There’s a lot of OMG at my house these days. One teenager and two tweens leads me and The Author to OMG ourselves into a tizzy at various times of the week, and the children (can I still call them that, despite their protestations of adulthood?) are OMG-ing themselves about us on a regular basis.
Laundry — don’t get me started. Homework — who devised this torture for me? (Er, I mean my children, although one of them in particular ensures that I am as miserable as he is when it’s homework time.) Setting the table. Walking the dog. Emptying the dishwasher. Even watching the telly (or, to be more specific, not only the bickering over who gets to watch what, which has resulted in a rota, but also the time when we will let them watch it, which is only when all the above is done). Everything is fodder for a rolling of the eyes and a declaration of how hard their lives are. On a regular basis, The Author and I sigh and contemplate the liquor cabinet.
There is still the after-dinner snuggle on the lap. There is still the settling-in with a full body hug for a good de-tangling of freshly washed hair. There is still the willingness to participate in family outings, even without the promise of chocolate at the end. There is still dinner time, in which we hear all the daily chronicles of their classmates and of each other. There is still the freely given kiss — in the morning before school and at night before bed — that says that these creatures are not quite as angry and aloof as they sometimes would like to appear.
Parenthood is full of ups and downs; I had no idea when I started, and now that I am the wiser, I still wouldn’t give it up, although I might have a wobble or two. As I’m typing, my children (all on half-term and going through the usual adjustments to being around each other non-stop) are arguing loudly, despite having just been playing peacefully moments before. OMG, this is a crazy ride.
Cheesy Polenta Chips with Tomato Chutney
If you want your own OMG moment, one that doesn’t involve children (although they might like this as well) make these polenta chips. I made them recently at the college, and I was bombarded with requests to put them on my blog. Flavoured with rosemary and a good dose of grana padano (or any cheese you like, really), then roasted till crisp and served with a spicy tomato chutney (the grown-up’s ketchup!), these chips tick all the boxes for deliciousness: savoury, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, cheesy, tangy, and incredibly more-ish.
The chips are not difficult to make, but they do require a little forethought, because you have to let the polenta cook and then harden. However, you could do this hours — or even the day — before. The chutney, as well, could be made in advance. I normally serve it warm, mostly because I end up making it at the last minute, but whether cold, room temperature, or warm, it will perfectly complement the chips, and you should have enough left over to serve with cheese, or with cold meat sandwiches, or even another batch of chips!
For the chips
- 1 cup polenta
- 5 cups water or stock (chicken or vegetable would be fine)
- 1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted stock)
- handful of fresh rosemary leaves
- 120g (about 4.25 oz.) grana padano cheese
- olive oil to grease your pan
- flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
Grease a rimmed 22cm x 30cm (9″ x 12″) baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
In a deep pot, bring the water or stock to a boil, add the salt, and then, stirring all the while, pour the polenta into the water in a thin stream. (This techniques reduces the chance of the polenta forming lumps, which it will do if you add it all at once and try to beat it smooth.)
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir the polenta for another few minutes. Then turn the heat as low as it can go, or use a diffuser on the burner, and cook the polenta gently for a half hour or so. You only need to stir it occasionally, and if you feel it is getting too thick, you can add a little more water. This process plumps up the polenta grains and results in a richer flavour, even if you are using a quick-cooking polenta.
While the polenta is cooking, finely chop the rosemary leaves, and grate the cheese on the small teeth of a grater. When a half hour has elapsed, stir the rosemary and cheese into the polenta, taste for seasoning, and then tip the whole lot into the prepared baking sheet. Smooth it out as well as you can, and put it in the fridge or a cool spot of the house to solidify. It will take a few hours to cool completely and become firm. (Tip: the bottom of your pot may have a seemingly un-removeable skin of polenta. Simply fill the pot with cold water and leave it to soak. The polenta will loosen and you will eventually be able to pull the entire skin out in one piece.)
When you are ready to make the chips, preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Tip the firm polenta slab onto a cutting board. Cut it into 1.5 cm (0.5 inch) strips, then cut cross-wise into chip-length chips of anywhere from 7-9 cm (2.5 – 3.5 inches). Generously brush two baking sheets with olive oil, then lay the chips on the sheets, keeping them about one centimeter (1/2 inch) apart. Brush the chips with olive oil, then lightly scatter some flaked sea salt over.
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until you can see the edges starting to brown slightly. Remove the pans from the oven, flip all the chips over, and return them to the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes. They should have a golden brown edge and crispy exterior. Serve immediately.
- 700g ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 inch picee of ginger, finely sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 180 ml cider vinegar
- 170g brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 tsp salt
Put all of the chutney ingredients into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that the chutney is not sticking to the bottom.
When the mixture has thickened and darkened and looks glossy, remove from the heat and take out the cinnamon stick. You can purée all or part of the chutney to make it looser and easier to dip a chip into. Serve warm, cold, or in between, and store any leftovers in the fridge. I’d say it will be good for at least 2 weeks.