Tag Archives: Polenta


This is a photo of a segmented hare ready to braise. The hare has been sitting in my freezer for about 6 weeks, but because it is very hard to find, I buy when I see it, irrespective of whether I am ready to cook it or not.

I chose an Ada Boni recipe for cooking hare in the Piedmontese style (recipe from Italian Regional Cooking, Bonanza Books 1995).  Boni’s recipe is slightly different to other Piedmontese style recipes recipes I looked at and it includes cognac; other recipes may also contain any of the following ingredients, for example: cinnamon, garlic, rosemary and juniper berries.

I use recipes as a guide and I alter quantities and ingredients to suit my tastes. I like spices and herbs and increased the quantities; I prefer and used fresh herbs rather than the dry suggested in the recipe. Both Barolo and Barbera are wines of Piedmont and understandably Boni suggests using Barbera for the marinade wine, but I used a good quality Australian red wine and chose to drink the Italian. Chocolate smooths out the sauce and I used a greater amount than suggested and rather than adding 4 teaspoons of sugar I added very little sugar; I like using stock and added some to the braising liquid.

I have not used Ada Boni’s words, but the procedure for preparing the hare is more or less what she suggests.

In Australia I have yet to purchase a hare with its liver, heart, little alone its blood – these are used to thicken the sauce towards the end of cooking.

I have written about hare before. See:

HARE or RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. Lepre o Coniglio al Cioccolato (‘Nciculattatu is the Sicilian term used)

PAPPARDELLE (Pasta with Hare Sauce)

Interestingly enough, Alex the small friend in the photograph is now very much grown up.


Use an earthenware bowl for the marinade and a heavy bottomed saucepan with a well sealing lid to braise the hare.

Hare ready to serve no garnish

Being a Piedmontese recipe, plain polenta makes a good accompaniment.

1 hare cut into pieces (4 legs, back cut into 3 pieces, ribs into 3),
1 and 1/2 bottles of red wine- use enough to cover the hare (Barbera is preferable),
2-3 carrots,
2 large onions (1 for marinade, 1 for sautéing)
3 stalks of celery,
2 bay leaves,
3-4 black peppercorns,
3 cloves,
pinch of marjoram, and pinch of thyme,
salt to taste,
2 tablespoon of butter,
¼ cup of olive oil,
2 tablespoons of bacon fat cut into small pieces (I think that lardo or speck is intended – I used the fat from prosciutto, same taste and texture),
1 square of bitter chocolate, grated,
4 teaspoon of sugar,
3-4 tablespoons of cognac.
Chop one onion, carrots and celery and put them in an earthenware bowl  with the segmented pieces of hare. Add the herbs cloves and peppercorns and a little salt. Cover with the win and let it marinate for 2-3 days in the fridge.
Drain the hare (take the pieces from the marinade and drain them) and then drain the vegetables separately. Keep the wine for cooking the hare.
Heat oil, lardo and butter and brown the hare pieces – use high heat. Remove the hare from the pan and any juices.
Add the onion to the same pan and sauté it gently in a little oil. Add the drained vegetables and sauté these for a few minutes.
Return the hare (and any juices) to the saucepan, pour in the wine (from the marinade), add a little salt. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Simmer for about 2-3 hours until the meat is cooked. I also added about 1 cup of stock.
Remove the cooked hare and put aside. Remove the bay leaves and if you have used sprigs of herbs remove any of the remaining small sticks (If you can see the pepper corns and cloves remove these as well).
Rub the vegetables in the sauce through a sieve, use a mouli or blend the vegetables in the sauce.
Return the sauce to the saucepan, stir in chocolate, add the hare and taste the sauce – if you think it needs a little sugar add this.
Add the cognac last of all (I only used about 2 tablespoons).
Serve with plain polenta.

Polenta and wild asparagus 2

GULASCH (Goulash as made in Trieste)

I bet that you have never seen gulasch spelt like this…unless you are from Trieste. Trieste was part of the Austro- Hungarian empire and much of its cooking reflects this.

Gulasch in Trieste is made with meat, onions and paprika. It does not contain tomato or potatoes or peppers or other spices. I have seen recipes that include a few winter herbs – rosemary or marjoram, but this is not common.  My touch is to also add some red wine and caraway seeds; some cooks do this, some do not.

In Trieste gulasch can be made with beef or pork and may have a mixture of meats: beef shin, pork and maybe horse meat. I do not wish to put you off; I make mine just with beef, either shin, bolar or oyster blade, and it tastes wonderful.
Like all meat stews or braises it is best made the day before to allow the flavours to develop even further.
It needs to cook slowly – I cooked mine for about three hours and the slow cooking is essential.

2 k beef (shin, bolar, oyster blade) cut into large squares
2-3 onions, sliced finely
extra virgin olive oil and if you have it, about 2 tbsp. lard (no mucking around with this recipe)
2-4 bay leaves
2 tbsp. sweet paprika and 1/2-1 tbs of hot paprika
¾ cup of red wine and 1 tbs caraway seeds (optional, but I like to do this)
water or stock to cover the meat
salt to taste

Sauté the onions in hot oil till golden.
Add beef and paprika and sauté the beef.
Add  wine and some stock (or water), caraway seeds and salt; cover and simmer on low heat until the meat is tender.  Stir occasionally and make sure that the level of liquid  is maintained.

