“Mamaliga” or “Puliszka” or “Polenta” with sheep´s cheese and Tapenade

…inspired by the cuisines of France and Romania, two teams playing in the UEFA EURO 2016 today.*)

I have never been to Romania, but my grandparents are from Transylvania, and I know that corn semolina porridge – called “Mamaliga” in Romanian and “Puliszka” in Hungarian, similar to Italian “Polenta” is a staple, and is often baked with sheep´s cheese. It is totally delicious with French Tapenade!

The recipe for the Tapenade is from Christiane, who serves it at her lovely little restaurant, Basilicum in Vienna. She has now also opened a stall at the market in Meidling. If you are in Vienna, go check it out!

As for preparing the corn semolina porridge, it is supposed to be hard work with continuous stirring. I do remember my Grandad preparing the dish for us. I became tired just from watching him stir. He did not use the rather coarse polenta I get here in Germany, but a finely milled corn flour.

I am not sure if the semolina I can buy here is “fast cooking” or not, as it does not explicitly state so on the package; it certainly does not require continuous stirring for more than a couple of minutes, so I omitted the physical exercise bit. I have used Feta cheese for the topping.

 Ingredients (approx. 4 servings): 125g corn semolina, 250ml milk, 250ml water, salt, 2tbsp butter, 100g Feta cheese, 150g pitted black olives, 1 tin of tuna (130g net weight), 50g anchovies, 30g capers, 3tbsp olive oil

 Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (fan).
  2. Soak the capers and the anchovies in a bowl of water (the Tapenade will otherwise bee too salty).
  3. Pour the water and the milk into a pan and bring to the boil. Add 1/2 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.
  4. Spread your baking dish or individual ramekins if using, with the butter and spread the polenta into them.
  5. Sprinkle with grated feta cheese and bake for 10 minutes or longer.
  6. Blend the tapenade ingredients to a paste.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

 

A note on the bottom picture: I treated myself for lunch with this dish, with some sauteed chopped courgettes as a side. I only realised after taking the picture that it was silly of me to have dolloped the tapenade on top. It should go beneath the polenta and the courgettes! Probably one of the first lessons cooks learn about presenting food…

*) Cooking the UEFA Euro 2016 theme

My sister and I had been toying with the idea of cooking ourselves through the European Soccer Championships for a while. Now that I have time, I decided to follow up and it took me half a day to figure out when to cook what and according to which rule? Will it have to be two dishes from opponents in a match? Will I have to do six dishes a day to represent all teams playing that day? … . In the end, I arrived at the most simple strategy of “24 countries, 13 days – that makes roughly two countries per day”. Now to the food choices, some were easy, but some were pretty difficult (Albania? Never been there, never heard of its cuisine, how on earth am I going to cook something Albanian? And how am I going to make my children eat all that foreign stuff?).

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