Food Wank: Episode I

I’m normally too impatient to create artwork on a plate, but the thing is… I’m capable of it. And so are you. It’s not practical for every day eating, but for special occassions, why not treat yourself (and others) to a fun, frivolous meal?

I’ve decided that a few times a year, I’m going to go all-out and create something special like this for you guys – something that looks incredibly fancy, but is really easy to put together, given some organisation and patience.

Food Wank: Episode I

There’s a few elements that you should consider making the night before: the polenta, orange balsamic reduction & salted mango cream. The latter two don’t need to be made well in advance, but it’ll make your life easier when assembling the dish. The polenta, however, will need at least 8 hours to set in the fridge.

You’ll have left overs of all these elements – be creative and create your own “food wank” with the excess! I’ll try to refer back to the individual elements of this dish in other posts to give you some ideas.

Close up of a polenta disc after being removed from the silicone mould.

Rosemary Polenta

1 C Polenta
800ml Stock (your choice)
200ml Orange Juice, freshly squeezed (2 oranges)
1 T Fresh Rosemary Leaves, chopped
1/4 t Tumeric

  • Place all ingredients into a pot, stir on low heat until thick.
  • Pour into silicone moulds and leave in the fridge for 8+ hours to set. I used two large muffin moulds and a mini cupcake mould – the mixture will yield 12 of each size.

*You may find that you need to trim your polenta discs a little when you pop them out of the mould. Don’t worry – it’s still far less wasteful and time consuming than setting it all as a rectangle and trying to cut individual circles out of it with a cookie cutter.

**Excess discs can be frozen for use at a later date.

Orange Balsamic Reduction

Spiced Orange Balsamic Reduction

1 C Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 C Orange Juice, freshly squeezed
3 t Raw Sugar
1/4 t Allspice
3 Pinches of Cinnamon
1 Pinch of Nutmeg

  • Simmer on low heat for 25-28 minutes. You don’t need to pay much attention to it until the last 5 minutes – make sure it doesn’t burn. if it starts to bubble up too much, remove it from the heat momentarily. When it settles, pop back over the burner.
  • When ready, it’ll be the consistency of maple syrup when warm but will thicken and become fairly sticky when it cools.

*Use a rubber spatula to get this out of the pot with minimal mess.

Salted Mango Cream

Salted Mango Cream

1 C Raw (steamed), Unsalted Cashews
1/2 C Water
1 Mango, flesh only
1/4 t Salt

  • Soak cashews in water for an hour.
  • Blend cashews and salt in a food processor. Slowly add the water in a thin stream to make a thick paste.
  • Add all the mango flesh, chopped, and blend until smooth. Use as much of the mango flesh as possible, not just the cheeks.
  • Store in a container in the fridge. When ready to use, give it another quick whiz in the food processor. It’ll look a little grainy, but it’ll taste fine. If you have a high speed blender, use that for the second blending. Pictured above is the food processor only version – I didn’t want to put off anyone who doesn’t have a high speed blender!

*If you can’t think of anything to do with the excess cream within 24-48 hours, you can freeze it in a silicone muffin/cupcake mould and defrost individual discs in the fridge when needed.

You’re almost there…

    • To finish off the polenta, heat up a griddle pan on medium heat with a spray of oil. Grill the first side for 5 minutes, flip, grill the second side for 3 minutes. Your discs will have beautiful black marks and just a hint of charred taste. Each serve will require two large discs and two small discs.
    • Roast 1 red capsicum by following these directions – or – cheat and use some from a jar! Slice them into thin ribbons. Each serve will require 1/4 of a capsicum.

Blanched Broccolini

  • Blanch your broccolini® for 2-3 minutes. You’ll need 4 stalks per serve.
  • Lightly toast a handful of flaked almonds in a dry skillet. If you don’t toast them, they’ll be a little chewy. They work best in this dish when crunchy! Each serve will use 4 flaked almonds.


Food Wank: Episode I (layout)

Here’s an aerial view of the plate. Start by placing a dollop of salted mango cream on the imaginary left third of the plate. Gently press a spoon into it and smear it to the right. Place 2 long stalks of broccolini® on top. In the thickest edge of the mango cream, wedge in a few of your toasted flaked almonds.

Polenta stack

The stack on the left is a large disc of polenta with 2 heads cut from broccolini® stalks, a few slivers of roast capsicum and a flaked almond. You’ll probably need to dip the bottom of the almond in some salted mango cream to make it stick.

Polenta stack #2

The stack on the right is another large polenta disc with a more generous pile of roast capsicum and a couple of short lengths of broccolini® stalk on top. Cut the stalk ends on an angle for a fancier look.

Food Wank: Episode I

The third polenta stack is simply 2 small discs – one flat and another leaning on it.

The orange balsamic reduction is dotted on two areas of the plate. You should be able to do this with a spoon but if your reduction is particularly sticky, use a syringe (without the needle).

Max Polenta
Max, our friendly neighbourhood magpie thieving some polenta when I was trying to take photos.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis & Broccolini® with Soy and Sesame

Kecap manis, pronounced like “kitCHUP maneese”, is a sweet, sticky, Indonesian soy sauce. It’s not an obscure thing, so you don’t have to search Asian grocers or health food stores for it – it’s available at most supermarkets near the soy sauce. Most of the time, though, you’ll see questionable ingredients listed on the bottle, such as “flavours” or three digit numbers… And I’m yet to come across a store bought version that’s gluten free. So, “why not make it myself?”, I thought.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis
Gluten Free Kecap Manis

1/2 C Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1/2 C + 1 T Soft Brown Sugar, firmly packed

  • Put ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer on low heat for 6-10 minutes, stirring constantly. If your mixture starts to bubble up too much, simply remove it from the burner for a moment to let it settle. The consistency will be comparable to maple syrup and will continue to thicken as it cools.
  • Leave to cool, then store in a glass jar in the fridge.

Broccolini Soy Sesame
Broccolini® with Soy and SesameServes 4 as a side or 2 as a main

The above recipe is what inspired me to make and share a gluten free version of kecap manis with you; I didn’t want my gluten free readers to miss out! I really loved this dish, and as you can tell by the bright glossy photo, I ate it on the verandah (porch) as the sun set on my beautiful twenty acres of Australian flora and fauna. What a way to relax!

The only change I made to the original recipe was to use one tablespoon of kecap manis, not the recommended two – this was sweet enough for me, but if you want something a bit richer, feel free to toss in the second tablespoon. I also chose to eat it as a main rather than a side and served it with some brown rice.

Tofu Puffs

This broccolini dish is also really great with a couple of cut up tofu puffs tossed into the mix. They’re a specialty item that I’ve only ever seen in Asian grocery stores, either in the fridge or freezer section. They’re the only type of tofu that you can freeze and defrost without altering the texture. They’re spongy, a little chewy and hold stir fry and curry sauces fabulously!

Broccolini® & Cucumber Salad

This started as a recipe review for Broccolini® with Cucumber & Chilli Sauce. There were a few things not-quite-right about it, so instead of just giving you my critique, I thought I’d offer you another version of it – a version that’s less of a “side” and more of a “main” – because I’m all about making veggies the star.

With the original recipe, you’ll find yourself trying to split one bunch of broccolini® between four people, which leaves you with a stalk or two each. That’s not enough of this wonderful vegetable, in my opinion. You’ll also have a lot of sauce left over – a sauce which uses two tablespoons of sugar. The kids will love it, but their teeth won’t. My sauce has a little more bite to it!

Broccolini Cucumber Salad
Serves 1 as a main or 4 as a side.

2 Bunches Broccolini®
1 Lebanese Cucumber, diced (or 10cm/4″ section of another kind of cucumber)
1 T White Wine Vinegar
1 T Water
1/2 t Raw Sugar
1/4-1/2 Long Red Chili, finely diced
1/2 Garlic Clove, finely diced
1 T Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 t Sunflower Seeds

  • In a skillet or small saucepan on very low heat, combine the vinegar, water and sugar until just dissolved. Add the garlic and chili to soften and take the raw “sting” out of them. This should only take a minute or two – don’t leave this on the heat too long or let it boil, or your dressing will start to evaporate and condense. Leave to cool.
  • Cut the broccolini® stalks into thirds and blanch for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Toss the broccolini®, cucumber and dressing together in a salad bowl. Serve sprinkled with coriander and sunflower seeds.