Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Poussin and polenta

At this time of year I don't have much gardening to write about, so I usually write more about food. We always eat food of course, but in the Summer time it gets less of a mention here on my blog!

Today I want to show you Roast Poussin, served with polenta chips, lentils in a tomatoey sauce, and Crown Prince squash. This is a "weekend dish" for us, not the sort of thing we eat every day, and it does need some forethought and advance preparation. Jane and I cooperated on this one, to avoid us arguing about who was going to get to use the kitchen on Sunday!

The first job was to make some "hard" polenta, because it needs to firm-up in the fridge for quite a while. My method involves 200g fine cornmeal (which cooks very quickly) and about 500ml of water. I slake the cornmeal first, using about 300ml of the cold water, to ensure that it has no lumps. Then I cook it over a low heat, in a non-stick pan, stirring constantly and adding more water until the right consistency is achieved. When it's ready it should have a texture like good mashed potato (not the sloppy potato puree so favoured by TV chefs).

When you judge that the polenta is cooked (about 4 or 5 minutes), you add a large knob of butter and about 20g of grated Parmesan cheese, stirring them thoroughly into the mixture. Then scrape the polenta into a deep dish lined with clingfilm, smooth it flat and set it in the fridge to harden. This may take a couple of hours.

Later, when the polenta has cooled and hardened, tip it out of the dish onto a chopping-board:

...And slice it thickly:

My polenta came out a bit softer than I had hoped, so I decided that grilling it might be unwise - it would probably stick to the griddle-pan - so I opted for the shallow-frying option.

While the polenta was chilling we soaked a few (75g) of those little green lentils:

These lentils are "posh" ones from a hamper of Italian products that Jane won a couple of weeks ago. They are really good; so much better than the bog-standard ones we normally buy from the supermarket. When cooked they have an almost creamy texture, but they still retain their shape.

We also halved a poussin (basically a very small chicken) and left it to stand in a marinade made from some of my home-made harissa, with lots of fresh lemon juice.

We used the backbone and other trimmings from the poussin to make some stock, in which the lentils were subsequently cooked.

Right so all of that was preparation, now for the cooking!

The poussin was roasted in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180c, and came out looking like this:

The lentils were duly simmered in the pre-prepared chicken stock, and then at the last minute we added some shredded Brussels Tops (you could of course use cabbage), drained them, returned them to the pan and stirred in a tub of our home-made tomato sauce.

While the lentils were cooking I was frying the polenta. It wouldn't all fit in the pan at once, so I cooked it in batches, keeping it warm in the top oven and then I put it all back in the pan for a couple of minutes for a blast of heat just before serving.

Jane said the polenta looked like Fish Fingers, and I can see what she meant! Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle...

I also cooked some Crown Prince squash, but I must say it was unremarkable. For a start it went from rock hard to mushy in about 30 seconds flat (after simmering for about 5 minutes). I did serve it with the meal, but I was tempted to just ditch it. I wish now we had used a Butternut.

So here is the finished article, all plated-up:

The meat of the poussin stayed remarkably moist - probably on account of the marinade. It was very reminiscent of the texture of quail, which of course is traditionally cooked very briefly. However, for me the star of the show was the lentils: beautifully soft but not mushy, and absolutely full of flavour. I would quite happily eat a meal composed of just them!

If you want to see the details of the recipes above, please visit Jane's blog Onions and Paper.


  1. Looks delicious. I love polenta and the next time I am going to cook it, I will prepare it your way. Thank you for reminding me of it. I usually only cook it and serve with goulash poured over it.

  2. The polenta does look like fish fingers. I can't remember if I've tried Crown Prince or not, but regardless of what type of squash it is, I always roast it.

    1. Totally agree - roasting is the way to go with all winter squashes/pumpkins for texture and flavour.

  3. Looks delicious ...
    Thanks for sharing ...

    All the best Jan

  4. Yum! In the 70's my mom would cook those plain, brown supermarket lentils & serve them plain...yuk. I became a lentil fan only after I was exposed to Indian cooking. But my lentil epiphany came when I first tried Puy lentils - wow...I made them for a salad, tasted them while they were cooling, and then couldn't stop eating spoonfuls of them. There was barely any left for the salad!

  5. Food on your plate looks very delicious! I have used polenta only a few times but I would like to try out this version. I remember I tried the corn bread from your recipe and it turned out very well.

  6. Looks very good, but I probably should not look at this before lunch!


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