Polenta is like the sphynx.
We had a huge discussion in work recently about polenta. It began when one lady said she was buying polenta to make a batter. Somebody else queried that polenta would be dreadful for a batter as it’s too thick and almost like a pasta. Somebody else asked what polenta was. Nobody knew about the mystery of polenta and how it ends up on our plates.
In my daft wisdom, I’ll try and break it down. Polenta is Italian corn (it has a lot of ties to poorer Northern Italy and is often referred to as a ‘peasant snack’!) and it is ground into a ‘meal’ or more visually correct, a ‘flour’. This flour can then be cooked into a ‘batter’ and then allowed to set. So both work colleagues we’re correct, in essence.
You can buy polenta in its ground state and use it as a flour substitute or a ‘breadcrumb’, I guess – but more often than not we see it sold vacuum packed in the pasta aisle of our supermarkets looking like a heavy manila coloured sponge. Allow me to calm your nerves when I say the golden corn snack is absolutely delicious.
Sweet and savoury at the exact same time, it is the perfect addition to a meal when you perhaps want something slightly less bloaty than pasta. You can chop up the polenta into strips and have it as ‘chips’ or even in a nice pasta sauce and use the set polenta as your ‘pasta’. Here I have used it as a snack and like the beast that I am, I have fried it.
This is a fantastic snack to have on a Saturday night when you want to sink into the depths of your sofa and eat to your hearts content without ever feeling sinful or as though you need a bloat induced nap afterwards. I also liked to dunk these into some neck breaking-ingly hot Sriracha sauce which I accompany with the cool creaminess of my quick coconut slaw – but do your accompaniments as you see fit.
Start with your coconut slaw. Slice half of a red cabbage a finely as you can muster and place in a bowl. Open up a can of coconut milk and scrape about two tablespoons of the thick, heavy ‘coconut fat’ at the top of the can. Add this to the cabbage. Squeeze over a lime followed by some sea salt and a twist of black pepper. Mix all together until you get a thick but creamy slaw style consistency. Garnish with a little coriander and set to one side.
Unwrap a vacuum pack of polenta and slide the block downwards three times so you have four thick squares. Cut these slices into four triangles so that you’re left with 16 thick polenta triangles. Heat a generous layer of vegetable oil in a pan on a high heat. Don’t use extra virgin olive oil here and you want this to be really hot and extra virgin will smoke up and fill your Kitchen with a nasty burn smell.
Fry the triangles in batches (roughly 5 in a pan at a time) for about 3 minutes per side until they go sexy and golden. Remove to a plate with some baking parchment to cool slightly while you fry the rest. Once all triangles have been fried, scatter over some sea salt along with some spiced paprika and serve with a dip of your choice and the coconut slaw.