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Gooseberry, elderflower and co’s

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The last colorful summer month of the year is still with us. The twelve or so weeks of summer we have offer cooks time off from sweating and stewing. In return, we’re presented with the long summer days, enjoying evenings in the garden or outdoor, for once we’re waiting for the sun to come down. We all become bounty hunters, happy and excited with treasures we’ve picked particularly when the catch is so easy. It’s time for the simplest combinations, whether for garden, picnic or table eating, with no effort needed to take most of what we eat from home-grown sources, but not ignoring the imported apricots, nectarines and peaches, so exquisitely ripe at this time.

August justifies its juicy reputation year after year, with plums reaching their best, and greenage a must for all its short two months life-whether it be pickled, stewed or sweet preserved. Presented either as savoury or dessert, this versatile fruit deserves more recognition that it often receives. This part of the summer season is also quite cheeky. Signs of autumn show quite early, the “Glorious Twelfth” marking the start of the game season, with the race to be the first restaurant to serve hazel or wild grouse making headline news. The evenings become slightly shorter with cooler nights, and harvesting begins.

But we can enjoy the primest of foodie times, and made lots of great memories: the best of strawberries, the fattest tomatoes, the juiciest of cucumbers, the most flavoursome of leaves-the list goes on. This the time of the year when culinary rules are to be broken-fruits can take on savouries, perhaps accompanying many ingredients they just wouldn’t at any time of the year. Salads become complete meals and fresh fishes become a household favorite. This season is not just a time for us to imagine this sweet picture but for us actually to experience it!

Gooseberry, orange cake by my grandma

Use up a garden glut in this simple and fruity adaptation of a classic-serve with custard for a winning pudding or with Mascarpone or Philadelphia cheese and cream mixture (sweetened with a bit of elderberry syrup).

Ingredients: 225g softened butter plus extra for the tin, 225g caster sugar, 225g self-raising flour, 4 large eggs, grated zest and juice 1 orange, 225g gooseberry, topped and tailed, 140g granulated sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter and line a 20 x 30cm tray bake tin with baking parchment.

Put the butter, caster sugar, flour, eggs and orange zest in a bowl. Beat thoroughly with an electric whisk until creamy and smooth. Stir in the gooseberries, then spoon into the tin and level the surface. Bake for 35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Stir the orange juice and granulated sugar together, spoon over the surface of the warm cake and leave to cool and set. You can eat cutting square pieces from the cake or you can cover with mascarpone, cream cheese mixture (sweetened with sugar) and decorate with fresh berries. This cake is gonna be a feast!Köszméte torta

 

 

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September is mushroom time!

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2014 karácsony Belgium 103September is a great month for avid collectors, avid eaters and avid chefs because this is when wild mushrooms are seriously hitting the scene. It is on the continent that the enthusiasm for the fungal wonders of nature is most apparent, while in Belgium and Germany we seem always to have been afraid of picking and collecting (maybe is a toadstool?). The cep is the prime wild mushroom-cépe to the French and porcino (little pig) to the Italians. Its round shiny cap looks like the Victorian penny bun, but it will now cost rather more than that. They form trees, in clearings in the woods, and around the edges of woods.

Available too the chanterelle, which is also known as girolle. They are quite often thought to be exactly the same, but are actually different strains of the same species. The girolle is found between months of May and July but it is available between midsummer and autumn as well. And of course in the autumn you also find the black Périgord and the white Alba truffle. They are very precious to the French and the Italians, and how special I have just learned in France, in the home of the truffles.

The black diamond market

On the first Tuesday of August, the main street of an otherwise undistinguished town in south west France was magically transformed by one of the most exciting, adrenaline-pumping and important events in the entire French culinary universe-the opening day of the truffle market in Lalbenque-.Truffle brokers and special restaurant supply buyers from all over France, the UK and beyond would flock to Lalbenque on the Tuesday market day, momentarily swelling this small town’s population by up to a thousand. They were all there for only one purpose, attempting to acquire specimens of perhaps the world’s pre-eminent culinary delicacy.

(Lalbenque is 25 kilometers south of Cahors, and it is the largest truffle market in south western France, and from early December until early March, hundreds of kilos of France’s ‘black diamond’, (Tuber Melanosporum), will be sold in Lalbenque’s weekly truffle market (another truffle market is held at Richerenches in the Vaucluse)

The major of Lalbenque told me that all the fuss about the truffle began in the 18th century, when the French gastronome and author Brillat-Savarin described these truffles as “the diamond of the kitchen”. It resulted that by 1900, France produced 1,000 metric tons of Tuber Melanosporum a year, but incessant demand and the resulting over-harvesting has reduced today’s annual harvest to a mere 20 to 40 metric tons.

Exactly how Lalbenque and Quercy (the capital of the territory) assumed such an important culinary role is not clear-says the mere-but the scrubby calcareous soil of the surrounding area abounds with the twisted small oak trees whose roots have a symbiotic relationship with and host the growth of truffles.

Meanwhile he tries to reveal the secret of the truffle we walk to the market. I can tell you that already itself is simultaneously picturesque and unusual. Specially on market Tuesday, beginning around 2pm, when sellers stand shoulder to shoulder behind benches running in a long line along the main street, displaying the truffles they are offering that day in a basket set on the bench in front of them. Some sellers have but a few truffles, while others have a bounty exceeding several kilos. About a meter in front of the benches is a strategically positioned rope that prospective buyers dare not cross.

The buyers, usually numbering in the several hundreds, stand in front of the rope and engage in discreet conversations with the sellers. Most conversations revolve around weight, since sales prices are calculated in grams and kilos, but occasionally a forward buyer even asks to have a basket handed to him across the rope for a brief inspection, requests that are often declined.

Nervous smiles are exchanged on both sides of the rope, because both buyers and sellers know very well what is about to come. -At exactly 2.30 pm, a rapid fire series of events very quickly ensues. Not a moment before or after, a policeman whistle is sounded, the rope drops to the ground, the buyers charge forward, earnest and somewhat frantic negotiations ensue, and five minutes later, the market is over for that week. What is remarkable is that even though all sales have truffle weight, as well of course quality, as key value drivers, you will never see a scale at Lalbenque. Sellers will tell you what their basket weighs when you ask, but verification is considered an insult.

The opening day of the truffle market at Lalbenque is always the first Tuesday of every month. It is of particular interest because the elders of the organization that runs the market, the Syndicat des Trufficulteurs, in December parade through Lalbenque in long, black ceremonial robes and plumed Three Musketeers-type hats, with golden medallions hanging around their necks. With much ceremonial flourish, the Mayor of Lalbenque declares the market to be open.

Prospective sellers at the Lalbenque market are required to arrive early, and are ushered into a back room at the Marie where syndicat experts sniff, poke pinch, examine and otherwise take steps to assure that this particular batch of truffles are genuine Tuber Melanosporum, and not Chinese counterfeits. The Chinese truffle, Tuber Sinensis, is a decidedly inferior culinary product that is often passed off as a Perigordian black truffle. It is frequently joked in culinary circles that half of the Perigordian truffles sold in London, Tokyo and New York are Chinese. But not at all in Lalbenque. The syndicat verifies Tuber Melanosporum botanical correctness, which gives comfort to buyers and presumably emboldens bidding.

The laws of supply and demand have driven the price of Perigordian black truffles to stratospheric heights. You can expect to pay upwards of €500 a kilo for good quality truffles at Lalbenque (€900 in Paris), and considerably more if summer weather has not been conducive to truffle growth.

Cooking with truffles

Myriad culinary applications of truffles exist (I even saw a recipe for truffle ice cream!), the local recipe book of Vino Veritas offers a few brief suggestions here in Lalbenque. The biggest mistake a would-be truffle chef can make is muddling the delicate and subtle nuances of truffles with other flavors. The food applications that show off truffles the best, in my opinion (but consider please I’m not an expert), are those made with eggs it was Mussolini the dictator’s favorite, rice or potatoes, and very little else. Very little preparation of the truffles themselves is either necessary or desirable. You want to maximize the surface area of the truffles you are using and then heat them for just a bit to bring out the volatile odor elements. Take a one euro vegetable peeler (the expensive truffle shavers are a rip-off), place shavings of truffles in a small saucepan with butter, heat under very low heat for just a few moments, add the truffles to the balance of your chosen dish, and be prepared for oral ecstasy.

