I keep hearing from people that they don’t like polenta and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Yes, it can be heavy. Yes, the real deal can take a long time to cook.Yes, it sputters when you cook it on too high a flame catapulting tiny hot pockets of polenta out of the pan at light speed that could scar you for life if you’re not careful. And yes, it can be bland….. But all these potential disadvantages can easily be avoided if you just know how to handle it. I happen to love polenta and find that it is exactly it’s “blandness” that makes it super versatile and a perfect accompaniment to many foods. It is the perfect grain to dress up or down and especially works wonders in the colder months of the year. You can adjust it’s consistency from smooth porridge like to really thick and sturdy. Scoop it on a wooden board and load with a hearthy chestnut, shallot and prune stew in winter. Or make it thicker, cut into squares and mount with stir fried mushrooms and chard in autumn. But made into fries polenta can be a year round treat and this version is sure to convert even the most stubborn of non believers. These polenta fries deliver the goods without any of the guilt.
Polenta is made from ground up corn, a staple for many people all over the world. Native Indian tribes refer to it as maize which means “that which sustains life”. It has a very long shelf life and supplies long lasting energy. All it needs to be ready to eat is cooking it in salted hot water which makes it the perfect food to take with you when traveling. Polenta will leave you feeling satisfied and well fed plus it is gluten free to boot. What’s not to like?
In Ayurveda polenta is considered a relatively dry grain best for balancing Kapha. Corn in large quantities can be heating for Pitta so go easy on them. Vata’s should eat this on occasion because of the drying quality but fried in a bit of extra ghee and accompanied by the cashew mayo it can be a great treat for them as well every once in a while.
The process of making these fries is easy and straight forward and by following my tips you will get those beautiful rustic thick fries so loved by our Belgian neigbours. They are great on their own but even better dipped in a bit of cashew nut mayo. The wasabi is a great addition for Kapha as the heat balances the sweetness of the nuts. Pitta’s may want to leave it out. I had some radishes in the fridge that needed eating so sliced those thinly and pickled them in a mixture of lime juice, cane sugar and himalaya salt and served them alongside the fries. These are also delish on the bean burgers I shared last week.
Finally as promised I have also included a very simple recipe for a purple and white coleslaw. I slice my cabbages really really thinly and blanch them in boiling salted water. If I’m cooking for Vata’s I make sure they are really well cooked as cabbage can be hard to digest for them and cooking aids the digestive process. For Pitta’s and Kapha’s I like my slaw with a bit of crunch so I blanch for a shorter time or will even leave it raw in summer. You can dress the slaw with some of the cashew nut mayo or make a very simple vinaigrette of lime juice, maple syrup and a little bit of olive oil.
Polenta fries (for 4)
- 150 gram instant cooking organic polenta
- 700 ml water
- 1 teaspoon salt (It seems like a lot but believe me you need this)
- 1 teaspoon of ghee
- a good grinding of black pepper
- 1 or 2 teaspoons extra uncooked polenta flour
- 1 tablespoon ghee for frying
Prepare an 30 x 20 cm oven tray or rectangular glass container by coating it with a tiny bit of ghee . Bring the water with the salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Take the pan of the heat and pour in the polenta slowly in a steady stream while stirring continuosly with a wooden spoon. This bit is important to avoid lumps. When the polenta is mixed in put the pan back on the heat and lower it to it’s lowest setting. Put on your goggles and cook for 6 minutes while stirring all the time. Stay clear of catapulting polenta rockets!! Take of the heat and mix in the teaspoon of ghee and black pepper.
Pour the hot polenta in the oven tray and smooth out the surface. Let cool a bit and then put in the fridge to set for at least an hour. Take a bowl or portioning ring of about 12 cm in diameter and cut out circles out of the cooled polenta. Now cut these into thick strips. Sprinkle them om both sides with the extra polenta flour. Heat the tablespoon ghee in frying pan. Get it really hot and fry off the fries in 2 or 3 batches on all sides until they have a lovely golden colour. Serve asap.
Wasabi cashew mayo (400 ml)
- 60 grams soaked and drained cashew nuts (soak in plenty of water a couple of hours or overnight)
- 2 heaped tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of 1,5 limes
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon (white) miso
- 1 teaspoon wasabi (or more to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 to 3 tablespoons water
Put all ingredients in a kitchen aid and blend to a very smooth mayo. Start by adding 1 tablespoon of water and add some more water if necessary to make the mixture creamier.
- 65 grams very thinly sliced purple cabbage (blanched for Vata)
- 150 grams very thinly sliced white cabbage (blanched for Vata)
- 25 grams spring onion thinly sliced (leave out for Pitta and Vata)
- 50 grams dried cranberries (soak for Vata)
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds toasted in a dry pan for 10 seconds
- 1 tablespoon raw or toasted sunflower seeds
Mix everything together in a glass serving bowl and dress with about 100 ml of the cashew mayo for Pitta and Kapha or more for Vata. You can also make a light vinaigrette instead with the juice of 2 limes, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 4 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt.