Cheesy Polenta and a warm pumpkin stir fry : the way I like it..
Polenta is a semolina sized granular meal of corn. Cooked into a gruel like consistency, when it gets cold it moulds itself well into whatever it is spread, tastes creamy and soft. It takes flavors very well and I like Polenta over any corn breads I have tried till date.
The problem is, the Polenta we get here is imported and costly. Probably genetically modified corn depending from where it has been imported from. Not worth buying anyways.
We get good quality corn meal during winters as this is the land of Makki di roti te sarson da saag. And we get good quality Corn grits too. I used to get it milled in my neighborhood flour mill, later I saw packets of Corn grits by an organic brand called Down to Earth and bought packets of Bajra and Jowar grits as well. Have been using these grits in many ways since then.
Corn grits found it's way to my Polenta gruel and now I find it easy to cook it in my pressure cooker.
You might like the instant fresh corn Polenta I make with carrots.
I prefer adding some fresh sweetcorn to my corn grit Polenta as well. It gives a rich texture and a multi layered taste of corn. Seasoned with garlic and cheese, it makes a nice base to a salad like stir fry served on the side.
A complete meal for me if I am not too finicky about a portion of protein going in. In that case I would slip in some boiled eggs or shredded chicken too in the same platter. This vegetables combination is a discovery and going to be a regular feature in my quick wok kind of recipes.
Pumpkin and shallots. The smallest of shallots you can lay your hands on. I found some organic shallots and have been going berserk with them.
Corn grits 1 cup (or use a regular polenta and cook according to instructions)
water 2 cups
salt to taste
grated cheese 3 tbsp
garlic minced 1 tsp
coarse paste of fresh sweetcorn 1 cup (just blitz the fresh corn kernels in mixie for a minute)
dash of paprika
Extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp plus some more for brushing the moulds if using
Place the first three ingredients in the pressure cooker and cook on high flame till the first whistle blows. Lower the flame and cook for another five minutes. Or judge the cooking time depending on the grain size of corn grits as this might be different in our country where flours and grits are not graded.
It should be cooked perfectly, and become a gruel like consistency. Add 1/4 cup more water if the corn grits have become dry. Add the other ingredients and let it bubble a little bit before pouring the mixture into moulds. Or just pour into a plate to serve.
I tossed up the vegetables while the polenta got set in the moulds. I used individual Aluminium muffin moulds for this, greased with Olive oil.
ingredients for the stir fry...
diced pumpkin 2-3 cups (about 300 gm, the orange colored pumpkin is better)
halved shallots (small onions) 1.5 cups or more if you like
sun dried cherie tomatoes 1/2 cup (use any sun dried tomatoes you like)
minced garlic 1 tsp
basil leaves as much as you like, few torn and a few whole to garnish
paprika or red chilly powder just a dash or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
butter or olive oil 2 tsp
Heat the butter and toss in the halved shallots first and then the diced pumpkin as well. I added the cherie tomatoes at this time as I like a little burnt edges, you might like to add them in the last so they just get a little moist and warm, soaking the flavors well.
Sprinkle salt over the stir frying vegetables and toss well to cook and caramelise a little. The shallots and pumpkin pieces should get browned at a few spots.
When the vegetables are cooked through, add the pepper powder and the paprika, the torn basil and toss well. Take it off the heat and keep covered for a couple of minutes so the basil infuses well into the stir fry.
Pour the contents of the pan over the polenta on the plate. If you have set the polenta in moulds, just ensure the polenta is set and the surface looks dry. It takes just 10 minutes to get set and the surface is dry to touch, still warm to eat.
Press the set polenta with your fingers around the edges so it releases from the wall of the mould, tap the inverted mould on the plate to release the moulded polenta into the plate.
Along with the vegetables this was a pleasant meal for the two of us. The husband wouldn't ever eat something with corn grits if it is not this way.
The vegetable combination was liked as well. One of those stir fries that I don't have to ask, just make it being sure it would be received well.
I know a few pumpkin haters would love to have it too. It gets transformed with the caramelised shallots. The basil does the best thing to it here. The chewy sun dried cherie tomatoes are just the right amount of tang it needs.
Many of my friends have inquired about he replacement of sun dried tomatoes. There is actually no replacement for something like this, but I think you can add a few strips of fresh tomatoes in such stir fries in the later stages of cooking along with a few dried apricots to get that chewy effect. Or just go ahead a make some sun dried tomatoes.
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Is that a good idea?