Be aware of the shelf life of fresh truffles is about three weeks and it looses its weight day by day. Store them in a tight-lidded container in the refrigerator submerged in aborio rice, which allows a little air circulation but not too much, and facilitates the most delicious risotto long after the truffles themselves have been consumed!

Stuffed cabbage roulade with chanterelle rice

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In August let’s celebrate the bread!

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Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Bread has a significance beyond mere nutrition in many cultures because of its history and contemporary importance. Bread is also significant in Christianity as one of the elements (alongside wine) of the Eucharist and in other religions including Paganism.

In many cultures, bread is a metaphor for basic necessities and living conditions in general. For example, a “bread-winner” is a household’s main economic contributor and has little to do with actual bread-provision. This is also seen in the phrase “putting bread on the table“. The Roman poet Juvenal satirized superficial politicians and the public as caring only for “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses). In Russia in 1917, the Bolsheviks promised “peace, land, and bread.” The term “breadbasket” denotes an agriculturally productive region. In Slavic cultures bread and salt is offered as a welcome to guests. In India, life’s basic necessities are often referred to as “roti, kapra aur makan” -bread, cloth, and house.

Words for bread, including “dough” and “bread” itself, are used in English-speaking countries as synonyms for money. A remarkable or revolutionary innovation may be called the best thing since “sliced bread”. The expression “to break bread with someone” means “to share a meal with someone”. The English word “lord” comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlāfweard, meaning “bread keeper”.

In Hungary bread blessing is celebrated on 20 of August every year. That day is also the day of St. Stephen (the name day of their first king). The roots of that harvest holiday date back to the reign of Maria Theresa; the monarch issued an order that we commemorate the state founder king of Hungary Steven on 20 August every year. Visitors from lands afar flocked to attend the St. Stephen day celebrations held on the Buda Castle Hill in order to celebrate the cutting of the new bread amidst splendid harvest festivities. The Hungarians revive these traditions on 20 August every year.Augusztus 20. - Ünnepélyes kenyéráldás

However in Scotland according to an ancient tradition the Bannock bread is celebrated on the first of August. But what is Bannock bread? It is a variety of flat quick bread or any large, round article baked or cooked from grain. When a round bannock is cut into wedges, the wedges are often called scones. However, in Scotland the words bannock and scone are often used interchangeably. The original bannocks were heavy, flat cakes of unleavened barley or oatmeal dough formed into a round or oval shape, then cooked on a griddle. In Scotland, before the 19th century, bannocks were cooked on a bannock stane (Scots for stone), a large, flat, rounded piece of sandstone, placed directly onto a fire, used as a cooking surface. Most modern bannocks are made with baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent, giving them a light and airy texture. There is a suggestion that bannock cakes played a pivotal role in the deciding of a person for human sacrifice during the late Iron Age in the discovery of Lindow Man.

(The Lindow Man, also known as Pete Marsh, is the preserved bog body of a man discovered in a peat bog at Lindow Moss near Wilmslow in Cheshire, North West England. The human remains were found on 1st of August in 1984 by commercial peat-cutters. At the time of death, Lindow Man was a healthy male in his mid-20s, and he may have been someone of high status, as his body shows little evidence of heavy or rough work. There has been debate over the reason for Lindow Man’s death, for the nature of his demise was violent, perhaps ritualistic; after a last meal of charred bread, Lindow Man was strangled, hit on the head, and his throat cut. Dating the body has proven problematic, but it is thought that Lindow Man was deposited into Lindow Moss, face down, some time between 2 BC and 119 AD, in either the Iron Age or Romano-British period. The body has been preserved by freeze-drying and is on permanent display at the British Museum.)

