I’ve been dining on my own a lot lately and I have to admit that I am not the most adventurous single person cook. It’s the dishes. I just can’t be bothered washing a whole bunch of them when it’s just me. When I’m not eating cheese and crackers or popcorn and After 8 mints, I resort to my ultimate comfort food, a poached egg and chips drowned in enough Tabasco to thoroughly strip the lining of my stomach.
In Southern Tuscany, eggs are linked to fertility and a woman’s libido. Whenever my MIL is within viewing distance of an egg, she looks pointedly in my direction and tells me to eat more of them. She considers them conception-inducing aphrodisiacs, which I can’t say is particularly enticing!
I just like dipping French fries in my poached egg, which sounds perfectly infantile and should disqualify me from acting on the above old wive’s tale.
Moving on. When Giulio left me on my lonesome for the third time this week, I decided to give myself a kick up the bum and prepare something better than eggs and chips. Eggs and polenta chips! I am a regular out-of-the-box thinker.
When stirred into boiling water and cooked on the stove, polenta turns into a delicious porridge that goes down a treat with stewed meats or tomato sauces. It’s a Northern Italian obsession. My Calabrian family used to feed it to the pigs and my mother still refuses to touch it! But I love its spongy texture, which, like tofu, sucks up all the delicious flavours you pair it with!
When you fry polenta, you trap that soft spongy deliciousness into a crunchy casing that tastes exactly like popcorn. You know how some roast potato recipes ask you to coat your potatoes in polenta before roasting them? That’s because the polenta makes the outside super crispy, ergo, you can imagine just how crispy fried polenta chips are. Dip those suckers in a duck egg and it’ll stay crispy while imparting a smoky corn flavour that is simply one hell of a mouthful. That’s my inner Gordon Ramsey speaking… my regular plain self is just chanting “yummy, yummy, yummy” while drooling all over her keyboard. But jokes aside, get onto duck eggs. They are surprisingly difficult to find here in Tuscany and you can, of course, use regular chicken eggs, but when you’re in it for the yolk dipping, you can’t beat duck eggs. There is just so much more yolk to enjoy!
So when it comes to great debate as to what makes the best poached egg soldiers, bread comes a lowly third (not a huge fan of toast), French fries a perfectly adequate second and polenta chips, the orgasmic number 1 delight that will make you wish you could dine alone every night. And if you don’t agree with me then you haven’t made this recipe yet. So what are you still doing here? Go, fry and then get back to me.
Poached egg and polenta chips
80g fast polenta
1 duck egg
parmesan cheese, for shaving
vegetable oil, for frying
Bring 500ml of water to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. When it boils, cascade your polenta over the top like you’re dusting icing sugar on a cake. Then start stirring immediately, always in the same direction, over a low heat until the polenta is thick and resembles wallpaper paste (about 8 minutes).
Coat a 15cm rectangular baking dish a little oil and pour your polenta in. Smooth out the surface, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight. Flip out your polenta like a soft cheese and slice into thin soldiers.
Pour enough vegetable oil to deep fry into a large frying pan and heat over high heat. Add your polenta slices and fry until crisp on all sides. (about 5 minutes a side) Drain on paper towels and keep warm while you poach your egg.
I had a complex about poaching eggs until I saw a Jamie Oliver Christmas special. Just bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer over a low heat. Crack your duck egg into a small mug and pour it into the simmering water with one smooth wrist motion. Then just leave it to do its thing until the egg white is opaque, but the yolk is still gooey and delicious (3 minutes).
When you’re ready to serve, grate over a generous helping of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of sea salt. Now tuck in!
This portion is for one very hungry solo star. No husbands allowed.