Cook this: Cornbread pudding

I found this recipe while on The Culinesstress’ site last week, and the gorgeous photo caught my eye pretty quickly. I read on to find a pretty simple recipe, and thought I’d give it a go, too – it seemed a really great winter-warmer type dish.

I haven’t really messed around with this recipe as much as I usually would – I actually had most of the ingredients in my pantry already other than fresh corn, which only cost $1 per ear at the market. The great thing about this recipe, other than it’s simplicity and the fact that it’s actually not terribly unhealthy, is the fact that it’s already gluten free, can be made lactose free, and as well as being low FODMAP friendly (by using only the green tops of the spring onions). So here’s how we do…

 

Ingredients (serves 2)
– butter, to grease tin with, and to serve (optional)
– 1¾ cups corn kernels, fresh if possible
– 4 tbsp thinly sliced spring onions
– 2 eggs
– ½ cup milk
– ½ cup loosely packed grated parmesan cheese
– salt (optional)
– 4 tablespoons cornmeal (polenta)

 

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C  and grease two small baking dishes or larger ramekins with butter – I know the proper ‘Murican way to do cornbread is in a case iron skillet, but sadly I didn’t have any of those lying around…

2. Mix together ¾ cup of corn kernels and the spring onion, and set aside.

3. Throw the remaining 1 cup of corn along with the eggs, milk, cheese (if you’re like me, reserve a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top at the end before baking!) and cornmeal into a food processor or blender, and blend until it a smooth batter just comes together – be careful not to over mix! You can add a little salt here too, if you want – the parmesan may make it salty enough for you anyway, or if you’re like me, you may want a little more, because salty food is delicious.

4. Pour the blended batter into the pie tins and mix in the corn/spring onion mix, diving evenly between the two tins. If you saved some cheese from step 1, now would be the time to sprinkle it on top, before it goes into the oven.

5. Bake corn pudding at for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top. Optionally, serve with a dollop of butter and sprinkle of salt on top.

It’s soft, surprisingly light and full of flavour, real winter comfort food 🙂 If you’re also enjoying the Melbourne cold at the moment, think about this for a quick, warming dinner this week!

Eat here: Coop’s Place, New Orleans

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St, New Orleans
http://www.coopsplace.net/

You know how some places are just referred to as a city institution? This is one of them. We asked a few locals where they’d recommend for a good feed on our way to a gig on Frenchman Street, and every response was “COOP’S PLACE! YOU GOTTA EAT THERE!” OK!

So we roll up to this dicey, dive bar looking place on Decatur St. It’s early (around 5:30pm) and already completely packed to the rafters and noisy as hell. There’s nanna sitting in the corner with her cocktail, and a dude in bike leathers on the next table. This is obviously the place to be; remember, first glances can be deceiving!

We settled into a corner table, placed a drink order with the no-nonsense guy who gave us menus in return, and got studying. We decided to go with the classics:

– fried crawfish (top left)
– gumbo (bottom)
– fried chicken (top right)
–  rabbit jambalaya (bottom of the big white plate)
– and slaw

2015/01/img_6142.jpg

Holy wow.. Coop’s Place doles out some SERIOUSLY good food, and it’s absolutely no wonder every man and his dog pointed us in that direction!! The gumbo was magic, such intense flavours that were all perfect in that little bowl. The crawfish were amazing, despite not quite being in season yet – buttery, white meat with the perfect coating; the exact same can be said for the chicken, actually. Tender meat, perfectly seasoned and golden crunchy coating. The rabbit jambalaya was a little on the dry side for me, but mixed in with a little slaw, and it was gold again.

On a night where I was feeling a bit flat and unwell, this was THE perfect table full of comfort food. Not only that, Coop’s Place itself was like walking into a crazy family dinner; a lot of people, obviously locals, knew each other and were having a great time. Even we couldn’t help being drawn into it, laughing along when the table next to us erupted at God only knows what, singing along with another table when song we knew started to play over the speakers. I tell you, if a night at Coop’s Place doesn’t get you in a great mood, not much else will! So when you go to New Orleans and people tell you to eat at Coop’s Place, don’t be put off by your first look at it – walk right on it without hesitation, make yourself comfortable, and enjoy some gumbo and crawfish!!

 

Coop's Place on Urbanspoon

Cook this: Polenta with roast tomato & mushroom sugo

IMG_7714

It’s been a pretty tough and trying weekend, that only got worse last night at the news that my “other” grandmother Auntie Win had just passed away. She & her husband were my grandparents’ first neighbours when they came from Italy to live in Australia, and it was a friendship that turned into family and remained fiercely strong for many decades. Without children (or therefore grandchildren) of her own, Auntie Win became another grandmother. She was at all the family birthdays and Christmases, she was our family. She also lived a long and wonderful life, and I will miss her. 

As the proper Italian I also am, though (which Auntie Win would understand having spent most of her life around my grandparents), times like these call for a bit of comfort food. Polenta is comfort food for me. It reminds me of my grandparents and being a kid again, being safe and warm and knowing that everything was going to be fine, because that’s how I always felt around my grandparents. When I’m a little flat and down and not sure if things are really going to be ok, I like to make myself a bowl of polenta with some sort of thick, chunky sugo (sauce) piled on top. The combinations are endless, but some variation of tomato and mushroom has always been my favourite, so here’s the latest polenta bowl of love from my kitchen.