But to return to the Bannock bread, nowadays there are many Bannock varieties but the most well-known is the Scottish bannock or the Selkirk Bannock, named after the town in the Scottish borders where it is traditionally made. It is a spongy, buttery variety, sometimes compared to a fruitcake, made from wheat flour and containing a very large quantity of raisins. The first known maker of this variety was a baker named Robbie Douglas, who opened his shop in Selkirk in 1859. When Queen Victoria visited Sir Walter Scott’s granddaughter at Abbotsford she is reputed to have taken her tea with a slice of Selkirk Bannock, thus ensuring that its reputation was enshrined forever. Today, Selkirk Bannocks are popular throughout Great Britain, and can be found at most large supermarkets.

The ingredients of the easiest bannock is the next: flour, salt, butter, water and baking powder (further infos about it see on the internet).

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Medlar liqueur and cake

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The medlar or common medlar is one of the goofiest fruit in the world. It can be a large shrub or small decorative tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. It belongs to the rose family and a host of small golden fruits in the autumn. They’re prepared similar to rose hips or backside-scratchers. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when bletted.

It’s latin name is Mespilus germanica which is not logical since it is not ingenuous in Germany rather in Bulgaria, in Turkey and in Hungary. The fruits are hard and acidic, but become edible after being softened, ‘bletted’, by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins, the skin rapidly takes on a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavor reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled. Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw and is often eaten as a dessert, or used to make medlar jam or jelly. They are used in “Medlar cheese”, which is similar to lemon curd, being made with the fruit pulp, eggs, and butter. So-called medlar tea is usually not made from M. germanica but from wolfberry or goji, which is sometimes called “red medlar”.

Cultivars of Mespilus germanica that are grown for their fruit include ‘Hollandia’, ‘Nottingham’, and ‘Russian’, the large-fruited variety ‘Dutch’ (also known as ‘Giant’ or ‘Monstrous’), ‘Royal’, ‘Breda giant’, and ‘Large Russian’.

Medlar in literature

A fruit which is rotten before it is ripe, is used figuratively in literature as a symbol of prostitution or premature destitution. The fruit gets a lot of derision because I’ve been told that in England, they’re referred to as dog’s backsides (arse)…although I did read that the French call it cul de chien.

In literature it is mentioned for example in the Prologue to The Reeve’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer’s character laments his old age, comparing himself to the medlar, which he names using the slang term “open-arse”.

In William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, Apemantus forces an apple upon Timon: There’s a medlar for thee; eat it”, perhaps including a pun on “meddler”, one who meddles in affairs, as well as on rottenness

In Measure for Measure, Lucio excuses his denial of past fornication because “they would else have married me to the rotten medlar.

In As You Like It, Rosalind makes a complicated pun involving grafting her inter locuter with the trees around her which bear love letters and with a medlar “I’ll graff it with you, and then I shall graff it with a medlar. Then it will be the earliest fruit i’ th’ country; for you’ll be rotten ere you be half ripe, and that’s the right virtue of the medlar. The most famous reference to medlars, often bowdlerized until modern editions accepted it, appears in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, when Mercutio laughs at Romeo’s unrequited love for his mistress Rosaline.

Medlar jam and cake

To return to the present time I don’t think medlars aren’t really popular or even known. For one thing, they share the same name as loquats –nèfles. And, frankly, I don’t know too many people, except my grandma who make their own jam from it. Which works out great for me because I give out homemade jam for gifts.

Before I forgot, my grandma told me once that in Hungary people pick medlars after the frost, which breaks the flesh down as well. SoI plucked a few kilos from the tree of my friend’s and brought them home in order to make medlar jam. I used my grandma’s recipe’s, and as well British cooks’s, (such as Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater) for guidance because I didn’t know much about how to deal with medlars. Mine took a bit of coaxing to be bletted. I did a little searching around for advice and most advise putting them in a cold place, in a single layer. A few experienced cooks suggested the refrigerator as the place to do it, and I did not realize when I bought it, but was surprised that my refrigerator did indeed have a “bletting chamber.” The first thing you need to know is that medlars need to be bletted, or left to soften and “rot” to a rusty-brown color!

