Sunday, 7 July 2013

POLENTA WITH SPICY CHICKPEA RAGU // POLENTA CHIPS

I love hearty dishes like this in winter and this ragu is ideal for cooking on a lazy afternoon. The chickpeas add a nice bite and a bit of protein however you could also use cannellini beans or any other white bean. I use trusty tinned beans but if you can be bothered soaking dried beans and cooking them first they are supposed to give a better flavour.

I find using dried beans to be a bit of a gamble as you never know how long they have been sitting around for before you buy them. I bought a bag of haricot beans from the bulk bins in Commonsense but they were still really hard even after soaking and cooking for what seemed like an eternity - I'm blaming the quality of the bean not my cooking technique!

This is a simple sauce so if you want to bulk up the flavour you could add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or spinach - add the spinach toward the end of cooking so it wilts but still keeps its colour. If you're not in a polenta mood, the ragu would be delicious slathered over a pile of quinoa, farro or simply mopped up with a chunk of crusty bread or served alongside a big stack of steamed veges.



BONUS!!! Left over polenta can magically transform into delicious polenta chips. Amazing! For anyone who hasn't had polenta chips they are like a glorious combination of popcorn and corn chips - I'm surprised these bad boys don't make more of an appearance on bar snack menu things in Wellington. Can't a girl can get a good polenta chip when she's out? Is that too much to ask? Is it?!





Ragu - serves 4

Ingredients.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp chili flakes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed

Method.

Heat a frying pan, add the oil and when hot add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until slightly coloured then add the tomato paste and chili flakes and cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add the tinned  tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for at least 20 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. If you want a smooth sauce transfer it to a blender and blitz on high for a few minutes - you could also just blend half the mixture if you want a chunkier sauce. Add the chickpeas and stir through the sauce, leave on a low heat until ready to serve or set aside and reheat. 

Polenta.

2 cups hot vegetable stock
400g polenta
1/2 cup non dairy milk - optional
Sliced spring onions
Sliced parsley
Pinch of salt

Method.

Most packets come with instructions on how to cook the polenta but here's how I made mine, I feel like I should have used more stock so keep some handy just incase. Whisk the hot stock into a little whirl pool and slowly rain in the polenta, whisking constantly until all added. Cook over a medium heat for 20 - 25 minutes stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon. Add the milk, salt and some of the parsley and stir through.

Spread the polenta on to a wooden board and pour the ragu over the top. Add the spring onions and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.



Polenta Chips with Cayenne Salt

Chips.

Spread left over polenta onto a flat surface and leave to cool. Slice into shapes and shallow fry in hot oil until golden. Place cooked polenta chips on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil. Sprinkle liberally with cayenne salt, fresh herbs and spring onions and serve.

These would be amazing with some guacamole so if you can get your hands on a nice ripe creamy avocado, whip up some guac with fresh coriander, lime juice and a tiny bit of garlic (I actually like raw garlic) or serve with a good dollop of tomato sauce.

Cayenne Salt.

3 Tbsp flaky salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
1/2 a tsp of chili flakes