Slow cooked lamb shank with herb polenta

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This autumn is the strangest I’ve ever experienced, weather-wise. Apart from the dip in temperature at the beginning of this week it’s been very warm for November. Not that I’m complaining (I hate the cold!), it just feels strange not having to wear gloves when Christmas is just around the corner!

The warmth outside hasn’t really put me in the mood for warming soups and hearty stews, in fact this recipe of slow cooked lamb shank is the most autumnal dish I have accomplished the last few months.

The recipe for herb polenta is courtesy of my Swedish food blogger colleague Annika and works with all sorts of tender meats.

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Slow cooked lamb shank, serves 2

1 lamb shank

a knob of butter

1 onion, unpeeled, cut into wedges

1 carrot, cut into chunks

2 bay leaves

salt, pepper

1/2 bottle red wine

Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Melt a knob of butter in an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid. Brown the meat on all sides and season. Remove from the pan and add the onion and carrot pieces. Fry for a few minutes then remove from the heat. Put the lamb shank back into the casserole dish and add the wine and bay leaves. Put the lid on and place in the oven for 2 1/1 hours; you want the meat to be very tender and fall off the bone. Check on the meat every half an hour. Add more liquid if needed and turn the shank once in a while. To serve, take the meat off the bone and serve in chunks with polenta and vegetables.

Creamy herb polenta, serves 3

Translated from and adapted after Annika’s recipe (which I have halved)

700 ml vegetable stock

50 g butter

300 ml polenta

a handful finely chopped mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, sage etc)

150 ml finely grated parmesan 

Bring the stock to simmer (not boil) in a large saucepan. Add the polenta while whisking. Add butter. Whisk until the polenta starts to boil. Whisk regularly while the polenta cooks for another 15-20 minutes. Add the herbs but save some for decoration. Add more stock if needed. The polenta needs to be thinner than you think as the parmesan will thicken it. Add the parmesan when the polenta is cooked. Season to taste and maybe add another knob of butter. Serve immediately.

Creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in tomato sauce

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The weekend before last I enjoyed an ice cream in the sun in Berlin (without a coat on) so there is hope that spring is on it’s way to London too, even though it is a little too cold for my liking at the moment.

But before it’s all barbecues and salads, let’s indulge in the comfort food of colder seasons, like this very creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in a rich tomato sauce. Yes, let’s!

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Creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in tomato sauce, serves  2

Tomato sauce:

a little olive oil

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes

1/2 aubergine, peeled and cut into cubes

1/2 chorizo ring, peeled and sliced

oil for frying

Polenta:

600 ml chicken or vegetable stock 

150 g polenta

50 g butter

150 ml finely grated parmesan

2 garlic cloves, pressed

salt, white pepper

Fry the pressed garlic in some oil in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat for a minute. Add the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and a splash of water. Let the sauce cook for 15-20 minutes until it’s thickened nicely. Stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Fry the aubergine cubes in oil until golden. Remove from pan and fry the chorizo slices. Add to the tomato sauce when it’s done. 

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the polenta bit by bit, stir with a wooden spoon while it thickens (this happens pretty quickly). Remove from heat and add butter, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with the tomato sauce. 

 

The best couscous salad

cous

This couscous salad is divine. I know, the recipe sounds too simple to create a divine dish but trust me, and my friend Gaby, when we say it is delicious.

I whipped this up one night when I was tired, hot and bothered and had no energy to cook and it turned out great. I just served it with some fried halloumi and a glass of white wine and it turned out to the an amazing supper.

Couscous salad with chilli and mint, serves 2

2 portions coucous

olive oil

1/2 lemon

1 tomato

3 spring onions 

1/2 red chilli

a handful mint

sea salt

Cook the couscous according to the packet, but add some stock to the water. Takes max 5 mins. Meanwhile chop/slice the chilli, tomato, spring onion and mint.

Use a fork to puff up the couscous and add some olive oil. Heat up some more oil in a non-stick pan and fry the chilli for a minute or two without browning. Mix the chilli and hot oil into the couscous and add the tomato and spring onions. Add some lemon juice and salt. Adjust the seasoning and add the mint. Serve with fried halloumi, barbecues chicken or what else you fancy. 

Fast food: creamy polenta with sausage casserole

Polenta was non-existant in Sweden in the 80s when I grew up. We only had locally sourced food and anything ‘exotic’ was canned pineapple, bananas and peanuts. Several dishes from the 80s combine all three.

No, polenta I discovered on my own and loved from the first bite. I like the texture and the fact that it tastes of nothing until you’ve added butter and parmesan, and it is such a wonderful transformation.

I sometimes serve it simply with fried mushrooms or fried chorizo, but this time I wanted something even more soothing and comforting. The casserole is a cheat, but tastes lovely. Using French Toulouse sausages makes it as unauthentic as serving it with Spanish chorizo, but both versions work – believe me.

Just use good quality sausages as most of the flavour comes from them and season the sauce sauce to your own taste.

