Paesano Pie, or, more food from Islington.

August 6, 2007

Coming home from work this arvo, I learned that we had acquired some polenta (English!) from the local organicy healthy foody shoppe – and some beef mince (organic and local), of course, had  been defrosted in anticipation of dinner. Note at this point that we have lost all fear of Bovine Disorders, Spongiform and otherwise – they haven’t been discovered here for a decade now, and legislation has been enacted to stem the behaviour that led to its rampancy in the first place. There are serious rants to be had on that topic, but that is not my purpose here. Butchers get very grumpy at the mention of BSE. They really put a lot of effort into taking pictures of the happiest fluffiest cows they can for their websites. Check The Ginger Pig (as mentioned in a previous post) for confirmation of this. By the way, The Ginger Pig made possibly the finest sausages I’ve ever eaten, their French Butcher’s sausages – tasty, chunky, just YUM! Thanks to our friend Sion for pointing us in the right direction at Borough Markets.

Anyway, back to the polenta and mince where this ramble began.

I have no idea what to do when presented with uncooked polenta. Luckily, Linda does have a clue, and thus begins a collaborative enterprise that ended both fillingly and tastily.

I thought that a dish could be constructed on a base of polenta, with a topping of tomatoey basily mince, with a crust of more polenta. It goes together a bit like this:

1 large onion, finely chopped, and fried till clear in olive oil/butter.
A decent amount of garlic (to taste) finely chopped, throw it in when the onions are done
250 grams of finest beef mince. Throw it into the pan on high heat immediately after the garlic has been stirred in.
I can of peeled tomatoes (or fresh if you’ve got them), once the meat’s looking nice.
A couple of anchovies, salt, pepper, truffle oil, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, whatever seasoning takes your fancy (I recommend all of the above.)


Boil 750 ml of water, then throw in 250 grams of polenta. We could only lay our hands on instant polenta, if you’ve the time, resources and inclination, use the real stuff. There are better instructions than these available for the cooking of polenta, use them.
When cooked, pour 2/3 of it into a baking dish, to be about 3 or 4 cm thick. Allow to set (we didn’t, but I recommend it. Not too much, though, you want the beef sauce flavour to be able to penetrate it.)
This goes in the oven to do some more cooking for about 15 minutes at 200 degrees.

Stir some Parmesan into the remaining third, along with butter, and truffle oil if you’ve got it. Be restrained with the truffle oil. It’s powerful stuff. We used Reggiano, though we don’t recommend it, as we’re told that any self-respecting Italian housewife would have you horse-whipped for such a waste of fine cheese. Use Grana Padano instead.

Tear up some basil, a generous amount, stir it through the sauce, then pour the lot onto the polenta base, following that with the rest of the polenta.
Top with more grated Parmesan, and throw it back in the oven for about 10 minutes. At the end you need to give the top more heat to brown it.

I did a side of diced eggplant, just fried in olive oil, nicely browned. This can happen while the polenta doodad sets (once you’ve taken it out of the oven.)

It makes a yummy (possibly slightly runny) cottage-pie-like thing, with textury eggplant lumps to make you feel like you’ve eaten a vegetable. Or you could do a side of steamed green things, or a rocket salad. It’s all good.


One comment

  1. >>Butchers get very grumpy at the mention of BSE.

    I bet they’re even grumpier today. And I bet you’re re-reading that legislation’s fine print in the paper this morning…

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