Polenta with mushroom and vegetable sauce: Of things that go ssuurr… ssurr at dawn!


“Surr… sssurrr… surrr… ssssuuur… ” and a surreptitious rustling sound awakens our man…

Being “THE MAN” of the house, he decides to investigate (much against his actual inclination to burrow under the covers and hide!)

Crawls out of bed and arms himself with the nearest heavy implement (the lampshade which comes out of its socket with a sound that causes him to freeze but makes no difference to the sur-surr sound outside!) Steps stealthily out of the room (thank goodness the door is open and makes no squeaky give-away sounds!), doing his best imitation of Inspector Clouseau – thanks to too many Pink Panther movies – and steps into the hall… to see his wife sitting on the floor in her pyjamas, legs in front of her, making her way on her bottom across the floor, shifting her weight from one – ahem, butt to the other!

Normally a man with a stentorian voice, you wouldn’t think he’d make a good spook, but today he doesn’t need any lessons in silent detecting… he is too stunned by the sight to even breathe! She reaches the far wall, turns right around on the butt again and makes her way back again… and again. By now, his lower jaw has re-discovered the upper jaw and he watches with interest, wondering if this is some new game she’s inventing for the kids she teaches or has she suddenly reverted to some childhood fantasy!

Surr… sssuurr… ssuurrr…

Being the married-for-over-thirty-years kind of couple that they are, she senses, rather than hears his presence and turning around, tells him in no uncertain terms that he is to go right back in the bedroom and not breathe a word of what he has seen to anyone (unfortunately for her, he meets me slighty later in the day and the beans come spilling out like coins out of a slot machine when you’ve hit the jackpot – and no, sorry, I did NOT hit the jackpot, was just an interested bystander to some lucky sod in Reno who did!). He, being the obedient but curiosity-will-always-get-the-better-of-me kind of husband, pleads… “But what were you doing?”

Finally, she agrees to tell him – provided the secret goes with him to the grave! Now there is absolutely no excuse for ┬áher getting a long-standing spouse to promise something like this and believing that he will actually stick to it!

“Hush”, she says, looking around conspiratorially. “Remember that wedding in the family coming up next month?” As if he’s going to forget his own son’s wedding! But anything for the secret – so he nods vigorously!

“Well, someone told me that doing this – floor-butt-sliding – will reduce the size of the – ahem-butt! And I really need to lose some there!” Sigh, which of us doesn’t?!!

Now, if it had been anything less momentous, she might have stood a better chance but our pal is not about to let an opportunity like this go!

I, however, am a better friend to her and refuse to divulge the name of the friend. The story, of course, is grist to anyone’s mill… !

But, good sport that she is, she laughs along with the rest of us!

And so, to celebrate a good sport, here’s one of my favourite Italian dishes…

 

POLENTA WITH MUSHROOM AND VEGETABLE SAUCE

 

FOR POLENTA

 

Polenta flour – 1.5 cups
Milk – 2 cups
Water – 1.5 cups, plus a little more if needed
Cream – 1/2 cup
Salt – 3/4 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp

 

Heat the milk and water together along with the salt and turmeric. Add cream and bring it to a boil. Reduce flame and pour in the polenta flour in a steady stream as you stir continuously. I use a whisk. Also please wear gloves as this thing spits at you!

After about 25-30 minutes, the polenta should have thickened a bit and be dropping off your spoon. Feel the grains (put a few in your mouth after cooling!) – it shouldn’t be grainy. Done!

 

FOR MUSHROOM AND VEGETABLE SAUCE

 

Mushrooms – 2 cups – sliced
Onion – sliced – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 2 cloves – minced
Green chili – 1 – minced
Cherry tomatoes – 1 cup – halved
Tomatoes – 1 cup – chopped
Tomato puree – 1 tbsp
Sliced carrots – 2 – microwave for 2 minutes
Broccoli florets – 1 cup – microwave for 2 minutes
Capsicum red, green and yellow- sliced – 1.5 cups
Oil – 1 tbsp
Butter – 1 tsp
Cointreau – 1/4 cup
Any good cooking wine – 1/4 cup
Thyme – 1/4 tsp
Basil – 1/2 tsp
Rosemary – 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf – 1
Salt and pepper

 

Saute the capsicums in the butter and remove.

Add oil to the same pan and sweat the green chili, onions and garlic till pale yellow. Add the bay leaf.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the liquors. Turn up the heat and stir till mushy. Add the rest of the vegetables incl the cherry tomatoes.

Add the herbs and 2 cups water and cover and simmer till vegetables are tender. Add more water if needed to make a medium thick soup.

 

TO SERVE

 

Mould the polenta (it should now be warm and moist) into a soup plate. Make a well in the centre with a cup. Fill the sauce into the well.

Serve immediately.

 

If you want to keep it and serve later, add a little milk or water and microwave, stirring once in the middle.

Watch the table go slurp, slurp, not surr… surrr!