Cook Book Challenge: Week 40

The next couple weeks of the cook book challenge are following on from the supermarket freebie theme. This one is another Leggo’s book, but unlike the pizza book I didn’t even catch this in the supermarket. This one was gifted to me from my partners mum. It’s called Fast Italian, and is the third volume in their Italian cook book series. The first book is called Cook Italian, and was featured in my 8th cook book challenge. The second volume, Love Italian, seems to have slipped my mind and will surely feature soon.

Fast Italian is, as the name suggests, all about the quick meals. It delivers 60 recipes that all promise to take less than half an hour to dish up. A time frame that suits my mid-week meal apathy.

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I’ve made a few meals out of this book so far, and all of them have been received well. For the challenge, I’m sharing with you their ‘Pork with Tomato Salsa and Polenta Dumplings’. I hadn’t cooked with polenta before, though my assumption was that it shouldn’t be difficult. As promised, this recipe delivered a quick, easy, but flavorful dish I’ll definitely be making again.

This one didn’t quite follow the recipe to plan. It called for pork mince, but by the time I got to the supermarket all that was left were empty shelves advertising it for half price. So I opted for a pork and veal combination instead.

The recipe asks for the mince to be left chunky. I cut it up into cubes, but you just chop it up with a wooden spoon in the pan if you prefer. It doesn’t have to be neat.

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For someone who works as slowly in the kitchen as I do, I was surprised at how quick this meal actually was. To the point I let the meat slow cook in the salsa for a little while just to develop the flavour a little more.

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I opted to serve them in individual casserole dishes. I just love individual serves. The dumplings don’t need to bake, so it gives you the freedom of spooning the meat and salsa into any size dish you like, be it a large casserole dish or little ramekins. This also means you can make the dumplings as large or small as you like without affecting the final product.

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The dumplings are light and fluffy, and the salsa had a surprising depth of flavour for the little seasoning it required. I often heavily season my food, and the thought of using just one herb is always a hard one for me to swallow. But sometimes simple is best, and only using one type of herb lets it really speak for itself. Especially when you have the option of plucking it straight from your garden. There’s nothing quite like using fresh herbs.

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If you don’t like or don’t have polenta lying around, you can substitute the polenta for mashed potato. I rolled the polenta into balls to make it a bit neater, but you can just spoon it on top as the recipe says.

Pork with Tomato Salsa and Polenta Dumplings
Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil500g lean pork mince

1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped

140g tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock

3 ripe roma tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped

Polenta Dumplings

3/4 cup instant polenta

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

30g butter

1 egg

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Method
  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add pork mince and red onion; cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure to leave mince quite chunky.
  2. Stir in the tomato paste, chicken stock, diced roma tomatoes and fresh oregano. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir polenta, milk, water, salt and butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat until polenta is thick and creamy. Cool in a bowl for 5 minutes, then beat in the egg.
  4. Spoon pork mixture into a large heatproof dish and scoop spoonfuls of the polenta mixture in small dumplings over the pork. Sprinkle dumplings with grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Grill under a pre-heated grill until cheese is melted and golden brown.
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