Polenta, cornmeal and a lovely pita with tikva

I have been asked many times for cornmeal recipes and what to do with what has been made!

I love polenta (cicvera) and was treated to  the very comforting and tasty salt cod and polenta dish,  Baccala from Venice whilst there, last week. It was something I would often have as a child during fasting periods and have a need for it in the early months of a new year, even now. I use the cornmeal  to coat the fish – be it cod or sprats and bake.

I am no expert in the making of  polenta. It requires patience, stirring and wishful thinking, that, after all the time and effort and a sore elbow – you have an end product you can eat. Over the years I have tried, failed and at times, thrown not just the sturdy yellow mixture in the bin, but also the pan it was made in. Believe me, not even the chickens would touch it!

So I use cornmeal in other ways, and enjoy other people’s perfect polenta when I can.

A big favourite dish of mine at this time of year is Pita sa Tikva. Again it requires some elbow grease, but is scrummy. I prefer it to gibanica, especially when eaten cold.

First – go in search of a good-sized marrow, or if you are growing courgettes, let one become a marrow.

Filo pastry  – greek style is best (or look up my gibanica recipe on this blog)

Cottage cheese or feta – depending on how sour you like to go

Salt

A couple of eggs (not necessary)

Olive oil

Go to work on the marrow and get all the flesh from it. Then grate the flesh. Add salt,

Put the grated marrow in a sieve with a heavy weight on top and leave for about an hour. Let the bitter water seep out.

Then put the grated marrow in to a bowl and add the cheese (however much you like).

Add some course or medium cornmeal and stir with a big spoon.

Crack the eggs, beat them and add to the mixture.

Add more cornmeal if the mixture seems a bit runny.

Lay out the filo (2 sheets together) and blob the marrow mixture across. Roll to form a sausage shape and place in your baking dish. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.

Pop in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes (covered) on 160C and 10 minutes with the cover off. Eat when cool  – or hot!

Marrow Green Bush 3 - Smallpak

On making polenta

What the chuff is cornmeal and polenta

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón

Happy birthday Frida Kahlo!

Elisha Gabriel

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‘The great hider-away’

I have wanted to write a little bit about Frida for some time, why she and her art are important to me, and perhaps lots of people.

I think I can recall when I first saw Frida’s work and images of her, I was around thirteen years old.  There was something about her that felt very familiar – her dress style, her moustache, her braided hair and flowers.

I love that she embraced her culture through her sense of dressing, of looking. She carried it off, it was all hers.

She was Mexican, I could relate to this too. Colour, brass bands, violence, cuisine, religion blending pagan and christian, ritual – there were similarities. She straddled tradition and modernity blended with surrealism and dreams – something that I love  – the crossing over, merging, creating something frighteningly new out of an old world.

Frida also depicted her…

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Coming full-circle

It was always a special place to me. Somewhere I went as a young person, to walk and take in the atmosphere.

But they say there’s trouble in t’mill. It’s all to do with tradition versus modernity.

We can have both, can’t we. I like the Chinese interpretation in characters of passages from the Bronte novels.

The Parsonage itself is set in time. It exudes calmness and serenity.

Let me close the door she said so you can take a picture, it looks better. But you can’t take photos inside.

Artefacts and history sit in glass cabinets. Boards tell the story of each room.

The blues and greens of walls, stone floors and stairs, gentle curling banister and long case windows all remind me of a house I once lived in, in the same village.

But the real story wasn’t written on the walls. The one of disease – cholera, typhoid and tb. The life of the mill workers, the murky water which Mr Bronte fought to have cleaned for over a decade.

A graveyard full of children and young people. The Brontes faired well and lived longer because they had their own well. But they were blighted by a family illness – incurable.

Just 200 years ago, the process of the beginning of industrialisation was beginning on the Pennine ridge. This was not a romantic place.

Yet during that time, three sisters wrote stories which are  part of us today. Not just locally, nationally – but internationally too.

Everyone has found a way to fall in love with a Bronte tale. Women who wrote under male pseudonyms didn’t fool us for long.

So what’s stirring. Why the conflict. We can have both tradition and modernity.

I looked around and came away with a copy of Jane Eyre. I’m sending it to a friend in Europe with a letter. The old-fashioned way. I’ve sent her an email to say that it’s on its way.

Here’s my modern slant on the Parsonage and the Brontes:

The Parsonage – Kazumi (beautiful peace)

Emily Bronte – Akira (clear and intelligent)

Charlotte Bronte – Naoki (tree of truth)

Anne Bronte – Hisao (story of life)

I’d like to move back one day – I’m not far at the moment – just down the road. But I feel the need to walk the walks every morning and to have my muse, Charlotte, near by. Oh, and the crows of course. To finish my writing and editing on cobbled streets. To come full circle.

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