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.
It is JJanuary. Grey January. Grey cold boring January even. Lots of people are on detox or trying to save pennies after an extravagant month of boozing.
I definitely need to save the pennies, but I also need to get into the habit of cooking weekday food again. It seems to me that December was just a long stretch of canapés, bubbly and party dresses and now we’re back to normal. What an anti climax!
And weekday food is not a particular favourite of mine, I live for parties, nibbles, indulgent puddings and creamy sauces, but I promised myself to try and embrace the regular weekday supper too, and the only way I can do that is to make the food a little more interesting.
Bangers and mash for example, is nice but in my opinion just a tad boring. But if you buy really nice sausages like Toulouse ones and add some parmesan and dijon mustard to the mash, then I can see then point.
So that’s what I did, and it was lovely.
Dijon and parmesan mashed potatoes, serves 2
4 medium potatoes, peeled
50 ml milk
4 tbsp butter
salt, white pepper
1,5-2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Cut the potatoes into similar sized pieces. Place in a large saucepan and cover just about, with water. Add salt. Bring to the boil and cook with the lid half on until the potatoes are very soft. Drain and mash the potatoes up with a masher or an electric whisk (yep, it works). Add butter and milk and mash until well combined. Then add the mustard and cheese and combine. Season with salt and pepper.
I adore comfort food, and I love when eating something makes you feel better. Sometimes you notice the physical effects straight away; your belly feels full, you get energy again and you stop feeling dizzy. But it almost always, at least if it is well cooked food, makes you happier. If I am down it helps to eat. Not for the sake of eating, but everything feels a bit better after you have eaten something warming and your belly is full.
With the autumn, or nearly winter, hitting London, I feel I need something comforting for supper almost everyday. That warm embrace of hearty food is difficult to beat and for me a few things hits the bull’s eye. Creamy dishes and casseroles or soup. This is from the latter category and really does the trick. With a bit of a kick to it as well as the melted cheese on top and the bread to soak up the juices in the bowl this qualifies as one of the best autumnal comfort dishes out there, don’t you think?!
My everyday chilli, serves 6
1 kg beef mince
2 cans á 400 g chopped tomatoes (of good quality), one with chilli if available
100 ml water
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
3 tsp cumin
3-4 tsp chipotle paste
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
6-7 drops tabasco
2 tbsp mild chilli sauce
1 tbsp tomato purée
a pinch of brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
400 g kidney beans, canned – rinsed and drained
Fry the meat in a large pan. Add salt and pepper. Remove the meat and pour out the meat juices. Fry the onions and garlic until soft but not browned in olive oil. Add the meat, chopped tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil. Add everything but the beans. Season and add more spices if needed. Let it boil until the sauce has thickened. Add the beans and cook for another few minutes to warm up the beans.
Serve with grated cheese, sourcream and bread. And perhaps some salad.