In Trieste, i triestini (the people from Trieste) may accompany their gulasch with spatzle (egg, flour, water made into a soft dough and the mixture is pushed through the holes of a colander into boiling salted water or into the boiling juice of the gulasch). Some like to have it with knodel (dumplings made with bread but some also make them with potatoes) others with polenta.

I like to have it with polenta – plain, ordinary (not Instant) polenta cooked in salted water and stirred until it begins to detach itself from the sides of the pot, then baked in an oiled tin till it forms a nice crust. Love it, and I doubt very much if my Sicilian relatives would enjoy it.

For other recipes from Trieste, see:

Iota (a thick soup – borlotti, sauerkraut and smoked  pork)
Strucolo de pomi (apple strudel)
Gnocheti de gris (semolina gnocchi in broth)
Patate in teccia (potatoes braised with onions)
Dolomiti – baccala mantecato (creamed baccala)
Risi e bisi (rice and peas- risotto)



This has to be one of the easiest and fun desserts that I have made in a long time.
It is so incredibly simple and you can make it with your fingers if you want to. It reminds me of making shortbread, simply and gently combining the basic ingredients of flour, butter and sugar and gently pressing it into shape. Sbrisolona has polenta in it as well, and it was once made with lard instead of butter. Modern recipes like this one, include egg yolk, lemon peel and coarsely chopped almonds. I am liking the new season’s Victorian walnuts and used these instead.
When you hear or see the word polenta you know that this means Northern Italy and in fact we are talking about peasant food of Montova and Cremona.
What I like about it is that it is not cut, it is broken into pieces so it becomes a talking point at the table.


Sbrisolona, Sbrisolosa or Sbrisolina is all the same thing, just different names and written in dialect. Sbriciola is the Italian word and it comes from sbriciolare, to crumb.
finely ground polenta/ cornmeal, 1 cup
plain flour, 2 cups
sugar, 1 cup
butter, 225 g
almonds are traditional, I used walnuts , coarsley chopped, 1 cup
egg yolks, 2 large
grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
salt, ½ teaspoon (if using unsalted butter)
pure vanilla extract, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Butter a 28 cm springform pan or line it with baking paper – the paper will make it easier to remove from the tin and help it not to break.
Combine flour, cornmeal and salt.
Rub in butter, either by hand or in a food processor/ with pastry hook.
Add sugar and mix through.
Mix the egg yolk, lemon zest and vanilla together and add it to the dry mixture. Combine it gently; it will resemble coarse meal. Do not to over mix.
Add the chopped nuts.
Place the crumbs loosely into the baking tin and help it to stick together mostly around the edges by pressing it very gently.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
Transfer to a rack and cool completely before taking it out of the tin. Handle carefully, but if it breaks just reshape it.
It not cut like a cake. Break it into serving pieces or guests can break it into pieces themselves.
It’s pretty good served with a glass of liqueur or sweet wine.


RADICCHIO (Treviso) with polenta and tomato salsa

Surprisingly I bought this head of radicchio this week. Although it is spring and nearly the end of October in Melbourne, we have been experiencing winter temperatures and this has prolonged the season for radicchio – it prefers cooler temperatures and is generally at its best from May to September. My vendor says that radicchio is now available throughout the year – this should please me, but it does not. How can a winter vegetable grow in a different season or how far does it have to travel to get here.

Let’s begin to discuss radicchio with the correct pronunciation. The sound of ‘ch’ in the Italian language and unlike the English sound, is pronounced as k.

Secondly, radicchio is a northern Italian vegetable originating from the Veneto region and Italian recipes, which include radicchio (like when cooked as in a risotto) are also northern Italian recipes.

This type of radicchio in the picture is from Treviso, a city that it is closer to Venice than Trieste where I lived as a child. Trieste is in the  neighbouring region to the Veneto and it is called Friuli Venezia Giulia, which is on the furthest limit of the Italian northeast, near the Slovenian border. Various types of radicchio are cultivated in Trieste as well, varieties like the green biondissima that needs to be picked when very small and does not form a head. My father used to grow this variety in his home garden in Adelaide; I have seen the seeds in Australia, but I doubt if it will ever be sold as a salad leaf in Australia – a great pity.

Men buying seeds in Palermo – photo courtesy of a generous reader of my blog

I have been to Sicily many times and as a young person, I never saw radicchio, nor were my Sicilian relatives familiar with it, but for the last two years I have seen the Treviso variety of radicchio in a couple of modern Sicilian restaurants – usually used more for a decorative purpose, for example, a deep red leaf accompanying an octopus salad. The Sicilians import radicchio from the north; it is far too hot in Sicily to grow it and considered foreign in Sicilian cuisine.

Enough reminiscing, it is time for a recipe.

