The recipes for “mamaliga” are numerous and vary with the region, the ingredients available or afforded and imagination. It is easy to prepare,inexpensive and delicious.
Usually eaten by itself as a main dish it can also be served as a side dish with vegetables,meat,fish or chicken. In general it is classified as soft or hard mush,boiled,fried or baked.
It is commonly cooked or served with cheese, usually cheeses made from ewe milk, such as “Telemea” (you can substitute this with the feta cheese) or “Cascaval”( which can be substitute with Kaseri or Italian Pecorino.
The “mamaliga” used to be a substitute for bread which use to be a luxury in a peasant home.
The “mamaliga” is always made fresh for each meal and eaten warm; cold mamaliga can be eaten too but if a fire is at hand it is cut into slices and fried . I still remember how my grandfather used to cut the mamaliga while still hot with a piece of string!
The old method of making mamaliga is very time consuming taking hours to prepare. This recipe is one of the modern ways of preparing it. A “Ceaun” is usually used but if one is not available use a pan with rounded sides and a non-stick surface.
3 cups of water
2 tbp salt
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal,course or medium ground
Heat the water in the Ceaun over high heat until it boils and the add the salt and butter.
Sprinkle about a tablespoon of cornmeal into the boiling water. As soon as the water starts boiling again pour in the rest of the cornmeal all at once, and stir vigorously with the tail of a wooden spoon to prevent the formation of lumps.(the traditional instrument will be “melesteu”)
As soon as the cornmeal mixture begins to bubble turn the heat down to low and be careful not to be splashed with boiling hot chunks of cornmeal which tend to shoot up when the mixture starts bubbling. Continue to stir always in the same direction. As it continues to cook over the low heat you will begin to see the polenta thickening and becoming unglued from the sides of the Ceaun as you stir.
The mamaliga should be done in about 10-15 minutes. To test if it is done,you can insert the tail end of the wooden spoon , which has been moistened with water, vertically into the polenta and spin it a couple of times. If it comes out clean then the polenta is done.
Shake the Ceaun(or the pan you are using) and immediately turn the kettle upside down over a wooden board. The mamaliga should come out clean retaining the shape of the pan you are using. Cut portions with a string like cheese.
Serve immediately while it is still hot and before it hardens as a side dish with your chosen main.
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