Friday, April 01, 2016

Polenta crisps with avocado and yoghurt

March 20, 2016

Our semi-regular Ottolenghi cooking crew took advantage of one of the last glorious summer evenings of the season to head to Princes Park for a picnic potluck. I decided to avoid the big sharable salad-style dishes I usually fall back on and went scoping for snackier options, settling on two dip-based dishes that looked relatively easy to throw together.

First up: polenta crisps an avocado and yoghurt dip. This was not as easy as I originally assumed - the dip was super simple, but the polenta crisp making required a lot of challenging shallow-frying. It all worked out okay in the end, but this is a recipe that you need to devote a bit of time and effort to. The pay-off is worth it in the end - my polenta chips turned out like mini schnitzels, and were an excellent vessel for gulping down big dollops of tangy avocado and lime sauce.

The second recipe actually was an easy one (I won't reproduce it here - see the 2nd recipe on this page) - a simple combination of yoghurt, grated veggies, herbs, lime and butter. The melting of the butter seemed a bit unnecessary to me, and I doubt I'd bother with it next time, which would make it even simpler. It was delicious smeared across some lightly toasted Rustica sourdough.

These were just the starters to another incredible meal - Kate brought along the sweet potato in orange bitters that lit up our Christmas last year, and Erin and Matt came through with a ridiculously indulgent chocolate babka. Cindy's contribution was my favourite dish of all, and it's up next on the blog! (You can cheat and peak at the whole spread on our Facebook page.)

Polenta crisps with avocado and yoghurt
(from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More)

750ml of veggie stock (I just made up some Massel 'chicken' stock)
160g polenta
10g chives, chopped finely
30g grated parmesan
100g semolina
Veggie oil for frying (you'll need at least a cup, probably more)

Avocado dipping sauce
Flesh of 2 avocados
100g Greek yoghurt
Juice and zest of a lime
1 teaspoon olive oil

Whiz all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a food processor along with a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring the stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. Slowly pour in the polenta and cook over high heat for about five minutes, stirring as much as you can to keep things smooth. Once the mixture is nice and thick and the liquid absorbed, stir through the chives and parmesan for about 30 seconds and then kill the heat.

Pour the polenta out onto flat surfaces - we used two large baking trays lined with baking paper, but chopping boards would work fine as well. Ottolenghi wants you to spread the polenta out so it's nice and thin - maybe 2-3mm. I used the back of a spoon and maybe didn't quite get things as thin as that - it's a tricky balance between getting crisp little chips and having chunks that will hold together.

Leave the polenta to set for half an hour or so and then break it up in to pieces about 5cm x 5cm - it won't break super evenly and it doesn't really matter if some are much larger and some much smaller. Dip each piece in the semolina and set them aside for frying.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan so that you've got a depth of about 1cm. When it's nice and hot, fry the polenta pieces in batches, for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they go golden brown and get a little crispy around the edges. Transfer the cooked chips to a plate lined with paper towel and keep on frying, topping up the oil as necessary. 

Serve, with the dipping sauce at the ready.

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