Saturday night, I didn’t know what to make for dinner. I’d been wanting to use up some split peas, and we have a lot of cornmeal on hand, so I thought I’d put the two together. Both of these dishes are from The New Betty Crocker Cookbook — if you can believe it! Good old Betty knows something about polenta. Who’da thunk it?
Start the polenta by combining a cup of cornmeal with 3/4 cup of water. (I used white cornmeal because it’s what was open, but I prefer the look of yellow. I think it all tastes the same, though.)
Then add 3 1/4 cups of boiling water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
Cook, stirring constantly, until it boils. It will be big, sloppy, bursting bubbles. At that point, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until it’s nice and thick. It should be thinner than mashed potatoes, but not too much thinner.
Meanwhile, you’ll need 3/4 cup of split peas.
Put them in 3 cups of water. Heat, boil for two minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the peas are tender but not mushy.
Mince some ginger. You’ll need at least 1 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger. You might want more if you’re a ginger lover like I am. (Hm, that sounds like a schoolyard insult. “Ginger lover!”) If you use powdered ginger in this, your life will be unfulfilled. Buy some fresh ginger. Live.
You’ll also need 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. The recipe actually called for cumin powder, but we have only cumin seed, so I tried to make it into a powder with our mortar and pestle, but I succeeded only in kind of sort of squishing the seeds. It was still fine.
Now chop up a small onion, or part of a big onion.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan.
Put in all the spices and the onion. Mmmmm.
When your split peas are soft, add them to the spicy onion mixture.
Mix it up!
Serve over the polenta.
Chef liked this more than I expected him to. I thought he would say it was too dry, but he said it was “quite tasty.” Those were his exact words, in case you want to know.
If you have polenta left over (or you can purposely make extra, like I did), line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, spread the polenta in the pan, and refrigerate over night. The next morning, slice the polenta and fry it in hot butter (and maybe a little oil, too, to make the pan really hot.) Serve the hot, browned polenta with syrup. Easy breakfast!
Did you know… In the Southern US, this cornmeal mixture is called mush. In Kenya it’s called Ugali. In South Africa it’s called Paap. I think Polenta is the Italian (or Spanish?) name. Any other names for this stuff? Tell me! I’m curious!