CounterCultural Kitchen: Creamy Polenta a la Deliciously Ella and Beetroot-Spiced Chicken

This month, I was in an experimental mood when it came to food. Well, to be honest, I’ve been feeling experimental ever since last September when I encountered Rachel Holmes and KickStartFatLoss last September. This attitude towards my food has been pushed ever further by new cookery books (need I mention Sasha Wilkins’ or Ella Woodward’s contributions?) and checking out different places to eat. I haven’t even begun to rave about halloumi after Jake persuaded me to try it at our favourite Turkish greasy spoon, N4, in Harringay. Though my healthy eating, of all and any descriptions, has seriously slipped, I was able to both push my families culinary boundaries and create something clean to eat this month.

Polenta (you can just see it underneath the kale and mushrooms) is not something I’ve ever cooked before and I really need more practice at doing so. Before making it, I had only tried it once before in cake/slab form at Carluccio’s. As you might be able to guess from the picture of my plate, Ella didn’t take the same approach. Instead, her recipe called for a creamy porridge-like form of polenta that created a smooth base for the crispy kale and sauteed mushrooms. It was definitely an experience making it as I did not realise quite how much stirring would be involved. It’s actually worse than making a risotto in terms of stirring needed. As I didn’t follow Ella’s instructions exactly, the polenta was a little lumpy. Lesson learnt: Do not attempt to turn over grilling chicken while stirring polenta! My only complaint, other than not cooking it for long enough, was that the polenta was quite bland even with half a lemon’s worth of juice. It could definitely have done with a lot more lemon or other form of flavouring. Maybe next time I’ll turn it pink with beetroot powder?

Talking of beetroot powder, I should probably share the recipe for the delicious chicken strips I’ve described as beetroot-spiced. A few weeks ago, the parents and I went down to Frome to shop for mirror tiles and visit our favourite book and whole food shops. Unfortunately for our bank balances, it was also Frome’s regular market. We probably spent more time staring at the market stalls than shopping as we had planned (Still managed to buy a new book though. Ooops!) My favourite stall was fantastic for two reasons; spices and baklava! I really need to take a food holiday to Morocco and the Middle East at some point! Though I was a little disappointed with the baklava- too much syrup without enough filing- the spice selection was amazing. I bought lemon pepper (great for heated zestiness), Bengal five-spice (haven’t used this yet but thinking lamb or beef) and beetroot powder. I have to admit that I bought the beetroot powder purely for the colour. It’s bright pinky-purple! The couple selling the spices said it could turn food pink so I had to test out the idea on my chicken strips, as an alternative to Ella’s suggested side of sweet potato wedges. For an extra flavour punch, I added a lot of cinnamon and paprika to the beetroot powder and olive oil mix before coating the chicken in it. I was disappointed to see that grilling the chicken took it from a deep magenta to a curry-shade of red (beetroot powder can be used as a red food colouring), I was not disappointed by the flavour. I going to sound really poncy and describe it as “earthy-spicy-sweetness”. I’m not sure that sums it up so if you want a better idea, try it for yourself.
Now that I’ve lauded the praises of my chicken and persuaded myself to attempt polenta again, I will give a few words to the mushrooms and kale. Deliciously Ella is all about wholesome plant-based food so she knows a thing or two about making it tasty. The crispy kale was a revelation but such a satisfying texture to munch on; the added Herbs de Provence also helped in the flavour stakes. The mushrooms sauteed in tamari were tasty but I wouldn’t rate them anymore than mushrooms cooked normally. I think that at the end of the day, Ella’s creamy polenta was definitely an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The only thing I would change is boosting the flavour of the polenta as the blandness actually took away some of the veggies’ flavour. 

Have you tried any of the recipes from Deliciously Ella? Do you have any tips for making really smooth, creamy polenta? Let me know in the comments below, particularly about the polenta. I think I need all the help I can get. 


The post CounterCultural Kitchen: Creamy Polenta a la Deliciously Ella and Beetroot-Spiced Chicken first appeared in CounterCultural. CounterCouture.

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