Tartare, originally uploaded by Lobstersquad.

Aren't you glad I'm going to spare you a bunch of fuzzy edged high contrast yellowed out Instagram pics?
I don't even have any sketches, because it was very cold and stopping for even a second was impossible.
We walked and walked and it was lovely because it always is. And like I always do I had steak tartare and it was beautiful.
So there you are.
Next up, a proper post about cocido madrileño, to counteract all this francophilia.


Business Cards

Business Cards, originally uploaded by Lobstersquad.

I'm off to Paris, to the Gourmand cookbook fair. Just as a spectator. But because you never know, I've made a batch of business cards to take with me. Handmade, since moo.com offers so many choices that in the end I couldn't choose.

I have nothing to do for two days but walk around, eat, sketch. I pack no wet wipes, emergency bananas, cardboard copies of The Gruffalo, and it is pure bliss.
But of course I love my children and will be sure to bring back their requests: green and brown macarons for Pepe, pink and brown for Pia.


My favourite 5 minute meal

Not that I want to fetishize speed. No sense in that. It may be fun to see Jamie Oliver run around like a wet hen making a 15 minute chicken bolognese, just like it's entertaining to watch a fully grown man lock himself into a briefcase.  Not to be tried at home, but otherwise, no harm. If I have three hours to let a bolognese sauce blip away, I do, and if I want a plate of pasta in 15 minutes, I make this, or this.

But sometimes I really need to get food on the table very fast. Enter the 5 minute wonder that is polenta with garlicky greens and a poached egg.

To tell you the truth, I most often allow myself ten minutes for this, but anyway, that's still fast. 

Start by boiling a kettle, so you can jumpstart the poached eggs and instant polenta.

Now put a 3 litre pressure cooker on the hob with a slick of oil and a couple of smashed garlic cloves. While they heat, wash a head of broccoli. Cut it up in big chunks, no finesse, but do peel the stalk and slice it in tickish rounds.  This works with kale, spinach, spring greens, the usual.
Throw it into the cooker, salt it,  and add as little water as you can get away with. My pressure cooker is a WMF Perfect that comes up to pressure with 100 ml. Lock, and set the timer for ONE minute.
Poach the egg/s, make the polenta. You'll be feeling like a one-man orchestra by this point so perhaps ask someone else to lay the table if you can.
When the timer goes for the broccoli you can either bring the pressure down immediately for tender florets. Or you can let it keep pressure, off the hob, for two minutes before bringing it down. This will give you that  very soft, melting, khaki coloured broccoli beloved of Italians.
Without a pressure cooker the timings are different, but use this method.

By now the polenta will be ready, so spoon it onto a plate, top with the greens, add olive oil and lemon juice, and settle the drained egg on top. Parmesan and black pepper always welcome.

The good thing is that if the polenta is ready before anything else, you can let it sit and bring it back to texture with more hot water and a whisk. And the eggs can be made ahead. And the greens are lovely at room temperature. So it's a very accomodating meal, ready in five minutes, or ready when you are.


Instant polenta

Poor polenta. So maligned. 
It does my head in when I read the sort of apologetic, bumbling recipe headnote that says "polenta is bland, but you can jazz it up by boiling it in milk, and then adding a ton of cheese and herbs and stuff".
What's the sense in that? Of course polenta is bland, that's the whole point about polenta. Just like bread, or rice, or pasta. Bland, cheap, filling stuff on which you put savoury, punchy, hot, expensive stuff. It's called dinner. 

Then, once you've cleared that hurdle and accepted, welcomed, even, the fact that polenta is bland and that's ok, you smash into a wall. "Polenta takes an hour of careful stirring, but that's ok".
No, dear food writers who art in another planet. It is so not ok to stir for an hour, or forty minutes, or whatever you say, specially for something that is dammed with faint praise upfront.

There are two ways around that. One is to cook polenta in a rice cooker, which does all the work for you. It takes its time to cook, like on a stove, but it's hands-off time.

Or, you can use instant polenta. And no, the world will not fall apart. And nobody will know. Because that thing about polenta being bland we talked about? Well, it works to your advantage. Instant polenta is bland, sure, but, ahem, so is the other, arm-destroying, real one. So there you are. Two minutes away from a bowl of creamy, sunshine-yellow, comfort in a bowl, ready to be topped with a bit of this or that and a shower of grated cheese.
One of my favourite fast lunches is soft polenta, topped with pan-steamed broccoli and topped with a poached egg.
And it behaves just like regular polenta does, in that once it's set you can slice it and grill or fry it until crisp. 

But that's not all. Instant polenta (I mean the ground stuff, by the way, not those horrid blocks) is something you need to have to hand for many other things:

It can take the place of breadcrumbs in many of the places you need them: to coat crisp fried things, in meatball mixes and the like. 

I also use it to thicken soups or stews. Not the more delicate or dark or Asian flavoured ones, of course. But if a run of the mill chickpea soup is looking a bit more soupy than I like, a bit of instant polenta thickens immediately.

Heat milk with frozen corn kernels and a bit of salt, add some instant polenta and there it is: creamed corn. Lovely stuff.

Mix some into your crumble toppings. This works just as well with the non-instant kind of cornmeal. But the instant one is what I use to mix with the fruit that goes inside, instead of cornstarch. It's much tastier, and the grainy texture pleasantly rustic.

I´d be lost without it, I really would.

(Drawing totally unrelated, of course, but the book is just out, and I like the cover. Catalan readers, storm your local bookshops right away)