Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Meat Free Monday

A few years ago Paul McCartney started the Meat Free Monday Campaign and, while I'm not a great fan of Macca, it seems like a good idea to me to have at least one "veggie" day a week.  It not only benefits your health but also your pocket. Have you seen the price of meat lately!

My Mum gave me the River Cottage "Veg Everyday" cook book last Christmas and I've tried a few recipes from it.  Unfortunately Hugh and I have totally different ideas on seasoning and spicing and I have to say that I've found the recipes I've tried so far from this book to be a bit bland.  While his recipe for Chilli, Cheese and Rosemary Polenta with Tomato Sauce looked good on TV, when I made it exactly as per the recipe it was a bit dull.  This is my "pimped up" version.

Serves 2

For the Polenta
400 ml water
75g dried  polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
40g grated strong cheddar
40g grated Grana Padano cheese (or parmesan)
6-8 olives, chopped
salt and pepper

For the Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 large carrot finely chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 veg stock cube
a pinch of sugar

First start by making the Polenta. Gently fry the chopped garlic and chilli in the olive oil until the garlic is just soft but not brown.

Take off the heat, add the oregano and pour into a small bowl and leave to cool.

Next, put the finely grated cheeses onto a plate, along with the olives.  I don't particularly like Parmesan cheese so I use this Grana Padano instead. It's readily available in all the supermarkets and has a similar flavour but is minus the smell.

Bring the water to a rolling boil and pour the polenta into it in a steady stream stirring, all the time.  This is the important bit. It will look like like wallpaper paste and, just like wallpaper paste, if you stop stirring it WILL go lumpy.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 4 mins. stirring continuously.

After 4 mins. turn off the heat and add the chilli, garlic & oregano oil along with the cheese and olives. Add salt and pepper to taste. You will now have a thick, shiny yellow paste which comes away from the sides of the pan.

Rub a small casserole dish or deep plate with oil and tip the polenta in. It needs to be about 1 inch thick to get the best results later. Level off the top and leave to go cold.

While it's going cold you can make the tomato sauce.  Finely chop all the veg. (I use a Magimix mini chopper)  If your celery has lots of leaves you can also use these as the flavour is lovely.

Gently fry the vegetables and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil till the onion is just starting to soften.  Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube, sugar and bay leaf. If it looks too thick you can also add a drop of water, or red wine if you have any open. Simmer gently for about half an hour.

Tip the polenta out of the dish and slice into portions.

Heat 1 tablepoon olive oil in a frying pan and fry the polenta for about 10 minutes each side until golden and crispy. Because it's an inch thick you can also fry the edges.  The crispier the better.

Serve with the tomato sauce.


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