Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Daring Kitchen: Cornmeal (Polenta with Blue Cheese, Sweet Potatoand Basil)

I can't believe another month has rolled around, and I'm also quite glad that Rachael from Pizzarossa chose a challenge that had a bit of flexibility about it and got me excited. Part of the excitement was because Joy the Baker advised me that grits and polenta were basically different grades of the same product, and so recipes for a product that is largely unavailable in Australia suddenly opened up to me! Sure, the texture of polenta is smoother, but they're roughly interchangable and so a whole world of cooking has opened up for me. YAAAAAAYYYY!!! *does happy dance*

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

I can't remember where I read about it, but I wanted to cook something like grits with blue cheese. I have never been a big fan of blue cheese, although since living in Adelaide and doing a few of those cheese-and-wine trails I have been exposed to fairly tolerable variations on the theme, like a nice, mild Roqueforte (I don't know if I spelled that correctly) rather than that manky, powdery blue stuff. Ugh.

So when my friend Mary introduced me to the most excellent combination of gnocchi with roasted pumpkin and basil leaves wilted in browning butter, with chunks of blue cheese stirred about until all nice and melty and creamy, well, I was pretty darned happy. And relieved. Because blue cheese isn't so bad after all. I can't ever see myself gobbling down that stinky stuff like my mum does, but that bite is quite passable in cooking.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm making the polenta equivalent of Mary's dish within a day of reading about the challenge, using what we already had in the fridge. I was just so excited!!!

I should have written down what I put in, shouldn't I... oh well, I'll give it a go!

1 small sweet potato, in 1/2-1" cubes
1tbsp dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2c polenta
1c cold water
1c hot water + extra
1 rounded tsp chicken stock powder
1/2c milk
20g butter + extra
40g blue cheese + extra
Squeezy basil stuff (or I'm sure torn fresh basil would be nice, too)

Mix mustard and olive oil together until homogenous. Toss sweet potato in it and roast at 190oC for about 25 minutes then flip the sweet potato around and turn it up to about 210oC until a little browner and soft enough to eat (about another 10 minutes but your oven may differ). Ideally I would have used pumpkin as it's sweeter, but this had to do. I wanted to make this dish NOW!!!

Put polenta in medium-ish saucepan (maybe on the large side of medium. I don't know what the official ruling on saucepan size is!) and add 1c water. Stir around then turn on the heat. Boil the kettle, measure out another cup of water and add the stock powder. Stir around and bring to boil. You'll have to really watch it when it comes to the boil because it pops like lava bubbles!

I think at this stage I added the milk and was taste testing it fairly often so I could tell when it was cooked (it will become smoother). It took less than ten minutes from the boil, probably less than eight but I wasn't timing it as I placed priority on not being splattered by hot polenta.

Once it reached the cooked stage I turned off the heat, stirred through some squeeze basil and some butter and cheese. I kept adding those two until I got the desired consistency and flavour.

Mine turned out quite soft and quite wet, but that's how I like it. If you don't want it as wet then maybe reduce the amount of water you add. You could eat it alone or as a side dish - I served it with some left over casserole, which was nice.

Thank you Rachael for a great challenge!


  1. Squeezy basil stuff :-)
    It wasn't untl this challenge that I realized grits and polenta were close relatives - and then I read the front of my polenta where it said just that. (It was a forehead slapping moment).
    Your squash/ blue cheese version sounds really good. Great combo!

  2. Nice work! I have never been able to bring myself to eat blue cheese, but this sounds good enough to try it. I always love the variations you come up with on these challenges.

    1. I was turned off it for years, probably because my mum would sit there and eat a big, smelly wedge of it in front of me, which, frankly, nauseated me more than a little. But I have since decided that it is tolerable in cooking, as long as you don't go overboard.

  3. You have me craving polenta with blue cheese now! :) Your dish sounds wonderful!

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Andy. I'm having trouble finding your blog! I know I've stopped by it before but I seem to have lost it :(


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