Radicchio can be cooked and there was one way that my mother used to prepare the large heads of Treviso radicchio, which I really like. The recipe may be a bit wintery, but eaten outside in the sunshine with a glass of rose sounds spring- like to me.


Select ½ -1 head of large radicchio per person (thin heads will char).

Cut large heads of radicchio in half lengthwise, sprinkle with salt and a little extra virgin olive oil and then grill on moderate heat .

It is then and presented with grilled polenta and a little fresh tomato salsa. The outer leaves will turn brown and the core will remain moist and will soften; it may take 15 -20 minutes with a couple of rotations and a little more oil.


Cooked polenta can be cut into a thick slice and also be grilled on the same BBQ grill or plate. See recipe in post:

SEPPIE IN UMIDO CON POLENTA (Cuttlefish with polenta).

Sprinkle the slice of polenta with oil and salt before grilling. Polenta is also a northern Italian ingredient.

The tomato salsa is easily made.

Make a tomato salsa with the ¼- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, peeled chopped tomatoes (800-1k can in winter, fresh tomatoes in summer) and a few leaves of basil, a little salt and pepper.

Mix the ingredients together and allow the sauce to reduce – uncovered – to a cream like consistency. Take off the heat.

Present a slice of polenta, the grilled radicchio and a splash of tomato salsa on each plate – the salsa will be sweet (and red) but have some tartness, the radicchio will be bitter (and a dark red- brown colour) and the polenta will have texture (and yellow).

If you would like a more substantial dish, a little grilled fish would not go astray.


SEPPIE IN UMIDO CON POLENTA (Cuttlefish or Squid With Black Ink And Polenta from Trieste)

In Australia squid and cuttlefish is often sold interchangeably.
Both squid and cuttlefish have the potential to contain ink sacs in their bodies, but cuttlefish seems to contain more ink and is preferred for ‘black ink’ dishes in Italy, especially in coastal towns around the Adriatic.  As you can see in the photo seppie are often covered with ink when they are sold.

Squid can be as well, but rarely have I seen this in Australia (we like things clean and white!)

This photo was taken by my nephew very recently in the fish market in Venice. They are seppie (cuttlefish).  Fresche means fresh, senza sabbia means without sand in Italian.

If you have ever cleaned squid or cuttlefish you may have found a pea like swelling filled with black ink in some of the cavities, but some come with an empty ink bladder. If you have ever fished for squid, the moment you try to lift them out of the water, most squid will squirt a cloud of dark brown ink in their attempt to get away.

The ink is not harmful to eat (It was once used as the artist’s pigment, sepia).

You may need to buy ink separately – you will need 3-6 ink sacs for this recipe.


In Venice and in Trieste seppie are cooked in umido (braised) in wine and in their own ink and served with polenta (a very popular dish). As a child living in Trieste this was my favourite dish, especially when served with left over fried polenta. In Triestino (dialect from Trieste) they are called sepe in umido co la polenta –this dish is still very popular in the trattorie in Trieste, many of them are found in Trieste vecchia (the old part of Trieste).

The seppie in umido become the dressing for the polenta (popular in the north of Italy, by many eaten more often than pasta and preferred to pasta).

cuttlefish or squid, 2k
white onion, sliced thinly
parsley, ½ bunch, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
dry white wine, ¾ cup



Clean cuttlefish or squid: discard the eyes and beaks, separate heads from bodies and, cut off tentacles and set aside. Pull out hard transparent cartilage from bodies and discard. Cut bodies lengthwise to open and carefully remove the ink sacs and set aside. Remove and discard entrails. Rinse cuttlefish or squid under cold running water.
Slice fish and tentacles into large strips (they will shrink).
Heat oil in a large pan with lid over medium heat.
Add onions and garlic and sauté till golden. Add cuttlefish and reserved tentacles and sauté, add parsley and keep on stirring for about 10 mins.
Add wine and evaporate for a few minutes.
Mix the ink sacs in ½ cup of water, press on the ink sacs with the back of a spoon on the side of the cup to break the skin and release the black ink.
Add the water and ink to the braise.
Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fish is very tender for about 30 mins.
If there is too much liquid, uncover pan for the last 5 minutes of cooking to reduce and thicken the sauce.

Serve with plain polenta – no cheese, no milk. Traditional polenta is made with plain water.


There is instant polenta and original polenta. Instructions for cooking it are generally on the packet.Generally the ratio is 1 ½ cups yellow polenta to 4 cups water, salt to taste.Original polenta will take about 30 minutes.
In a heavy saucepan sift the cornmeal into the pan with water and salt. On medium eat bring to the boil. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon with a long handle. Reduce the heat to low. You will need to stir constantly until the polenta is smooth and thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Pour out the polenta onto a wooden board and with a spatula, shape it into a round shape (to resemble a cake) and allow it to rest 10 minutes.
Cut the polenta into thick slices, place one slice on each plate and top with the seppie in umido.
Slices of left over polenta taste wonderful fried in extra virgin olive oil. The surface of the polenta will develop a crosta (a golden brown crust). Delightful!!
pasta with black inkJPG

For the Sicilian version of Pasta with Black ink sauce see earlier post: