Because in the previous post we mentioned corn flour, my pupils suggested that we write about a Romanian traditional dish that uses it.
500g yellow corn meal, 1 1/2 liter water, 1 teaspoon salt, feta cheese, butter, sour cream
It is also known as polenta, though it’s not quite the same. Neighboring countries have versions of mămăligă, but, as far as we know, nobody combines it with butter, cheese and sour cream.
Boil the water in an iron cast round-shaped pot (Romanian: ceaun). When the water is simmering add salt and a bit of corn flour. When it boils fully pour more and more of the corn flour, sprinkling little by little, all around the pot, while continuously stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. When the mix becomes thick enough stop adding corn flour. Take into account that it will become quite a lot thicker when boiling, and that it shouldn’t be too thick in the end so we can still mix it easily with cheese. Keep stirring the pot, pressing the spoon against the side of the pot. You’ll know when mămăligă is boiled enough by tasting a bit. It should taste like cooked (boiled) corn, rather than the raw corn meal.
Some add what seems to us a rather complicated and somewhat useless procedure in the end. You can skip it. We will mention it here for completeness, but we doubt any of today’s cooks do that when preparing the soft version of mămăligă (it does become important in the thick version): when the mix is cooked enough pry a wooden spoon between the pot wall and mămăligă and turn the content toward the center of the pot. Do this all around the pot. Let it boil just a bit more, without stirring, and then take the pot off the stove, shake it a bit to the side and unload it on a wooden board by turning it upside down.
Given that we’re about to mix it with cheese we don’t think the previous is really necessary. However, what is worth mentioning, is one common problem when making mămăligă: the clumps. Many times the corn flour will group together to form clumps, when boiling. Few of the recipes we found so far mention this problem, or antidotes. Possible ways to eliminate them are:
- Use good quality corn flour. Not too coarse, not too fine, as equal grind as possible. Use a sieve if necessary. Caution: the corn flour should not be of fine ground, or your mămăligă will have the consistency of thick liquor cream (which is bad)
- Using a special wooden stick (Romanian: făcăleţ) rather than a wooden spoon and pressing against the pot walls when stirring will help eliminate clumps. Alternatively, you can try using the tail of the spoon.
- Add some butter to the boiling water, together with the salt.
Serve it right out of the pot. Use good quality feta cheese (Romanian: telemea), preferably sheep’s milk cheese. Use a fork to “grind” cheese before mixing. Place some mămăliga onto the serving plate. Mix it with plenty of butter, by taste (maybe a tablespoon for one serving). Next, add plenty of cheese and mix it well. Finally, add plenty of sour cream to cover the entire surface of mămăliga. If done well, the dish should be at just the right temperature to be served.
Irina and the pupils from School no. 92, Bucharest