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Polenta

Comfort food of the now; polenta.

Creamy Polenta to Ease a Troubled Mind.

One part polenta
Four parts stock (I prefer chicken, but you can use vegetable if you are anti-meat)

Seasoning herbs of choice (I like thyme and sage)
Salt (depending on how strong your stock is)
Pepper (I like a whole lot of freshly ground pepper)

A good dash of milk
A good dollop of butter
A good sprinkle of parmesan cheese

Set your stock to simmer; once it is bubbling gently, add the polenta in a thin stream while stirring constantly. Continue stirring until it starts to thicken a little, and start your seasoning process. Stir stir stir. When the polenta grains look like they have absorbed most of the stock and have softened (about 10-15 mins), turn down the heat and carefully try some. If the grains are nice and soft, go team you! If not, cook a while longer. Either way, season more if you feel like it, but remember that it is supposed to be pretty bland.

Once cooked, remove from heat. Add your milk, butter and cheese, and stir well until the cheese is melted and incorperated. Leave it to sit for a little while - it will hold the heat really well, and it will continue to cook.

I like to add a handful of sliced kalamata olives to my polenta, but that's just me.

Nice, bland, comforting polenta needs a rich, tasty thing to go with it. Here are two options.

Oven-roasted Tasty Tomatoes

Fresh roma tomatoes
Cloves of fresh garlic, sliced fine
Basil, either dried or torn to little pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways, and place in a bowl. Add the garlic slices, basil, and a healthy measure of olive oil. Toss liberally to mix well. Lay the tomatoes cut side up in an oven pan, and sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Remember that the salt will help leech out the extra liquid, leaving a more concentrated flavour. Roast in a low-ish oven (160oC at a guess) until the tomatoes are cooked through and a little shrivelled. The idea is to create what is effectively bruschetta, but hot.

Serve with polenta cooked with vegetable stock.

Rich Random Stew

Random meat, preferably from the back of the freezer when there is nothing else in the house to cook, cubed
Onion, chopped reasonably fine
1 tbs minced garlic
Butter
Flour
3-4 tbs Mercury Cider, sweet (or any other beer or cider you have about the house)
1 cup mixed frozen veggies
1 tbs powdered beef stock
3 tbs tomato paste
3-5 rashers of bacon, sliced into strips
Random seasoning, depending on your meat of choice (rosemary generally works well)
2 tbs soy

Cook the onion and garlic with a little oil until softened. Add the random meat to the pan, and brown. Throw into the pan about 2 tbs of butter and 2 tbs flour, and stir well to coat everything. Cook until the edges of the floured meat begin to get nice and toasty. Add your booze, and drink the rest while you cook. Once the sauce has reduced a little, add the frozen veggies, beef stock, tomato paste and bacon. Cook over a medium heat, and don't be afraid to add a little extra water if it looks too dry. Do not taste until the bacon has been cooked through!

Taste, and season to your heart's content. Remember that this needs to be a rich flavoured stew to counter the mildness of the polenta. Add the soy and taste again. Soy is the secret incredient of most of my cooking; it adds saltiness and depth to most things. Don't be afraid to balance the flavours a little; if it is too salty, add a tsp of sugar. If it is too bland, add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to perk it up.

Spoon over hot polenta, and enjoy.

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