Polenta, sadly, is the red headed step-child of vegan meals in my life. I’m not sure why; I grew up enjoying an exclusively grits based breakfast (that is until I decided an extra 20 minutes’ sleep was more important than breakfast), so I’ve certainly no aversion to corn based meals. I love corn anything, me. Furthermore it’s not like polenta is difficult to prepare, so I’ve decided to shift its position from odd meal out to frequent table feature. This is my first honest attempt.
There are multiples ways to cook polenta: served as a soft and creamy porridge, cooled and molded for grilling or frying, in pies, in cakes, and more. Here I’ve made a moderately thick batch that I left to cool before shaping into pumpkin filled patties. Last night we had them for dinner with quinoa and today I enjoyed one in a bun for lunch (though they’re a bit soft for a burger). If you opt for the frying method they stay pretty sturdy after cooling down, so would be okay to travel for lunch.
Mashed Pumpkin and Kale Harissa Polenta Patties
- Heat the water, soy milk, broth powder, and harissa paste in a medium saucepan to a near boil. Slowly tip in the polenta, whisking continuously until all of the cornmeal is mixed in the pan. It’ll thicken very quickly, so you’ll probably want to switch to a wooden spoon if your wrists aren’t made of steel.
- Turn the heat down to medium low and cook the polenta for 10 minutes, stirring very frequently. The polenta will become thicker and will begin to come away more easily from the sides of the saucepan. Add any additional salt and/or pepper to adjust to your tastes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 20-30 minutes, until cool enough to handle.
- Heat the teaspoon of oil in a frying pan or wok to medium heat and toss the kale around in there for 2-3 minutes, until wilted (a little brown is okay too). Add the lemon juice and garlic, turning the heat down a bit so the garlic doesn’t burn. Tip the pumpkin and spring onion in, mashing everything together. Rub the thyme between between the palms of your hands into the pan (this more strongly brings out its flavour). Stir the lot for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.
- In another frying pan or sauté pan preheat about 1/4 inch deep worth of oil to just above medium heat.
- Divide the polenta into 6 vaguely even portions, rolling each into a ball shape. Use polenta flour to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands if it becomes an issue.
- On a lightly polenta-floured surface, pat the balls down into a flat 1/4 inch thick disk and plop a tablespoon of the pumpkin mash in the centre. Hold the disk in one palm while semi-carefully folding the edges up with the other hand, pinching them together to seal (don’t worry about perfection). Place the lump, sealed side down, back onto the floured work surface and lightly press into a disk that’s about 3.5 inches across (somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).
- Dredge both sides lightly with polenta flour and fry for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels and serve.
- Alternatively you can bake at 175 C (350 degrees F) for 30 minutes, flipping at the halfway point. Just spray both sides with a bit of oil first. Please note the end product will be much softer than if fried.