This Balkan side dish is one of my absolute favourites. I’m not a fan of mashed potato but this is so much more than that. A mixture of potato, kidney and cannellini beans and pancetta this is simply truly delicious! Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make and goes well with meat, sausages, fish and salad.
Check out the recipe below…
600g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
240g (1 tin) of cannellini beans
240g (1 tin) of red kidney beans
250g diced panetta
150ml sour cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender (it should take about 20 minutes)
Meanwhile fry the pancetta until crispy
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan
Add the butter and sour cream and mash until smooth
Add the beans and pancetta into the potato and stir
When I was in Kiev a few years ago I went to eat at Khutorok, a paddle-boat steamer-come-restaurant. The charming decor was accompanied by even more charming staff and food. It was by far the best meal I had in Kiev. I ordered veal, wild rice and roasted vegetables. The presentation was faultless and the vegetables were impressively stacked. I remember sitting there thinking that I’d never be able to re-create that but last weekend, as part of a meal I cooked for my family, I foolishly thought I’d give it a go! Although it was a hassle, it looked amazing and I was really pleased with my achievement!
Handful of fresh thyme and rosemary (use dried if you can’t get fresh)
3 garlic cloves
150ml rapeseed oil
4 red peppers, roasted, skins removed and sliced into discs
2 white onions, sliced quite thickly
Sprinkling of paprika for presentation purposes
Slice aubergine and courgette and place in a dish
Blend the oil together with the garlic and herbs
Drizzle oil over the aubergine and courgettes and leave to marinate for at least 3 hours
Heat a griddle pan, when hot, place the aubergine, courgettes and sliced onion in pan using marinate as oil
(Add more oil to pan if needed)
When all vegetables have a nice charred colouring across them, set aside
Put aubergines, courgettes, onion and sliced red pepper into a dish and heat in oven for 15 minutes on 180°C
Arrange vegetables on top of each other
Sprinkle paprika over the plate to decorate and serve
The first time I encountered polenta was, when at the age of 13, I spent a few weeks of my summer holiday in Slovenia with our family friends. Although they live in Ljubljana, the capital city, we stayed at their weekend house, in what I regard as being the most picturesque village in the whole world, Kranjska Gora.
Slovenia shares borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. The fluctuating borders and unbelievable social mobility during times of peace and war throughout 2000 years, have meant the areas, particularly nearer its borders, take a great deal of influence from its neighbours. No better example of this is food.
While staying in Kranjska Gora, it is possible to cycle, ski or drive to Italy in order to buy some pasta and bring it back for lunch. Although, at the time, in 1999, the border guard was somewhat suspicious of two British sisters, travelling with a Slovene family. However, in 2004, Slovenia entered the EU and since then, it is no longer necessary to declare either your British friends, or your tortellini!
The Detela family would serve up polenta as a side dish to accompany many dishes. One great Croatia dish for which polenta is the perfect accompaniment, is brodet, a fish stew popular on the Dalmatian coast (I will post a recipe for that soon!)
For now, here is my recipe for the perfect polenta.
4 tbsp poltena per serving
250ml boiling water
pinch of salt
drizzle of olive oil
Put the polenta into a saucepan (4 tbsp per serving)
Add the 250ml of boiling water.
Heat on a medium heat.
Constantly stir with a wooden spoon.
After five or so minutes, when the mixture has thickened, remove the pan from the heat.
When the polenta is ready to take off the heat, pour the polenta into a foil dish.
Let the mix settle evenly.
When it has cooled slightly, drizzle olive oil over the top.
Let it cool and place in the refrigerator until the mix has formed a perfect solid.
Place the foil dish under your grill and gently grill the polenta until slightly crispy on top.
Turn out polenta and grill the other side.
Either serve whole or cut into slice.
Done! A different accompaniment to potatoes or rice, super cheap and really delicious! Plus, when you have a small kitchen as I do, it is great to be able to prepare side dishes in advance, whether eating on your own or feeding your ravenous friends, thankfully, for that polenta is perfect. Get it all ready and just grill, just prior to serving up your main course.
Of course, if you would rather it less solid, heat the polenta in the saucepan with the boiling water and pinch of salt, stir until thick and serve! It truly is as simple as that!