Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Getting my goat

No, I'm not annoyed at anything. Far from it. I mean, someone sent me some food to try!

Those people were from St Helen's Farm, who despite the name are in Yorkshire, not Merseyside. They sent me lots of different goat products to try out. Now, in this house, we don't really need them as none of us have any dairy allergies but I thought I'd give them a try out as there are a lot of benefits of trying a goats milk diet which husband sometime mentions.

When the box arrived, there was a slight problem with one tub of yogurt which had got squashed in transit but we were able to try what was left in the pot and everything was pretty unscathed. I didn't expect that I would be sent so many different varieties - whole milk, semi-skimmed, skimmed, butter, yogurts and a hard, not soft, cheese, just like cheddar, but cream in colour rather than yellow.

There is no doubt that goat products do have a strong taste to them. Personally, I found that the goat's milk was fine for putting in tea - although I have very little milk in tea - but not for coffee; well, I largely have cappuccinos which are very milky. I could definitely pick up the taste of it and personally, I don't find it pleasant. The yogurts have been used in cooking and mixed with fruit puree for the children to eat and we find that palatable. The butter has a strongish taste too, but I'm yet to try it in cooking.

What I did really like was the cheese. I like the taste of goats cheese, and it was fabulous in toasties with some sliced spring onion. However, I thought I would try this polenta dish out and adapt it - because let's face it, plain polenta doesn't taste of much and is pretty bland so I thought adding the goat's cheese would pack a punch. I have upped the cheese slightly compared to what I actually made as husband made the comment that it could do with being a slightly stronger taste. Of course, with the polenta - which is corn meal - this is wheat free and cow's milk free so it's a nice meal for someone with two of the most common allergies.

This is a very informal dish and can be served as an appetiser, with antipasti, for a larger meal with friends. However, we just had it for tea, sat around the table with spoons scooping it up. It's adapted from a Gennaro Contaldo recipe that I found and have been meaning to try for ages. I changed it because there was loads of oil in the recipe, and I didn't use wild mushrooms; I just used a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and the usual sort you get in the supermarket. It's also pretty quick to make.

Goat's Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms

Serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetiser

For the mushroom sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped (I use frozen mostly!)
1 tsp thyme leaves, fresh or dried (optional)
600g mushrooms of any sort, sliced thickly
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml veg stock


For the polenta
1 litre water
200g quick cook polenta
25g butter
150g hard goats cheese, cut into 1cm cubes or roughly grated, plus a few shavings.

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and thyme (if using) and cook over a low heat until softened. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat, and stir fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to brown.

2. Stir in the tomato purée, followed by the stock. Cook for a few minutes to reduce the liquid and make a sauce. If the mixture looks too dry, add a bit more liquid but the liquid from cooking the mushrooms should help.  Set the sauce to one side whilst you make the polenta. (This can be done in advance and heated through gently when you are ready to make the polenta.)

3. Now, make the polenta. Place the water - and a good pinch of salt - in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time to avoid lumps. If lumps do form, beat well and the lumps should break up. Keep stirring until it starts to come away from the side of the pan - this should take around 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and then add the cheese, stirring to distribute.

4. To serve, you need a lightly oiled wooden board. If you don't have one, try a pizza stone or similar, which is what I used. Pour or spoon the polenta onto the board - you want to spread it out to a circle around 20cm in diameter, about 2.5cm thick. Place the shavings on top of the polenta, then top with the mushroom sauce.

5. Place the board in the centre of the table and allow everyone to take their share. If liked, you can serve with a plate of Italian antipasti.
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