Wednesday, June 9, 2010

From Mamaliga to Polenta

Italians, Hungarians, Polish, Romanians, Moldovans, Ukrainians love it, to name a few...and no matter how much people claim these two to be their creation, It Is Not! those passionate explorers carried maize back to Europe from Central America and introduced it to other countries through trade. I am sure the Aztecs were making it before us! (next time I am meeting one, I am going to ask!)

If you can boil water, you are half down in the recipe and you can whip up a superb Mamaliga (aka maliga in Moldova,or polenta as probably known more widely). There isn’t much science that goes into it. The creative input comes when you decide what to garnish it with (or use it as a garnish to a main dish).

The mamaliga in Moldova is coarser and heavier in texture, used for centuries to substitute bread. Polenta is finer and creamier in texture, and it takes longer to boil. Now, the word "vegetarian" is not in most people's vocabulary when it comes to eating mamaliga. Traditionally it is served with rich meat sauces and bites of deep fried fatty pork (my hands are a bit shaky writing down those in this post ;)). Even the mozarella (brinza inchegata) is traditionally made using rennet...

This picture was taken impromptu, a few years back when I was visiting my family in Moldova.

Clockwise top- garlic sauce (mujdei), hot melted butter, sour cream over cottage cheese, shredded feta (Moldovan one is made of sheep milk and rennet ???not good) and mashed garlicky white beans. The meat is missing (but not missed)-.

This is one one my recent creations, after roaming half of Austin's supermarkets to find the right corn flour... As I said, polenta is too fine (and man, ridiculously expensive!), and the corn flour here is fit for finer cakes and muffins...

My mom has a trick for slicing it so it cuts through finely without ruining the shape: She uses a thin, clean sewing thread, holds it with both hands, runs the thread under the mash and brings it up: Voila!. Very ingenious! (I even do that for slicing fine cakes!)

So what happens next day? Back home it is the chickens feasting on leftovers. I have no chickens here and thanks goodness for that! (but I have squirells). I slice any cold mamaliga leftover and bake it. Or fry it. Or share it with the squirells.

Here is the mamaliga (polenta) and mozarella cheese bake (checked the label, no rennet;) I made a few weeks back:

One more thing: Serve it with a good full bodied red wine!


Sunny said...

I love Mamaliga a lot, especially when I add Gongkura pickle to it. In Brasov, Romania, I had Mamaliga for the first time. I loved it. In Moldova when Mamika makes it every time we visit her, I love it, especially when it is served with cream. I like the garlic sauce too that you make to add to it.

Adelina said...

thanks darling....but next time do not ask me to ad sambar powder to it :))))

alison said...

what a lovely post for "mamaliga"!and you are from moldova county...i am from iasi!

Adelina said...

Thanks Alison...yes, I am from Basarabia (Moldova), but have visited Iasi many times! So nice to have found you and your excellent blog!

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