Yet almost a month passed and my medlars were as good as new. As in, they were still rock-hard. So I took them out and put them near a chilly window. And let it behold, those little “arses” softened right up. (Although I think I picked mine a little less-ripe than they should have been.) Next up was cooking them then letting them strain overnight, similar to making apple jelly. Once the liquid is left to strain overnight, you might take a look at the brownish liquid and think that you’ll made a mistake by listening to me. Even I thought there was something wrong. But as I cooked the vicious, murky liquid with some sugar, the final result was a few jars of quivering, shimmering, rosy-red beautiful jelly. I only got two-and-a-half jars from three pounds of fruit, though, so I doubt I’ll be giving these precious jars away. In which case, I’d better get my own “derrière” in gear and find more free fruit, and make more jelly.

Medlar, bananas cake

Ingredients: 6 eggs, ¾ cup heavy cream, ¾ cup vegetable oil, 2½ cups all purpose flour, 3 tbsp baking powder, ½ cup hazelnut flour, 16 ripe Bermuda bananas or 10 regular bananas, 1 cup of medlar purée, 4 cups sugar, a pinch of salt, dashes of vanilla and lemon juice 

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three one-quart kugelforms and dust with flour. Add sugar to eggs, beat until stiff then set aside. Purée bananas, then add vanilla and lemon juice, medlar or loquat purée, heavy cream and vegetable oil. Combine egg mixture with banana mixture.

Mix flour, hazelnut flour, salt and baking powder together. Fold well into banana batter. Fill forms three-quarters full, place on baking tray to ensure browning, and bake for 45 minutes.

Unmould as soon as possible after baking to avoid sogginess and let cool on rack. Bread freezes well if wrapped tightly and frozen same day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plum dumpling with white chocolate-poppy seeds sauce

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Hungarian, Austrian plum dumplings, known as szilvás gombóccan be eaten as dessert, a meatless main dish or side dish. At the Croatian and Check dumplings, the dough is made with freshly mashed potatoes. This dough, however, is rolled with a pin, rather than formed into dumplings by hand.

But to return to the plum dumplings they are essential part of the German, Rumanian, Croatian and Check cuisine. In Germany it is very popular to finish the dinner with them. Lately I was invited to a party where I was offered with plum dumpling with white chocolate-poppy sauce! It was divine!

Ingredients: 5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed and cooled (don’t use leftovers)

2 large eggs 1 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 18 damson or Italian prune plums, washed and pitted, 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, 1 1/2 cups very fine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar,

for the white chocolate sauce: 1 bar of fondant chocolate, cooked poppy seeds, 1 tbsp of Limoncello liqueur

  1. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, and salt. When well combined, add flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
  2. Place a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/3 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares. Place a plum in the center of each square and fold in half, pressing out all air and sealing the edges. Moisten edges before crimping if necessary to seal.
  4. Carefully drop filled dumplings individually  into boiling water. Repeat until all plums are in the water. Cook 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet, add breadcrumbs and brown. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  6. Using a slotted spoon, remove dumplings to a colander to drain. Place skillet back on the heat and add dumplings, coating with buttered crumbs.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Prepare sauce, melt chocolate over steamed water, add liqueur and poppy. Mix well and before serving the dumplings melt it again then pour over dumplings!

 

 

 

Summer fruit delicacies

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During the month of June and July, so many home-grown summer fruits are at their best, among cherries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, loganberries and tayberries, and of course the inimitable strawberry. I love cherries in the hand, a great snack, but they equal pleasure cooked, both in sweet and savory dishes. It is said that they are over 2000 varieties of cherries in the planet, and in parts of Italy they claim to have been growing them for at least 2000 years. Most cherries are derived from two species-the sour or Morello cherry and the wild or sweet cherry.

Gooseberries seem to be a particularly British and Hungarian fruit to me, and in fact there aren’t many gooseberry recipes from other countries in Europe. Like cherries, they can be used in both sweet and savory contexts, poached and plain, baked in sweet pies or pounded in a fool, or famously, as a tart sauce to accompany mackerel. Raspberries are one of my favorite fruits, and the best in June and July, when the summer days are long. But the prime June-July for me is the strawberry. The original fruit was the wild variety of fragaria vesca, which is native to both North America and northern Europe (it is thought to be circumpolar that by some botanical miracle, it passed across the pole). The name in English comes from the Anglo-Saxon streow, to scatter or strew, and refers to the runners which stray out from the plant in all directions. Both garden strawberries and wild or Alpine strawberries are at their peak of perfection during these summer months, exemplified by their appearance at many European summer sporting occasions.