Creamy polenta with sausage casserole, serves 2

2 portions creamy polenta

4 Toulouse sausages

200 g tinned chopped tomatoes

50 ml water

balsamic vinegar after taste

1 pinch of sugar

salt, black pepper

grated parmesan to serve

oil for frying

Cut the skin of the sausages and push our the sausage meat. Fry it until cooked through in some oil. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to the boil and let thicken. Add balsamic vinegar, sugar and seasoning to your taste. Maybe also add some garlic. Plate the polenta and casserole, top with grated parmesan and enjoy.

 

Weekday wonders: creamy polenta with fried mushrooms

When I grew up in the 80s in the south of Sweden we ate potatoes several times a week, that was just the way it was in my meat, potatoes and veg kind of family, and I still love potatoes, but as I grew up and the world seems smaller, there are so many substitutes for potatoes to try for variation, and I definitely like variation.

The grain I am particular fond of is polenta, because it is, like the potato, very versatile. MY favourite way of eating polenta is the creamy version in a bowl with just a fork, and that’s what I had the other day.

All you need is a few ingredients you probably have at hand anyway, it only takes a few minutes, and served with something as simple as fried mushrooms sprinkled with parsley, this is a lovely weekday meal that comforts and tastes fantastic.

The recipe below is for one, and this is perfect food to cook for one. Just double, triple or whatever, the recipe to feed more.

Creamy polenta, serves 1

50 g polenta

200 ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 tbsp butter

50 ml grated parmesan

1/2-1 garlic clove

salt, white pepper

Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan and stir in the polenta. Cook according to the instuctions of the packet. Remove the saucepa from the heat and stir in the garlic, butter and cheese. Stir to melt and season with salt and pepper.

Smoky polenta chips (and burgers)

We had burgers and chips for dinner one day last week. With one big twist; it was polenta chips. And they tasted of smoked cheese.

Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this amazing recipe, that fame belongs to Yotam Ottolenghi, but I am very happy to spread the word.

OK, they’re probably worse to eat from a health perspective than regular chips, but they are so so SO very good. They melt in your mouth and the smokiness is just perfect with the mellow texture. In grams, they contain just as much cheese as polenta, plus they are dipped in flour and then deep-fried, so not exactly healthy. But who cares?!

Smoky polenta chips, serves 3

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe.

375 ml vegetable stock

60 g quick polenta

20 g butter

60 g smoked cheese (the recipe calls for scamorza affumicata, but I used ‘Bavarian smoked cheese’)

salt, pepper

1 dl plain flour

500 ml vegetable (or other neutral) oil

Bring the stock to the boil and add the polenta bit by bit while stirring. Let it simmer for 5 minutes while continue to stir. Remove from the heat and add butter and cheese. Stir to incorporate evenly.

Line a square or rectangular dish (mine was 20 cm and square) with clingfilm and spread the polenta into it, evenly. Leave to cool and place in fridge for at least an hour to set. Remove from the fridge, place the polenta square onto a chopping board and cut it into chip-size pieces. Coat these with flour. Heat up 1-2 cm high with oil in a frying or sauteuse pan until very hot. Deep fry the chips until golden. Drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Burgers, makes 5

500 g lean beef mince

1 egg

50 ml breadcrumbs or one slice of white bread, edges removed and crumbled

1 tsp onion granules

salt, white pepper

2 tbsp  Reggae Reggae sauce or similar

Add egg and breadcrumbs to a bowl. Add the onions, seasoning and sauce. Stir and leave it to swell for a few minutes. Add the mince and mix well with a wooden fork. Divide the meat into 5 even pieces and shape liek burgers. Fry in butter and oil until either medium or well done, according to taste. 

Barbecue and canapés with girolles

The second day in Southern Sweden we spent the day in Falsterbo, a lovely little town by the seaside because Christopher was playing golf with Claes there all day, at a links course with insane amounts of water but nice views. I don’t play golf, so I spent the day with my best friend Emma (Claes’s fiancée). We gossiped a lot, had lunch at a nice café and prepared dinner for the boys. When they got back feeling tired after a day outside, we bribed them with beer to light the barbecue, while we took care of the rest of the cooking.

When we went to the supermarket I was pleased to see that they had lots of fresh girolles, that are in season now. It is my favourite mushroom and I find it really sad that I can’t buy them in a normal supermarket here in the UK. Girolles are best paired with butter and garlic and they make out a simple, but delicious, canapé.

We also had souvlaki, a nice salad with cucumber, tomatoes, leafy mixed salad, red onions and plenty of feta and another salad with giant couscous, pitta and homemade tzatsiki.

Emma gave the sauce top marks! It tastes fantastic with fat yoghurt and a big glug of olive oil. Yu-um…

I prefer giant couscous to the smaller variety, it is chewier and tastes better I think. In the salad above I kept it really simple, adding just thin slivers of red onion, herb salt, olive oil and chopped parsley. Simple yet delicious.

Girolle canapés, serves 4

100-150 g girolles, brushed and chopped

1/2 solo garlic or 1 garlic clove, pressed

a large knob of butter (enough to coat the mushrooms generously but not enough for them to bathe in)

chopped parsley

a bag of readymade brushettinis (garlic and herb if available

Fry the girolles on high heat in some of the butter. Add more butter as well as the garlic and lower the heat (so the garlic won’t burn). Season and mix in the parsley. Scoop up onto the biscuits and serve.