Baked Polenta Chips (Scagliozzi)

Ah, polenta. It’s not something I really grew up eating, and because I was unfamiliar with it, it took a fair bit of time to work out exactly how to cook it. I remember trying to cook it for my son when he was a baby, and was left confused by the resulting gluggy weirdness and how the hell I was supposed to cut it into fingers.

Clearly, I was still learning, and managed to find some really vagueless recipes that offered little guidance to the still-learning-how-to-cook new mother desperate to raise a good eater (I did manage to succeed in that, despite my complete ignorance of cooking cornmeal). Thankfully, over the past 12 years, I’ve learned how to find and evaluate good recipes, and combine them into something that works for me.

Which brings me to my spin on baked polenta chips. I’m thrilled to report that my son DOES in fact love them (sorry for the delay, dude!)… as did my daughter and husband. I did too. I know that traditionally, scagliozzi is fried, but on top of preferring a lower calorie side dish, I’ve never really been a big fan of deep fried food (except for really good chips). However, when baked, these are a cheesy, tasty treat that the whole family will gobble up. Prepared this way, 1/5 of the recipe is only 250 calories, and considering how filling it is, that’s pretty good! Some lean meat and steamed veggies, and you’ve got yourself and amazing meal.

Do keep in mind that you need to make the polenta the night before (or up to two days ahead), but even though it’s a 2 part recipe, neither part takes very much time or effort.

ingredients

250g instant polenta

1 litre chicken stock

1tbs butter

Spray oil (or 1.5 tbs olive oil, but the spray oil makes it easier)

Salt and pepper to taste

4tbs grated parmesan

Method

The night before

  1. Line a large, shallow baking dish with baking paper and spray lightly, or brush with half a tablespoon of the oil.
  2. Bring stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. In a very slow stream, and whisking vigorously all the while, pour the polenta into the stock.
  3. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, or until the polenta easily moves from the side of the pan when stirring.
  4. Remove from heat and stir the butter in until completely melted.
  5. Pour into prepared dish and spread until about 1cm thick. Allow to cool, then refrigerate (uncovered) overnight or up to two days.

45 minutes before serving

  1. Preheat oven to 210C. Remove dish from fridge and cut polenta into fingers. Allow the dish to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle polenta with salt, pepper and parmesan, then spray/drizzle with oil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. You may wish to check after 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Apple, Spinach and Chorizo Frittata

Ahhh, frittatas. So easy, so delicious, so good at making a meal out of the most basic ingredients.

This particular frittata, for example, is so stupidly easy, yet the flavour is almost undeservingly wonderful. Such marvelous results for such little effort or need for cooking expertise. I mean, isn’t that the best kind of cooking? All the results for little effort? In my busy, lazy world it is.

This frittata is so versatile, too. You can make it the night before, which is perfect for Thursday nights when the daughter and I both have netball training, the son has baseball, and the husband has a killer commute. It’s a meal in itself, but light enough for those nights when you don’t want a full dinner. And, best of all, while doesn’t last long in my house as everyone loves it, if I can keep it away from snacky, sneaky hands, it lasts two or three days for a great work lunch. A larger serving (1/4) is only 360 calories, and a smaller serving (1/6) is 240. Add some veggies or a salad, and you’re absolutely good to go – and it’s more filling than just the larger serve.

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

180g chorizo sausage, sliced into coins

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red apple, thinly sliced

100g baby spinach

9 eggs

60g milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Heat oil in an ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Cook chorizo for five minutes, or until golden. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, until softened. Transfer both to a bowl, but keep oil in the pan.
  3. Place apple slices in pan and cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden and starting to soften. Remove to a separate plate or bowl.
  4. Add spinach and stir briefly until just wilted. Return onion and 3/4 of the chorizo to the pan, and distribute evenly in the pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, whisk eggs and milk until combined. Pour into pan, over the spinach mixture.
  6. Arrange remaining chorizo and apple slices over the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking occasionally, until eggs just start to set. Transfer to oven, and bake for 12-15 minutes until egg is golden and cooked though.

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Pork and Mushroom Udon Soup

Silly me, I called out a dangerous sentence in my household this morning. I should have known better, or stopped myself when I felt it coming on, but nonetheless, “I’m doing a shopping list, what do we want for dinner?” fell out of my mouth. Such a question will result in one of two responses: a shrug of the shoulders and non-committal grunt of “I don’t know”, or a very excited, specific request.

Today, I got the latter. The 12 year old Japanophile piped upped almost instantly, “Ramen!” and of course, he didn’t mean the cheap, quick 2 minute noodle style (thankfully, because I really don’t care for those). I tried to point out that even in Japan, people don’t make ramen at home, they go to a noodle house. He saw right through that, and I found myself at the huge Asian supermarket not too far from my house.

As grumpy as I sound, I am of course, quite pleased with the outcome. I cook a lot of soup, even a lot of Asian style soups, but I think this might have been the best yet. I got a little inspiration from Nigella Lawson, a little from the Japan cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and a little from years of eating ramen and never coming across one I didn’t love. I won’t claim pure authenticity, but I will claim deliciousness. And healthfulness – it’s pretty wholesome at only 450 calories a serve.

Ingredients

20g dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms

5 cups dashi or chicken stock

2tsp minced ginger

2tsp white miso paste

2 radishes, thinly sliced

1tbs soy sauce

2tsp olive oil

300g pork loin, thinly sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper

4 eggs

400g udon noodles

2 bok choy, shredded, or 100g baby spinach

8 slices narutomaki

scallions, sliced thinly, to serve

1 small chilli, sliced thinly, to serve.

Methods

  1. Place mushrooms, stock, miso and ginger in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. In the last 3 minutes, add radishes and soy sauce. Meanwhile, continue with the following steps.
  2. Saute the pork in the oil over high heat until just cooked through, Set aside.
  3. Boil eggs for 6.5-9 minutes, until set to your preference. We like a 6.5 minute egg, where it’s hard around the outside of the yolk and still slightly soft toward the middle. When done, remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the water, and run under cold water, peel and set aside.
  4. Place udon in the water from the eggs and cook for 4 minutes, or to package instructions. Drain and rinse.
  5. To assemble, place noodles in bowls. Add spinach/bok choy and pork, then ladle in soup. Top with narotmaki, scallions and chilli.
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