Mămăligă cu brânză şi ou (Romanian Cornmeal with Cheese and Eggs)

Mămăligă, you say? I can imagine most people asking themselves: “What the hell is that?” I didn’t have a clue either. Mămăligă is Romanian for polenta or cornmeal.

My discovery of the year has to be a Romanian Delicatessen I found in Valencia called Extra Aliment: Produse Româneşti şi Balcanice. I never thought anything of it but one day I decided to venture in and investigate! I am now obsessed by their telemea cheese (similar to feta) and all their meats such as kabanos, kaiser, cârnaţi olteneşti, muşchiuleţ bănăţean…drool. The lovely lady in the Deli recommended me to eat my newly purchased telemea with mămăligă…and that’s exactly what I have done!

I was always a bit apprehensive to make cornmeal/polenta because of the myths surrounding it that you have to constantly stir it till your hand fell off. While this is true to a certain extent, you do not by any means need to hover over the pan for the full 30 minutes. You do however, need to have your eye on the ball and stir it around every now and again to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the cooking vessel.

Ingredients

2 parts coarse cornmeal

8 parts water

Salt, to taste

Telemea cheese (or feta)

Kaiser (or smoked bacon), thick slices

1 egg

Pepper, to taste

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Method

1 Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, reduce the heat to a low flame and add a steady stream of cornmeal while stirring vigorously to avoid any lumps. Once the cornmeal starts to thicken, cook for around 30 minutes. Stir every 5 – 10 minutes to prevent it from burning. When it’s done check for seasoning but bear in mind the kaiser bacon and telemea cheese are already quite salty.

2 Meanwhile, fry Kaiser in a frying pan with a miniscule amount of oil. Set aside.

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3 To assemble:

Use some of the Kaiser fat to grease the bottom and sides of an ovenproof dish. Spread in a layer of mămăligă , a layer of Kaiser and telemea and then top off with more mămăligă. Make a small well in the mixture and pour in the egg. Cover with more telemea and Kaiser.

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4 Bake in an oven for 20 minutes or until the egg is cooked to your personal preference.

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As they say in Romania: Poftă bună!