i'm nervous about cooking with flour and water (really), so polenta and gnocchi in the last week has been a good challenge. yvonne made the polenta from a recipe that i'd picked out from brisbane chef philip johnson's brilliant "classic ecco" 'cookbook. it was the second time we'd made 'wet' polenta so the cooking was a shared conversation. then the gnocchi a couple of nights ago - recipe from the same cookbook. as well as fantastic meals, johnson is excellent for basic techniques. on both occasions, the recipe was so successful that my fear of these foods has evaporated... i highly recommend this book. here's a quick summary of the two recipes.
steam 750g potatoes in their jackets. I had a bag of no-name baby potatoes that were on sale. no idea what type, and not really 'baby', but smallish. and yes, they were steamed. Peel while still quite warm (the painful part) and either put through a sieve or potato ricer (bought one for $11 recently. makes all the difference). I used the finest ricing disk.
fold potato gently into 150g strong flour. sing to it while you're doing this. i'm sure it will help you fold gently. I have no idea what strong flour is. I used "000" flour which costs a bit more. I had bought my first ever bag of it because its supposed to be good for pasta, and there was just enough left. I don't know why it's called "000". there were no secret agents involved. then gently add 1 lightly beaten egg and 50 gm grated parmesan cheese (I used the regular supermarket brand shredded stuff, not the real deal). add a pinch of nutmeg and salt (Murray River pink ...) and black pepper.
this mixed together easily and well and was easy to roll out into long cylinders. it said 2.5 cm in diameter, and then cut diagonally into 2.5 cm lengths. the shaping didn't go that well. making the cylinder thinner and cutting them straighter seemed to work. tried to shape them using a fork.... Hmmm...
cook the usual way - simmer some salted water and cook until they float. good pasta will float pretty quickly and these did. they were light and melted in the mouth - beautifully as matt preston would say. wonderful and really easy to make. we'll have to experiment with different potatoes and flour, but I'm a total convert.
We had it with a creamy, white wine sauce, smoked bacon and asparagus.
my first experience of polenta some years ago produced foam rubber - the kind they used to put in car seats when I was a lad. the second experience, quite recently, using the directions on the packet, was acceptable enough that youngest daughter said she liked it. this week we used johnson's recipe with great results.
bring 1 litre milk, 1/2 onion chopped, fresh thyme sprigs and a rosemary sprig, 2 bay leaves and 4 halved garlic cloves almost to the boil. put 130 g polenta into a heavy-based saucepan. strain the milk into the polenta and whisk to combine. stir constantly over medium heat and bring to the boil. turn heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 20-30 mins. just before serving, fold in 60 g parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp unsalted butter, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
I think it was overcooked just slightly, as it got a little too gluey. but this worked a treat, and my fear of polenta is also gone! given that some of the family are tired of my couscous fetish, this is a great relief. (in a family with allergies to chickpeas, lentils, peas and some kinds of beans, believe me, these things matter...)
we had it with beef cheeks cooked in red wine, topped with a red wine and mushroom sauce, and spinach.
I salute Mr Johnson!