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Monday, July 31, 2017


Polenta, like porridge
with a dab of butter
Photo by: Lord-Williams
polenta, thick porridge made with any grain used in bread making such as spelt, barely, wheat, etc. Today it is made with cornmeal. Polenta is a corruption of the Roman predessor pulmentum, a soft and pasty mass of dough made with crushed grain or that which is boiled in water or milk to which cheese and honey or other dressing is added. It is a thick gruel or a coarse loaf when placed in a bowl or vessel.

Roman legions ate it as a staple. Pliny provides a recipe for polenta using barley. Apicius’ is cream of wheat, which he molds, slices like cake and fries. He serves it with honey.

Traditionally these were prepared as a thick creamy porridges with chicken broth and almond milk used exclusively by peasants and poor villagers throughout medieval Europe. There is a recipe for it in Sent Soví which is called gachas, which consists of flour and water. Adding oil and salt half way through with boiling sugar or honey is optional.

Nola elaborates on this recipe calling for peeled barley or spelt wheat and almond milk and he sprinkles sugar and cinnamon on top.
For a more refined pottage he uses hen or mutton broth, which he claims to be good for the sick because of its delicacy.

Throughout history there have been few variations. In the 13th century Al Andalus cookery, gachas were made with flour or semolina which was called asida. They also made gachas with semolina and steamed it with couscous, anise seed could be added.

Jews had their version, which they call harisa. In León, it was made with barley or chestnut meal to which cheese and a broth from stew or pork fat could be added. On fish days, eels, crab or other fish were used instead of animal products. See

[Anón/Grewe. 1982:CXI:138; Castro. Alimentación.1996:120; ES: Decker. “Re: SC.” Apr 7, 98; García del Cerro. 1990:17; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002:78:87; Giacosa. 1994:2:159 and Nola. 1989: xxi-3]

See blog titled aloe for the Medieval Spanish Chef’s recipe for Summer Coolers”, published September 5, 2011; and blog titled gachas for Sent Soví recipe #CXI “How to Make Flour Porridge,” published September 24, 2014


Fried Polenta
Photo by: Lord-Williams

1 c polenta
1 ½ c milk
1 ½ c water
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
olive oil for frying



Put all the ingredients into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, continue stirring for about 5 minutes until it thickens. Remove from heat and our into a rectangular container. Let cool.

When ready to eat, cut the polenta into smaller rectangles or circles. Heat olive oil and fry. Remove from heat and place on paper towels to absorb the oil. Drizzle with honey and serve.

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