Italians eat pasta every day right? Well in some regions they also eat polenta every day. In Northern Italy polenta was a daily staple even before pasta became more common place.
Corn flour has always been so plentiful, so easy to grow and cheaper than wheat flour that’s why it has always been known as “poor man’s food” the essence of the Italian “cucina povera”.
My mum, who grew up eating polenta every morning for breakfast with milk (freshly milked from her own cows), is a true polenta aficionada. She will eschew ‘quick cook’ polenta and make a proper full bodied wholemeal polenta which takes about one hour to cook.
I prefer the rustic and hearty texture of wholemeal polenta. I found that often outside of Italy people have never come across real polenta. In shops you may often find instant ones which cook in 10 minutes but taste just like semolina. Maybe that’s OK if you don’t have much time on your hands though and you want something quick to go with your fish or meat.
When I saw these guys at a local festival in Italy I could not resist taking some photographs.
These people come from the mountains of Friuli in Northern Italy where polenta is being consumed even more frequently than we do down in the valley. In the mountains they have delicious mushrooms and wild meats like game which go fantastically with the polenta.
They were making polenta on a traditional stove which has a hole in the middle which fits perfectly the polenta pot. As a child my parents used to have one like that too.
First they bring some water to the boil.
Then when the water is boiling they add salt and the polenta flour in a constant but gradual stream stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
They stir constantly to avoid lumps
This is the traditional pot used to make polenta, sturdy and solid.
Look at the long wooden spoon, this is what you should use to stir polenta.
Polenta takes about 1 hour to cook. Then you turn it upside down on a large wooden dish (these are made just for the polenta and are usually round although the one you see here is square).
Now every child who has grown up in Northern Italy will remember waiting for mum or grandma to scrape off the polenta pot…
And the wait was worth it! Those crunchy, super fresh chips which tasted much much better than any industrial version full of flavour enhancers and salt.
When polenta was ready the ladies dressed in a traditional Friulian mountain costume were busy taking trays full of delicious meat to be served with the freshly made polenta.
Posing for the camera.. I’ d love a costume like that!
And here he is my dairy man, my friend Luigino who I have featured before on my blog when he made Montasio cheese and also I went to visit his farm. He made fresh cheese and we could all have a taste of it.
Grazie Luigino! 🙂