There are those days, when you feel like indulging a heavier dish. I guess we all experience these times, especially after a long hard working day or when we feel like treating ourselves like kings and queens, as for example for a Sunday dinner. Yesterday, I had one of those days, so I cooked and baked a layered Polenta Casserole.
I am the kind of person who enjoys all those stuffed or layered food dishes. So, I try to come up with new ideas or I simply follow some of the recipes I learned over the years. I remake a dish that we both enjoy again and again, but always with a little change. It comes to that, because sometimes I don’t have the right ingredients at home, but I am craving for a particular dish. This type of cases require some kind of innovative ideas, a little bit of Mojo!
In my mind there are 2 main flavor categories (I am not counting the sweets!), one is the spicy variation and the other one, can you guess it, the herbal variance. A herbal seasoning reminds us of Europe, the Mediterranean sea and maybe North America and Australia. Spices on the other hand, remind us of hot and sometimes even sour Asian, African and South American plates. Now, that’s how I see it and maybe a couple of more people out there might just agree. Even I haven’t traveled every single place in the world, in fact I am far off achieving that so soon, but in general those flavors could be given those “locations”.
Of course, the globalization had a huge impact on the local food culture. Take Britain for example. I heard that the curry is one of those most eaten dishes there, Germany’s favorite Fast food is the Curry Wurst and the Turkish Döner and Australia is heavily influenced by the neighboring Asian countries.
Me being a global citizen, I try to learn from the world cuisine as much as possible. That is why I called my Blog Masala Herb. Masala standing for the spicy, complicated, rich Asian cuisine and Herb for my European Heritage. Not sure if I had mentioned that last year, when I had started up this little online space here. Often, especially in Europe, I am asked what the name stands for, so this question should be cleared now. =)
Coming back towards my layered Polenta creation…
This baked delight, got some Mediterranean essence in each layer, meaning, it is a herbal based dish. What comes to your mind if you think of the southern European countries? I bet, the first thing that crosses your mind will be Olive, Tomatoes and herbs such as Basil and Oregano. Well, you are right! Although this recipe doesn’t call for Oregano, but otherwise Oregano or Marjoram are always somewhere in the Italian cuisine for instance.
Apropos Italy! Some of us haven’t heard of Polenta before. Polenta is a typical Italian, middle European maize (cornmeal) porridge type. Before maize was introduced in Europe, it was made of other ingredients such as chestnut flour or millet. Already the great Romans had developed a liking for it in Ancient times and till today’s day it is often served in the Italian and Middle European homes. Polenta is cooked with liquids such as water, stocks or milk for a couple of minutes. It’s a very quick side dish to prepare and you can easily alter the flavors to your liking. Polenta exists in different types, some are very finely ground some are more coarse, all that depend from where it originated.
Two years ago, Polenta was introduced in the western style shops in Goa, India. Until now I have only come across the typical Italian version here, but if I have a choice I would always go for the one originating from Austria, simply because I grew up with this particular type. My dad doesn’t enjoy the Italian one that much so my mum would always buy the”local” Polenta meal. Normally we would prepare it as a side with other meat dishes, but you can have it in a Veg way as well.
Please, please please… use ONLY quality ingredients for this dish. We get those awesome non-pitted black Cretan Olives here, and the olives are THE ingredient in this recipe. Unfortunately, ham is a problem in India. A company here had started to sell ham 3 years ago in Goa, now the same company’s hams quality has turned absolutely disgusting. At the beginning they come up with great products and with time they don’t even care to remove fat balls, I am not talking about the “acceptable” smooth fat here, but rather of those unchewable weird tasting ones. Of course don’t forget to get some good Tomatoes and Cheese as well.