Cointreau champagne raspberries or strawberries

Served almost iced on a hot day provide probably one of the coolest and easiest of desserts. A spoonful of sweet vanilla whipped cream, is all that is needed to complete this dessert.

serves 4

Ingredients: 450 g raspberries, 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest, 3-4 tbsps of champagne, 1 tbsp of icing sugar, plus more for sprinkling, 2 tbsps of Cointreau

for the vanilla whipped cream: 1 vanilla pod, 150 ml double whipping cream, 1 heaped tbsp of icing sugar

Directions: Blend 100 gr of the raspberries with the orange zest 3 tbsps of the champagne and the tbsp of icing sugar, then strain through a fine sieve. The extra tbsp of champagne can be added for a stronger flavor, if needed. chill until ready to serve.

Separate remaining raspberries between four dessert glasses or bowls, then sprinkle each portion with icing sugar and the Cointreau. These can also be refrigerated until needed.

To make the vanilla whipped cream, split the vanilla pod, scraping the seeds from each half. Add the seeds to the cream in a chilled bowl, along with the icing sugar. Whisk until soft-peak stage and the cream is ready to serve. The addition of the icing sugar to the cream will help maintain the creamy consistency for up to 1 hour comfortably, providing i is kept in refrigerated.

just before serving, spoon the champagne raspberry sauce over each bowl of raspberries, offering them with the flavored whipped cream.István király 132

Fried polenta

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P1120513My husband hated the polenta, because of a bad childhood memory. Me, I have never eaten it before but I could live without it. Then we were in France (in 2014) at the Cote D’Azur and we went to Camargue and I ordered it in a small, cosy restaurant. I liked it so much I even asked the waitress for some more information about the way it was prepared! Then returning home I interviewed my Italian friend who praised this dish. He couldn’t stop talking about it! He told me that in the past it was the staple food of the poor people in Italy. So I gave a try and prepared a polenta dish and my husband loved it! He found it so delicious he even wanted to be sure it’s really “the polenta” what he disliked so much in the past?

Ingredients: 3 cups milk or water, 1 cup polenta, 2 eggs, butter, oil for frying

Methods: Bring water or milk to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Pour in polenta steadily, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until polenta is thickened. It should come away from sides of the pan, and be able to support a spoon. This can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes (not true for me it took 15 minutes non-stop stirring) Pour polenta onto a wooden cutting board, let stand for a few minutes. Then add two eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Make balls or cut out from the dough nice baking forms. Put into oven and bake or fry them in oil.

Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal that was historically made from other grains. It may be served as a hot porridge, or it may be allowed to cool and solidify into a loaf that can be baked, fried, or grilled. The dish is associated with Northern  and Central Italy. The only problem with the polenta that it takes a long time to cook, simmering in four to five times its volume of watery liquid for about 45 minutes with near-constant stirring; this is necessary for even gelatinization of the starch. Some alternative cooking techniques have been invented to speed up the process, or to not require constant supervision. Quick-cooking (pre-cooked, instant) polenta is widely used and is prepared in just a few minutes; it is considered inferior to polenta made from unprocessed cornmeal and is best eaten after being baked or fried. That was the way I have done! Polenta can also be prepared with porcini mushrooms, rapini or other vegetables or meats, such as small songbirds (in the case of the Venetian and Lombard dish polenta e osei).

Some Lombard polenta dishes are polenta taragna (which includes buckwheat flour), polenta uncia, polenta concia, polenta e gorgonzola and missultin e polenta—all are cooked with various cheeses and butter, except missultin e polenta, which is cooked with fish from Lake Como where George Clooney lives. In some areas of the Veneto region, it can also be made from white cornmeal (mais biancoperla, once called polenta bianca). In some areas of Piedmont in the northwest, it can also be made from potatoes instead of cornmeal. In the westernmost alpine region, the maize is sometimes combined with local grains like barley and rye (polente bâtarde or polente barbare), and often frichâ and toasted on a loza (thin refractory stone)