Mamma! Mamma! it continues, I hear it in the middle of my "Om shanti" recitations. My thoughts quicken and become frantic, should I go or should I calm myself and return to my desperate attempt at a detached state of mind. At about 6.30am surely he deserves more sleep, I try to reason, but the cry only becomes louder. This attention seeking individual called Max is noisily asserting himself and he is not prepared to wait for my Om shanti's to come to an end. I slowly collect myself and walk up the stairs to his room, it's remarkable that the rest of the household maintains their peaceful slumber amidst the cacophony erupting from the adjoining room. Dealing with a strong willed toddler in the middle of my meditation practice is surely a test of my will to maintain that peace, love and happiness state. I silently resolve to pick up my practice later this evening. I stride into his room softly whispering "good morning" to the wide-eyed one year old, my darling son, waiting impatiently in the cot.
Apart from this small distraction, I wanted to share this "pizza" with you. I know tis a busy month for most spent with christmas preparations, end of year parties, travel arrangements and much socialising. This pizza could easily double for a canapé at a drinks party, just cut into smaller pieces. It's a healthier gluten free option for the table. Cara my dear friend, who is on a gluten free diet, you might want to try this one. It's also my way of getting around the no cheese predicament. The tomato sauce is bright and sweet, worth making more for a dressed up bowl of spaghetti? Same goes for the polenta, cook more, store in the fridge for making thick batons of polenta chips.
Polenta "Pizza" with Eggplant & Rocket
More like a healthier eggplant parmigiana, chargrilled not fried and minus the cheese.
3-4 medium tomatoes, organic if possible
1 medium sized spanish onion or shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Generous pinch of dried oregano
1 400g tin peeled whole tomatoes
handful of basil leaves, roughly torn by hand
Approx. 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
Soak the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling hot water for a few minutes. Remove and make cross incisions at the bottom of each tomato, then when it's cool enough to handle peel the skin off. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds, then coarsely chop and set aside. Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the onion and cook until soft and translucent then add the garlic and oregano, continue cooking for 1-2 minutes before adding the fresh and tinned tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring often, until the sauce has become thick. You could either blitz it with a hand blender for a smoother sauce or if you're like me leave it chunky. Set aside.
2 medium sized purple eggplants
Wash and dry the eggplants then top and tail them. Thinly slice the eggplant into rounds. Place a layer of slices in a colander, sprinkle some salt on top, and repeat layers until all the eggplant is covered in salt. Set the colander on a plate for the liquid to drain. Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse the slices and pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a grill pan on high for about 5 minutes. Whilst it's heating place the eggplant in a bowl and toss lightly with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the grill is hot, chargrill the eggplant slices for a couple of minutes on each side until it's nicely charred. Set aside.
Soft cooked polenta:
850ml vegetable stock
Place the polenta in a jug for ease of pouring. Pour the vegetable stock in a pot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer before adding the polenta in a steady stream whisking at the same time. Once it's completely blended, reduce the heat to it's lowest setting and cook for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. It will be cooked when the polenta pulls away from the side of the pot. When cooked scoop the polenta out and place into a flat dish or tray lined with baking paper. Spread the polenta out to about 1 cm thick into your desired pizza shape using the back of a metal spoon or use a sheet of baking paper, this I place on top of the polenta and using the heel of my hand I flatten out the polenta.
1 bunch of rocket
Extra virgin olive oil
Wash and dry the rocket, trim off the woody stems and cut or break into bite size pieces. Toss with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper.
To assemble: Reheat the tomato sauce before spreading on the polenta base, next place the eggplant in a single layer on the sauce and finally scatter the rocket on top.