Thursday, June 24, 2010

Julia Gillard and polenta chips

As I watched the ABC News on the dumping of  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for Julia Gillard last night, I was madly stirring polenta in a saucepan on the stove. As we were out of potatoes to accompany the steak, I had a brainwave to make polenta chips. Well, it was a good idea but the thing about polenta is that the cooking of it takes serious commitment. As Stephanie Alexander says on page 347 of her wonderful book, The Cook's Companion: "To make polenta the traditional way you will need a large, heavy saucepan - and patience. Not only patience to stir the mixture, but patience to clean the saucepan."

So while I listened to Julia's impressive speech and shed a tear with Kevin over his sudden dumping, I stirred and stirred my one cup of yellow polenta into the four cups of boiling water. The idea is to keep stirring until the wooden spoon stands up on its own accord in the mix. After 20 minutes my wooden spoon was still a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa, but I decided that was enough. I added more than a half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, chopped fresh rosemary and two large dollops of margarine (it was meant to be butter) and called it a day with the stirring.

By this stage the news had left Julia and Kevin and was on to the World Cup. I spooned the polenta mix out onto a tray to cool. After about 10 minutes or so I cut it into strips with a wet knife (as Stephanie Alexander advised) and basted with olive oil and laid in a baking dish. I popped the dish in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 200 degrees C. Towards the end I turned the oven on to grill to crisp things up. While they ended up looking more like Fish Fingers than chips, or wedges rather than fries - my parmesan, rosemary polenta chips were a nice change to potatoes or rice on the day Australia had its first woman Prime Minister.

For everything you need to know about cooking polenta - a gluten-free Northern Italian speciality - go to page 347 of Stephanie Alexander's book, The Cook's Companion, the complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen.


  1. Sounds like it was a memorable cooking moment on a day I'm sure we'll all remember where we were when we heard that a woman finally made it to the top job and it was Julia!
    Yes, I'm delaying packing but I had to add my two cents worth.

  2. Yes it was a momentous day Jen - it's great to have a woman PM, and Julia is very impressive, but I still felt sorry for Kev. Have a wonderful trip. Look forward to hearing about it on your return. Au revoir