Creamy Polenta Tarts

Girl in a food frenzy

There’s an amazing little place where I often go for a little high tea with my friends. One of my favorite things they serve, is the petit polenta tarts, which are literally no larger than the size of a tablespoon (and that’s being generous.)

In an effort to recreate these tarts and make them (ahem) more suitable for a luncheon, I’ve inevitably gone a little OTT (over the top) and decided to share my results with you. It’s the really delicious combination of the creamy polenta tinged with parmesan and the crisp crust of the pastry that gets me every time…

Time: approx 45 mins

Ingredients:
1 cup of polenta,
1 cup of milk,
Generous knob of butter,
Fresh grated Parmesan, (a small handful will suffice)
Olive oil,
Salt and pepper,
Boiled Water from kettle,
2 x sheets puff pastry (cold please)
4 x bambino bocconcini balls, (baby mozzarella)
Salad or garnish to serve (I’ve used watercress)

Method:
Combine polenta, 2 cups of boiling water and a pinch of salt, in a pan

Simmer on a low heat, stirring continuously for a few minutes.

Add the milk and butter again stirring to combine, continue cooking for about five minutes until the grains become smooth and creamy.

When the mixture begins to bubble up again, add a splash more of the boiled water. Finally stir in the pepper, plus grated Parmesan and turn off the heat.

It will be a fairly substantial amount you make (remainder can be used in place of mash or set in a cold container and served in slices)

As the polenta cools, lightly grease a pan/tray and lay the two pastry sheets over the top of each other at the diagonal, (I like to drizzle a little more olive oil between the layers.) Also get the oven going to 200C (392F)

Spoon the polenta into the centre of the cold pastry, when the (semi warm) mixture hits the pastry it should start to congeal and set.

Now begin to fold the edges of the tart, spread the polenta mixture to cover the base and crimp with a fork to decorate the sides,

I like to add some fresh mozzarella at this stage, you can omit or (freely) add any other variety of cheese. I think that Blue cheese would also be superb.

Finally, bake in the oven for 20 mins or so. Once time is up, rest in the oven for another 5 mins. Cut and serve with a suitable garnish or salad, enjoy!

 

The Sunday Roast…recipe for 8hr roast lamb

The Sunday roast is a tradition in many homes. It’s a special occasion dish which requires a good few hours to bring together and it’s equally satisfying to eat as it can take any number of hours to enjoy. How fortunate that I didn’t have anywhere to be other than my kitchen, with a (gloomy overcast day) and a fridge stocked full of delicious contents waiting to be turned into a feast!!! This was partly due to (and thanks) to my friend who I bribed with a bottle of wine to drive me to the shops! Thank you friend!!!

As I’ve tried to perfect this recipe over the last few years, it’s always been a balance of the liquids which ultimately lead to my success. Outlined below is a step by step thought process which indicates the when, where and the what which leads to what I believe is a beautiful, meltingly tender piece of meat which falls off the bone. You can add or omit the ingredients below to suit your needs, or indeed pantry…Happy Cooking!

Girlinafoodfrenzy.jpg

Slow cooked 8 hr lamb on Girl in a food frenzy.

Ingredients:
Lamb leg, best left with Shank on,
1 garlic bulb,
3 small brown onions,
Olive oil,
Good handful of Rosemary,
a few Bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Garnish of Assorted herbs to finish the Lamb, I’ve used Thyme, parsley & coriander,
Freshly boiled Water (as needed.)
**Optional glug of red wine**

Puy Lentils & braised fennel are also terrific in the braise.

You’ll also need a Shallow roasting pan,

Time: 6- 8 hours approx depending on your oven temp…this also includes your resting time too.

Method:
Firstly, bring the Lamb Leg to room temperature, for a good hour (at least).

15 mins before that hour is up, preheat the oven to 220C (428F)

Oil a shallow roasting tray and cut the garlic and onions width ways. Add the lamb leg (skin side up) and season with the salt & pepper, generously. Also you can arrange the Rosemary and tuck some bay leaves around the lamb.

I add approximately 1.5 cups of water at this stage and place the lamb in the centre rack of the oven for at least 35 mins, optional add a glug of red wine if you like.

After the first 30 mins are up, spoon some of the juices over the lamb leg.

Reduce temperature to approx 180C (356 F) and now begins the slow cook.

For the next hour & a half monitor the lamb, (basting) the juices over the meat if it begins to look too dry, (alternatively cover with aluminium foil too,)

Once the hour and half are up, check the lamb and (carefully) turn the leg over so the bottom is now up and vice versa. Add another 2 cups of water, as hopefully the stock begins to concentrate and caramelise. You can also begin to mush some of the (softened) garlic and onion over the skin to impart even more flavour.

Reduce the oven temp to 140C (284F)

Continue cooking for another two hours (basting again) and after the two hours are up turn the meat right way up again. It should now be a deep, dark hue all over.

Time to add another glug of wine (and) another cup of water. My oven tends to evaporate the steam off rather quickly, so what I’m doing is replacing the liquids lost so the meat is continuously soaking up the moisture and (becoming softer and pliable.)

This process can take anywhere from 6-8hrs and eventually you’ll see the meat shrink right down and expose the bone.

After the first 6 hours or so the roast should be a deep colour. At this point if you plan to eat (in the next hour or so) you can turn the oven off and leave the roast in the residual heat to continue cooking. I might do this for up to an hour and a half.

Without a doubt, any resting time will help to improve the texture of the meat.

20120913-092558.jpg
Lentils & Lamb, another great combination,

Finally remove the pan from the oven, mush some more garlic and onion over the lamb. You can begin to shred a few pieces away from the bone (which hopefully melt under the tongs) and finish the dish with your herbs and choice of sides.

Quesadilla to go please…

It was another of those frenzied days, home late the night before, up early, out for most of the day, back to bed and then out early again. I also had to put in 8 hours of school (funny enough) so my kitchen at home hasn’t exactly been my first priority in the last 24 hrs.

Irony being, I did make some very yummo contributions in my student cheffing hours. Aside from more precision cuts with a myriad of vegetables, we got busy filleting some Whiting (fish) pin boning and plating up. That was also a slightly frenzied task as we were given a whole 20 minutes!!! to get the job done & a beurre noisette (with sides which we’d previously made-whew!)

So the lazy option it is. I’ve made these cheesy quesadilla’s at lightning speed with all the yumminess I can muster from the fridge. A handful of spinach here, corn shucked from there and an all too generous sprinkling of cheese and I’m ready to go… Now, where’s that beer…

20120225-005446.jpg

What can I say, where there’s a will, there’s a way!