Savoury polenta cakes with meat filling

Starting out as another one for using leftover goulash – these polenta cakes turned out to be amazingly moreish. I had been toying with the idea to fill Columbian “Arepas” with meat instead of the traditionally used cheese for ages. The “Harina de Maíz” is hard to come by, so I tried to use polenta as an alternative. Stuffing the cakes IS a fiddly piece of work, so only attempt to make these if you feel recourceful and can boast a bit of dumpling-making experience.

Ingredients for 4 servings: 250g polenta, a handful of leftover goulash, 100g yellow lentils, 4 sprigs of parsely, 1/2 tsp marjoram, salt & pepper, 4 tbsp butter for frying

Method:

  1. Bring 1l of water to the boil. Add a teaspoon salt, then stir in the polenta. Lower the heat and keep stirring until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave on the hob, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Cook the lentils in 150ml water until they are totally soft (about 20 minutes).
  3. Finely chop the parsley.
  4. In a pestle and mortar, pound the goulash meat (take it out of the sauce, you need the filling to be quite dry)  together with the yellow lentils, the  parsley and the marjoram. Rectify for salt and pepper. You can add a bit of goulash sauce now, but make sure the mixture remains quite dry.
  5. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and keep stirring until it has cooled down enough to handle.
  6. Make the polenta cakes. Take a handful of the polenta and roll into ball. Flatten, make a dent in the middle and add one tablespoon of the meat filling. Make into a dumpling, then slightly flatten and press into a nice disc shape. Repeat with the remaining 7 dumplings.
  7. Fry the dumplings in two batches with half the butter respectively, over a low-to medium heat. The water from the polenta will start to sputter if using a too high heat setting, so it is better to be patient and fry over a low heat.
  8. When the polenta cakes are lovely golden brown and crispy, they are ready to serve!
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