I thought I'd look at different types of carbs today- to go with your mains or as dishes in themselves. I'm focussing on 4 different grains (or pulses)- polenta, buckwheat, lentils and couscous. There's two recipes for each.
I'm hoping that these recipes become ingrained into your cooking repertoire!
I'm starting with polenta- (which is pre-cooked maize meal) -with its bright yellow colour and creamy consistency when cooked.
For 3-4 portions, bring 1 litre of water to the boil and add a tsp salt. Pour in 225g of polenta.
Continue cooking and stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until the polenta becomes creamy like mashed potato. Beat in a generous knob of butter (and a good grating of Parmesan cheese and/or nutmeg) depending on whether you like those ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve with anything that has a good hearty sauce which needs mopping up (stew, gravy, ragout, even baked beans) Leftovers can be fried and cut into slices like chips.
|Creamy polenta mash|
For a different take on polenta, I've baked it in a cornmeal loaf, flavoured with spring onion and cheese (some bacon lardons would do well here too).Again, this makes a lovely accompaniment to anything which needs soaking up. (And leftovers are good fried as part of a brunch or blitzed to crumbs to coat chicken or pork escalopes)
|Corn bread loaf|
Grease a 20cm baking tin generously and pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
Mix 110g of plain flour, 170g of cornmeal or polenta, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a bunch of chopped spring onions (tired ones from the bottom of the salad drawer are fine) together in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add 2 beaten eggs, a cup of grated cheese and a cup of olive oil or liquid Flora and a further cup of skimmed milk. Stir all the ingredients together and pour into the greased tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch, golden on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Next, I'm looking at two different ways with buckwheat.
I recognise buckwheat (or ble noir) when I eat in creperies and order galettes de sarrasin although didn't realize at first that they are not made with wholewheat flour but something quite different- light and nutty in flavour (buckwheat flour).
To make crepes or blinis-
For the batter:
Sift together 50g of buckwheat flour, 100g of plain flour, a pinch of salt and a a tsp of baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add 1 beaten egg, 80g of melted butter or margarine and 185ml of milk. Mix well until you have a creamy batter.
Heat a frying pan with a spritz of oil and pour in a ladleful of the batter, spreading it out with the back of the ladle until it covers the bottom of the pan very thinly. These crepes should be lacy in texture.
Flip over with a palette knife and cook evenly on both sides.
Place your filling in the middle and fold the sides in to form a square.
Another form of buckwheat is soba noodles- which you probably have eaten in Japanese restaurants. They are simple and quick to prepare- especially if you have stir fry veg waiting to be used up. Again, they make a nuttier alternative to egg noodles - as here in yaki soba:
Yasai Yaki Soba
Just boil the noodles for a couple of minutes in a pan (no need for salt), drain and refresh with cold water in a colander. Meanwhile, stir fry peppers, beansprouts and spring onions in a wok, add 1 beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon of soy sauce and stir until the egg is cooked and evenly distributed. Mix in the drained noodles and add a dressing of your choice: soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, peanut butter (for a satay style sauce) etc Decorate with crispy onions and sesame seeds.
Yasai yaki soba
My third alternative for you is lentils. I did a whole blog on this back in August when I had just returned from the Auvergne (home of the Puy lentil).
Indeed my recipes feature Puy lentils - as they have a lovely mineral flavour. I'm also using lentil flour (which you can find in health food stores).
My first dish is Parma wrapped chicken with creamy Puy lentils- one of my dinner party favourites.
Allow 2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs per person.
|Parma wrapped chicken with creamy Puy lentils|
skinless and boneless chicken thighs
Parma ham to wrap each one
cream cheese with herbs
a glass of white wine
salt and pepper
1. Open out the chicken thighs, spread a teaspoon of pesto on each one and then a teaspoon of cream cheese. (Keep all your teaspoons and spreading knives separate so you do not cross-contaminate the pots with raw chicken.)
2. Roll them up and wrap each one in a slice of Parma ham. Secure with cocktail sticks and place in a baking tray, along with the white wine.
3. Bake at 190 degreees for 40 minutes until the ham looks crispy.
4. Whilst the chicken bakes, finely chop the leek and soften in some olive oil.
5. Bring the lentils to the boil in ...water, turn down to a simmer and cook for ...minutes until all (or most) of the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are tender to taste. (Do not add salt until they are cooked, as they will toughen).
6. Mix the lentils and leeks together and season. Mix in a tablespoon of creme fraiche.
7. Lift the chicken portions out of the roasting pan, pour in the lentils and mix them with the chicken juices and wine before replacing the chicken pieces.
8. Put back into the oven to heat through (10 minutes) then serve.
This recipe goes really well with fish too- trout in particular or cod as in the picture.
|Cod with lentils|
Second lentil recipe uses lentil flour to make crepes- which can be filled as for the buckwheat crepes or topped as blinis for a canape. Click here for the link:
|Use the recipe to make blinis for canapes.|
Finally, I've got a couple of couscous recipes for you. The first one uses this grain as a stuffing for vegetables and the second one takes the leftovers, binds them together with a little beaten egg , coats them in egg and breadcrumbs and deep fries them as arancini.
I'm often in the mood to stuff a vegetable, and these little barquettes filled with moroccan spiced couscous certainly float my boat. They are delicious as an accompaniment to lamb or chicken stews- but also good on their own as a vegetarian dish drizzled with minty yoghurt.
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 tsp each of cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley
1 tbsp dried fruit eg. sultanas, dates or apricots
320 ml hot water
1. Slice the courgettes lengthways and steam for 10 minutes or microwave for 5 minutes until tender
2. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the flesh from a trench in the middle
3. Fry the chopped onion, garlic and ginger until translucent and then add the chopped courgette flesh
4. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a bowl and cover with the hot water and the spices and seasoning. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
5. Add the dried fruit and the coriander, and the onion and courgette mixture and press spoon fuls of this into the courgette trenches
6. Place in a lightly oiled baking tray , cover with silver foil and bake for 20 minutes until the courgetttes begin to collapse slightly.
7. Serve as suggested above