cooked through. This will take about 5 minutes.

Add in the cheese and mix in the cooked parsley, chillies and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and stir all the ingredients together. At this point the polenta can be eaten just as it is, serve in the same way you would mashed potato.

Cooling Polenta

But to make the chips, you have to let it cool completely. To do this, pout it out onto a chopping board, or wide plate or tray. Leave until completely cooled. This will take at least 30 minutes.

Shallow frying Polenta Chips

Once cooled, cut into chips. (I absentmindedly cut mine into oblongs instead of chips – but they tasted great all the same!) Shallow fry in a little oil, turning so that each side hits the pan and it is crispy on all sides. Serve with tomato sauce, or just as they are.

Until next time...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint

Recently I have transitioned from an 8 hour working week as a student to a 9-5 real-world working girl. And what a slap in the face waking up to an alarm at 7.30 every morning is. Especially after 3 years of having the choice of whether to wake up for a class at 9 or.. just attend another one later on, and no alarm! Having said that, I don't have it anywhere near as bad as half of my friends. But still, I am in mourning over my loss of those long gone luxuries of student life.

One of the things I will miss a lot is a long lunch. I used be able to order a pot of tea, and have time to sit there and get a re-fill. But now I have to be much more efficient with lunch. Although, that might be a bit of an exaggeration because it was a long lunch, at a restaurant serving interesting, healthy and really delicious salads (Ottolenghi), on my first day of work that gave me the final bit of inspiration for this Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint.

Beetroots are everywhere are the moment. August is their season. You can get them ready cooked any time of the year. But now is the time to buy them raw. The rewards of cooking them yourself are truly great. Thier flavour intensifies as they bake/steam slowly in their own juices. They are paired with a cooling yoghurt dressing that turns the most beautiful colour as the beetroot juices seep into it - this salad needs to come with a warning for turning your lips pink!

Roasting sweetcorn for the salad was an epiphany. Crispy and crunchy yet still sweet and juicy inside. Roasted sweetcorn is a dish transforming addition to any recipe. This salad is vibrant and tasty and tastes even better the next day - perfect for any lunch box!  I took some for lunch paired with this bread.

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint (serves 4)
3 large beetroots 
2 cloves garlic
200g sweetcorn
150ml yoghurt
½ tsp Cumin
½ tsp Paprika
½ tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of mint leaves

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint

Start by washing your beetroot thoroughly. Wrap loosely in foil with the garlic cloves. Make sure that there are no gaps to ensure your vegetables cook in their own steam. Place on a tray in case any juices escape, and place in a preheated oven at 190˚c for 1 ½ hours. It’s a long time, but honestly the beetroots take on the most wonderful flavour cooking in their own steam. Much better than the beets you can buy ready cooked.

Once cooked, remove the beets from the oven and open their foil package. Double check they are cooked all the way through using a knife. (You are looking for a knife to easily pierce through to the centre of the beetroots – the time this takes will vary according the size of your beets.)

Roasted Sweetcorn

Next roast the sweetcorn. Coat the sweetcorn in ½ tbsp of oil, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp paprika in a bowl. Then tip out onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 190˚c.

Whilst the sweetcorn is roasting, make your yoghurt dressing. Pass the yoghurt through a sieve to ensure your dressing is smooth and lump-less.  Squash out garlic clove from its skin and use your knife to smooth into a paste. Add this to the yoghurt. Season with a pinch of cumin and stir together.

Beetroot Salad ready to be dressed
Peel and slice your cooled beetroot into rounds, about 1cm thick and arrange on a plate (as fancily as you like). Lightly drizzle some good quality, extra virgin olive oil over the beets and season with a small pinch of salt.

Once your sweetcorn is done you are ready to assemble. Simply spoon the yoghurt dressing over of the beets. Scatter with roughly torn mint leaves and handfuls of crispy sweetcorn. This dish is best served at room temperature.

Until next time...