Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Almost-caramelised leeks with cherry tomatoes on polenta.

What would you rather eat, say for a special occasion dinner:

(a) The shoulder of a pig rolled around some cored heirloom apples stuffed with sage, butter and breadcrumbs and baked in a closed barbecue until the skin crackles and the meat falls apart, or

(b) Textured soy protein in a plastic casing.

I thought so. Manufactured vegetarian food is a concept that is fundamentally flawed, although it continues to hold shelf space at the supermarket. Its marketers claim their products simulate the flavour and texture of meat. One such product even claims that, when fried, its aroma stimulates the appetite. You’d be better off ordering a salad at Vlado’s and enjoying the smoke from the grill. Or is that a no-no, like passive smoking? There’s a million ways to enjoy vegetables without resorting to soy burgers. And I’m not even vegetarian. I just like vegetables.

Leek and late summer tomato stew on polenta

Cook polenta, following your preferred recipe. For this, I whisk a cup of polenta slowly into a litre of boiling water, added a good dash of salt and pepper and set it on a very low heat, stirring it frequently. When almost done I chop two large leaves of silverbeet very finely and add it to the polenta. It gives it a more robust flavour, not to mention adding to the nutrient value.

In another pan, warm some olive oil and add a scored clove of garlic, one chopped onion and a very finely chopped large leek (or use two smaller ones). Be sure to rinse the rounds from the green end as they may contain grit. Stir the leek and onion mixture and cook it slowly until soft. Now pour in half a cup of white wine - or more - and cook for another five minutes, before adding two dozen halved and very ripe vine-grown cherry tomatoes. If tomatoes are out of season, use a tin of good diced ones. Add a dozen or so very good fat black olives and cook for another fifteen minutes. I also added one halved chili straight from the garden: it added a little warmth but no great heat.

When done, ladle silverbeet-flecked polenta into serving bowls and top with leek, tomato and olive stew. Garnish with grated lemon peel mixed with finely chopped parsley; or spoil the whole purist vegetarian thing and load it up with a heap of very good grated parmigiano or romano cheese. Drink: a Mt Alexander Pinot Noir.


Ellen said...

Had to Google "silverbeet." We call it chard. You reminded me that I used to cook cornmeal/polenta for stuff like this and I've dropped it from the repetoire somehow. Perhaps because my kids liked it for breakfast, fried with some maple syrup. ;) I'll have to wait for tomatoes and chard (growing now...) but this sounds delicious.

kitchen hand said...

Ellen those international name variations are confusing. We have chard here which something else, as well as red silverbeet ...

jo said...

I could eat polenta every. single. day. I don't know why i love it so, it's just cornmeal mush but so delicious. I do it the lazy way and bung the polenta and water with a pinch of salt in a dish and bake it at 350F for 30. Then stir wildly and add butter, sometimes butter with pieces of black winter truffle in it and if it is too thick to spread out on a plate a splash more water. Then I give it 10 more and add whatever final tastes I want. I'm rather particular to this cheese I get at a lovely Cheese Shop in Concord. I call it truffle crack. It's semi hard with an enormous vein of truffle running through it and it cracks off in chunks when you grate it.Hmmm yes, I think I am going to Concord tomorrow.

kitchen hand said...

Jo, you have eloquently explained why everyone in the world should eat polenta. I'm getting every single dayish with it too.

Then there's lemon yogurt polenta cake, possibly the most delicious thing I've ever eaten ...