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Tuesday, 24 April 2007


It is late afternoon on a warm spring day. I have just returned from scoffing down the perfect hangover breakfast (halloumi and spinach on toast with a side of grilled tomato and chips) at Cafe Z Bar, followed by a carefree afternoon of newspaper reading in Clissold Park with Kelly and Andrew.
There's a load of washing on the go, and I've opened every door and window in the flat to welcome in the glorious spring breeze.
And now it's time to get down to some serious culinary business.

My Vietnamese mint plant needs a little trim and I have been thinking about what I want to do with its bitter spicy goodness. Vietnamese rice paper rolls are an obvious choice. Problem is, I have none of the ingredients handy and either does the corner shop.
After excavating part of the pantry I discover some polenta and coconut milk, a quick fridge rummage yields some lemongrass and coriander.
Look out everyone! Asian fusion is in the house!


This makes about about 8 portions

What you need

500g polenta (NOT instant)
2L water
3 short stalks of lemongrass
5-6 dried kaffir lime leaves (fresh is infinitely better - if you have some, use 3-4)
4 tsp stock
1 tsp chilli flakes
bunch of coriander with roots intact
1 can coconut milk
sweet chilli sauce (bought from Chinese grocer)

Wash the coriander very, very thoroughly and chop off the roots. Bag the top and keep in the fridge for later. Chop the roots up as finely as you can be bothered. Set aside.

In a big heavy based pot, bring the water to the boil. Prepare the lemongrass by smashing the butt of your knife down onto the base of the stalks a few times, exposing the inner core of flavour.

Throw the lemongrass into the pot along with the kaffir leaves (rip these in half as you put them in), chilli flakes and stock. Simmer for 30 mins or longer - add salt or more stock to taste, it should be like a light fragrant soup. Fish out the lemongrass and leaves. Add coconut milk and chopped coriander root. Stir.
Turn the heat right down so the water is still. Add polenta slowly in a thin stream, mixing as you go along. Keep mixing every so often for around 30-45 minutes or until the polenta comes away from the side of the pot.

When ready, wet a slice tray and spread the mixture in evenly with a wet spatula. Cool and keep in fridge. Once set, it can be kept for a later date or used straight away.

To serve, pan fry on medium heat in a generous lug of oil, until it develop a nice golden crust, flip over and repeat.
Pile torn Vietnamese mint leaves and coriander on top, and drizzle with sweet chilli sauce.

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