Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Pleasant Peasant Food!

Polenta, Cicoria, Fave, Scalogne & Paprika Affumicata
Polenta, Chicory, Fava Beans, Shallot & Smoked Paprika


Combine some steamy, coarse-ground, nutmeg-infused polenta, sweet shallot and fava beans with some bitter, wild chicory and then season them with intense, smoked paprika... and what have you got?

You have got one helluva tasty supper- that's what! Healthy, wholesome, satisfying and delicious and perfect for the most miserable night of the week so far... Ugh! Bring on that comfort, is what I say!


It's cheap and simple "peasant food" to be honest- no pretense, but lots of flavor... and no other "fancy-pants" food in the world would have made me feel better this evening- this was just the right thing for me!


This is another dish that is so simple, that it does not require accurate measurements in any way, or even have a real recipe as such- it is just a matter of combining the right ingredients- and here you can see them all in one pretty picture. The only thing you can't see is the vegetable broth I used to boil the polenta in, the milk that I added towards the end and the nutmeg that I grated into it... but the question of how much of each ingredient you will need? Well- that all depends on how hungry you are- haha!

My rule of thumb would be about 1 teacupful of polenta, 1 shallot, 1 handful of beans and 5-6 leaves of chicory for each serving.


The polenta I used, was the "Bramata" variety- really rough-cut, coarse and chunky, with lots of great texture and flavor... which takes a little bit longer to cook- but makes for a tasty, nice change and goes wonderfully with such a rustic meal.


So, yes, this will take about an hour to cook- but yes it is worth it! Fava, or broad beans, go so well with bitter chicory- ask any of my friends from Puglia!

That's why I made this- to be a variation on the well loved, puréed bean and chicory dish that is so well loved there and to give it a slightly different attitude... Well, what else did you expect, coming from me?


Being a lazy so-and-so, I decided to try to make this meal without needing to use loads of pots and pans, so I started off by squeezing the chicory into a small pan with just a little salted water, popping on the lid and let it steam away for 10 minutes, whilst I prepared the beans. See the gap in the middle? That's where I am going to cook the beans as soon as I am ready- why put yet another pan on the heat just for those few beans?

Shell the beans, remove the white skin on them and slice up the shallot. And whilst the chicory boils for a little while longer- boil up 2-3 cupfuls of vegetable stock, ready to add the polenta to.


After around 10-15 minutes of boiling the chicory, add the beans and let them boil for 5 minutes, before draining them and letting them cool for a while.


Add the polenta to the boiling broth, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it bubble away for 40-45 minutes. If you are using a finer ground, "regular" polenta, 20 minutes or so should do.


Whilst the polenta simmers, fry the shallot in a little olive oil until it becomes soft, brown and translucent- then set it to one side.


Next, add the fava beans and give them a quick stir-fry too, until they become nicely glazed and begin to brown slightly.


And last, but not least of course the chicory! Again- don't be afraid to give it a good blast of heat and let it become slightly brown too!

Set it to one side and pop on a lid to keep it warm.


By now, the polenta will be almost done and the time will have arrived to add a splash of milk and plenty of nutmeg- this will give it an almost Bechamel-like flavor, without adding any unnecessary fat. And yes- you can go ahead and use a low-fat milk- it's all good!

Once you have worked-in the milk, add the beans and the shallot and let them simmer together for a final 5 minutes until all of the flavors are nicely infused and you are ready to serve!


Serve the chicory on top of the polenta and finish everything with a good pinch or two of smoked paprika and a few last drops of raw olive oil.... delicious!


And on a cold Winter's night, let me tell you that this is indeed a tiding of comfort and joy... an edible and delicious one, too! 

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