 

Ingredients (2 serves)

For the polenta:
– ½ cup polenta (cornmeal)
– 1 – 2 cups milk (or water if you need a lactose free or lower fat version)
– 1 tbsp butter
– 2 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese

For the sugo:
– 400g cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– olive oil
– salt and pepper
– ½ small brown onion, diced
– 200g pork mince
– 300g button mushrooms, quatered
– 2 large tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup plain tomato pasta sauce
– 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
– ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
– finely grated parmesan cheese, to serve

 

Method

1. To make the sugo, place the cherry tomato halves, cut side up, in a baking dish. Mix the minced garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and pour over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place under a hot grill for 10 – 15 minutes, until the tomatoes start to brown and char, and the skin shrivels a bit. Remove from the grill and set aside.

2. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and drizzle a little olive oil. Add the onion and pork mince and cook, stirring constantly, until the pork is no longer pink. Then add the mushroom and keep stirring and cooking until they begin to brown and shrink a bit.

3. Add the diced and roast tomatoes to the saucepan, along with the pasta sauce, basil, and a little more salt and pepper if you want. Reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens a little. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach until it wilts, and set aside while you make the polenta.

4. To make the polenta, heat the water or milk in a saucepan over high heat. Once the liquid gets to boiling point, turn the heat down to a simmer, and pour the polenta in bit by bit, whisking as you go. Your arm may start to hurt a little, but just keep whisking slowly and constantly for 5 minutes or so, until the polenta thickens up. You can add more liquid if you want your polenta to be a little more soft and runny. Then whisk in the butter and parmesan, and serve between two bowls.

5. Re-heat the sugo if it’s cooled down too much, and spoon onto the polenta. Sprinkle with a little parmesan and enjoy, preferably with a glass of wine!

IMG_7715

Cook this: Nonna Gemma’s buttery, salty French toast

IMG_2265

I’ve been a bit flat lately. I’ve been feeling like crap, physically ill, on and off, for months now, and really can’t work out why. Actually, it may be years, not months, if I’m being honest. There’s a lot going on, both mentally and physically, and on the physical side I’m being tested for gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, iron, vitamin D, thyroid, etc stuff. Mentally & emotionally is a bit more complicated. I think one of the contributing factors is missing my grandmother.

It still feels weird to talk about her in the past tense, that she doesn’t “exist” anymore. I don’t like writing that she “was” a big part of my life; she still is. She helped raise me as a child. She taught me to knit and hand stitch in her sewing room. She taught me to pick out good produce at the market, and then to cook it like a pro. She made outfit after outfit for me, including my deb (debutant ball) dress. And the veil I wore on my wedding day. She gave me crap for my ripped jeans, asking if they needed mending, and telling me that wearing them wasn’t cool. She always started phone conversations by asking if I’d eaten (no, it’s not some Italian joke, she legit asked every time), and how Marley, my dog, was going. After she’d told me off for not answering my phone earlier in the day (Sorry Nonna, I’ve been at work. “Why?!” was her response, most of the time – I could never tell if she was serious or just taking the piss).

Anyway, I live with a teacher, and as such I now observe the comings and goings of the school terms. I guess my dis-ease came to a boiling point this week, because when husband told me he was totally ready for school holidays, the most random thing happened. A memory filled my head and took over for a second, like one of those crazy movie flashbacks… I was a primary school aged kid again, at Nonna’s house – I’d usually stay at her house a few nights every school holidays, so we could just hang out together and do stuff that mum wouldn’t let me do. I was sitting at the bench in the kitchen, on the wooden stool you can see in the picture below, where we had breakfast together, watching her cook French toast for us. And I felt my soul crack a little. It’s cracking again right now, as I type this.

Nonna would work SO intently at her little stove top, making sure our breakfast was just right. Everything had to be perfect for her grand children, especially the food. Our favourite breakfast was French toast, made with thick, fresh Italian bread, cooked in an absolutely ludicrous amount of butter, with more than a sprinkle of salt. It was always perfectly crispy and golden without ever burning. She was a master, really.

Anyway, I’ve been told to load up on gluten before being tested, so screw it – last weekend it was French toast for breakfast! Yes, it’s indulgent, and no, it’s not going to benefit you to eat this regularly. But sometimes when your soul is crying out for a hug, comfort food is where it’s at. Here’s my best attempt to re-create Nonna’s French toast.

IMG_3139.JPG

It was pretty simple – a few eggs and milk whisked together, dip the bread in (I went a la Nonna and used a loaf of Italian bread, bought from the Preston market, sliced myself with the crusts removed – stop judging me) and fry up on a non-stick pan containing a small ocean of butter. And yes, I added some fruit to try to justify all of the butter and carbs. I also went on a really freakin long 15km walk after I ate this!!! It also cheered me up a bit, and goodness knows I needed it. If you need a pick me up too this weekend, whip yourself up a plate of this buttery deliciousness this weekend – trust Nonna Gemma, it’ll make you happy!

IMG_2668.JPG