Wednesday, August 11, 2010

HEARTY SPINACH POLENTA PIE and A MEAL IN A MUFFIN

Muffins have a made a few appearances on billie bites, but I have a confession to make: Billie didn't actually manage to eat those. She wasn't quite ready to deal with the texture. Too crumbly or something.

But times have a changed. When I pulled out these vegetable muffins at our wee mothers' group gathering at Bronte Park this week, Billie instantly began her arm-flapping routine reserved for letting us know she wants some of that food please. This was despite her already haven eaten a hearty lunch at home. She demolished one and a half muffins, enjoying the freedom of being able to make as much mess as possible.

This was a little experiment to see if there's a limit to how much vegetables pack into one batch of muffins. At first when they came out of the oven I was concerned they were too moist. But after being left a few minutes to cool they were a fabulous mini meal. You could reduce the carrots, perhaps.


MEAL-IN-A-VEGETABLE-MUFFIN

220g self raising flour (half wholemeal)
1 cup grated strong cheddar, or 2 cups mild
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
2 medium carrots, grated
2 small courgettes/zucchini, grated
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
1 spring onion/scallion, finely chopped

Generously grease 12 muffin tins with butter, or line with paper baking cups. Preheat oven to 200 c. 
Sift flour into large bowl, add cheese and parsley and spring onions/scallions. Set aside. Whisk eggs, oil and milk together and add carrot and courgette. When everything is ready, gently and quickly combine wet and dry ingredients in large bowl and swiftly divide into muffin tins. Lingering at this point is not good for your muffins. Place in oven for about 20-25 mins or until browned on top and cooked through. Remove from tins and cool on wire wracks. Nice warm but Billie and I enjoyed left-overs the next day.

Navajo Tribal Nation - Monument Valley

Now for dinner...
I returned home from our re-acquaintance with the ocean to learn friends were coming for dinner. And a gluten-free friend at that. So I dived for the polenta jar and re-created this warming pie which proved popular with the Chicago in-laws. Despite it being the height of summer there.


HEARTY SPINACH POLENTA PIE

2 litres water
350 g polenta
1/4 t salt
 3 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
800 g tomatoes
1/2 t salt
2 T fresh oregano or basil, chopped
2 T parsley, chopped
Bunch English spinach
2 cups grated strong cheddar, or Parmesan


First prepare the polenta. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a large pot. Grease two large wide square or rectangle pie dishes. Or you can use one pie dish and one baking sheet. Sprinkle from a height 350g polenta and 1/4 t salt, stirring as you go. Turn heat to low and stir almost constantly until thickened. It will probably only take a few mins. When you can almost stand the spoon up in it remove form heat and whip through a tablespoon of butter and grind in some black pepper. Pour and spread evenly into pie dishes/baking sheet. One layer will be left as is in the dish and the other will be removed when cool and set to layer on top of the other.

Preheat the oven to 220 c. Prepare the red sauce (or use a good quality jar if in a hurry). Heat oil in a pot. Saute onions and garlic, add tomatoes and salt and black pepper. Simmer on low with lid off for about 30 minutes (or until you are ready to use). Add fresh herbs and remove from heat.

Pick spinach and wash. Lay uncooked leaves flat on top of polenta layer in large pie dish. Layer up half the bunch. Spoon over a third of the sauce. Sprinkle some of the cheese over. Now place the other polenta slab (you can cut it into manageable pieces) on top and then cover with another third of the sauce and the rest of the cheddar. Place in hot oven for about 20 mins or until golden and heated through.

Cook the remaining spinach in a large pot with a knob of butter on medium heat for 5 mins. Shake half way through. 

Serve the pie with the wilted hot spinach on the side, and a spoon of the remaining sauce, reheated.

Makes very good leftovers for lunch.

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