Saturday, 16 May 2009

Polenta cups and Seasonal salad

Blogging: so many great ideas and so little time. So it is always a pleasure to actually make the food I drool over rather than just dreaming about it. I made these polenta cups with pea puree just a few nights ago. I had seen Kristy post about polenta cups only the day before and was excited about the idea so I wanted to share it.

Kristy had made polenta cups with smoky bean chilli filling but she had got the idea from Rachel Ray who had baked them with an egg inside them. It seemed such a brilliant idea that I wish I liked eggs. Fantastic for gluten free diets! I had been thinking about making a green pea and bean spread inspired by these dips. This appealed to me as a filling for the polenta cups.

My other inspiration was Ashely at Eat Me Delicious. She had recently made a Herbed Cauliflower with Capers and Lemon. What interested me was her comment that she enjoyed it with quinoa, cranberries, feta and walnuts. What a combination! It appealed even more when Lisa announced the theme for the No Croutons Required Event that she and Holler organise each month. This month it was to be a soup or salad with berries. It is not berry season here so I drew a blank. Then I thought that cranberries would fit the bill and it gave me the perfect excuse to try a version of Ashley’s salad.

The polenta cups and cauliflower salad paired wonderfully, tasting both delicious and healthy. By the time the cups came out of the oven we were hungry. Even a gentle knife to lever them out of the muffin tins was too harsh for these soft cups. The first one out collapsed completely. The second wobbled like the bottom lip of a baby about to cry, but it held together enough for photos. Leaving them for 20 minutes till I prised them from the muffin tin and then baking them another 20 minutes made them just the right crispiness and shape (as you can see on the photo). I am not sure how this extra baking would affect an egg in the polenta cup but it worked fine with the puree.

Now that I have discovered these polenta cups, I want to try them in other ways. The possibilities are endless. I am interested to try them in my silicone mould mini muffin cups. I think they might come out easier that way. Another idea is to put them in cupcake papers. They would be a great for entertaining or lunchboxes – actually I had one cold for breakfast and it was great. Rachel Ray served hers with egg in the cups and sausages on the side. I would like to try these with quiches or chlli non carne. I have even wondered about a sweet version with custard or berries. Making polenta is so easy since I have started making it in the microwave and, since my niece was diagnosed as a celiac, I have been interested in gluten free recipes.

The salad was also gluten free, as many salads are. More importantly, it was delicious and seasonal. I used some herbs from the garden. I was not brave enough to include capers. I don’t use capers much and was not sure they would taste right with the cranberries, feta and walnuts. I also didn’t do the quinoa that Ashley suggested because I wanted to keep it simple, but with quinoa this salad would be more substantial. But the salad, with the polenta cups, makes a most pleasing meal.

Polenta cups with pea puree
(inspired by Rachael Ray)
Makes 8 cups

Polenta cups:
½ cup polenta
1½ cup stock (or water and salt)
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated*

Pea Puree:
2 cups peas, lightly cooked
400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp lemon juice
generous pinch cayenne
1 tsp garlic flakes, crumbled
¾ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp soy sauce

* other grated cheeses would work well too - or omit cheese to make vegan.

Microwave polenta and stock (or water and salt) for 3½ minutes – stirring every minute till a porridge consistency. Stir in parmesan cheese. Check seasoning. Spoon into greased muffin tray (mine made 7-8 cups). Use back of spoon and/or fingers to mould into cups. Set aside.

Make pea puree by blitzing all ingredients in the food processor.

Fill the polenta cups with pea puree and smooth on top with the back of a spoon (Use leftover puree as a spread if you have any). Bake in 220 C oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sit for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove from muffin tray with a knife. Place on greased tray and return to oven for 20 minutes or until crisp on the outside.

Serve warm or room temperature with salad and chutney. These would be good as part of a buffet, for breakfast or in your lunchbox.

Cauliflower, Cranberry, Feta and Walnut Salad
(adapted from Eat Me Delicious)
Serves 2

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped (I used parsley, chives, rosemary and thyme)
¼ cup cranberries
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
70g feta cheese, crumbled
juice of half a small lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Steam cauliflower (I did it in the microwave) till tender. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve warm or at room temperature.

On the stereo:
The Captain: Kasey Chambers


  1. Mmmm I love those polenta cups! They look fantastic!

    And that salad looks wonderful too! I wish I could eat cauliflower! I love the splash of colour the cranberries give against the white too. Such a pretty salad.

  2. What a great idea! I've never seen polenta cups before but I know I'd love them :)

  3. Wow oh wow Johanna! Two ideas that seem in combo and by themselves to have "endless" possibilities! This is super.

  4. Those polenta cups are an inspired creation. I must try those. And your salad - just great. I adore feta and pairing it with cranberries and cauliflower is a fantastic idea. Such a satisfying meal. I'm delighted you had an opportunity to contribute something to our event. Thanks Johanna!

  5. Thanks Vegetation - that's a shame you don't eat cauliflower - but when I was making the salad I was thinking these flavourings would go well with other vegetables - for example pumpkin, green beans, asparagus

    Thanks Lorraine - it reminded me a bit of your 'polenta on the table' with the polenta being the vessel! So I am sure you would love it

    Thanks Tanna - I agree with you about endless possibilities - I had been tempted to roast the cauli for the salad which I might do next time - or I could even use the salad to fill the polenta cups ....

    Thanks Lisa - the sweetness of the cranberries and saltiness of the feta go so well together don't they! am pleased that NCR has inspired me yet again

  6. Love the polenta cups!! What an awesome idea. The filling you used sounds really yummy. And I'm glad you were able to use the cauliflower I posted about as inspiration and found something yummy to make. =)

  7. I'm amazed at how you manage to cook up so much with a wee one at home! The cups and the salad both look fabulous. I think I'd love those polenta cups!

  8. Thanks Ashley - your post was indeed inspirational

    Thanks Ricki - sometimes I am amazed at what I manage to cook too - good food makes me happy so it is a good sign of my state of mind :-)

  9. How very imaginative! I love the green and yellow contrast :)

  10. polenta cups is such a great idea.

  11. By happy mistake some cranberries and cauliflower from different dishes ended up mingling on my plate. I thought it was so interesting, the cauliflower and cranberry flavor together. I turned to google to see if anyone had paired these two together and written about it yet, and what do you know, you are first in the search! This side dish sounds great, exactly what I was looking for.

    Now I'm oh so intrigued by these polenta cups, it really has my imagination going. I am going to try these promptly along with your filling, because this sounds great too. One question: in the ingredients you list 1.5 cups stock, then in the directions you say water. Is one way or the other better for this recipe, or does it not make much difference? Or option #3, am I just misunderstanding what you mean by stock? :)


  12. Thanks Sarah - good question! I think I had started using water and salt but then thought that vegetable stock would be better and started to change the recipe and got distracted as usual - I have amended it now and hope it makes more sense now - because the polenta cups are very good


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