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Cornbread / Mamaliga

The Romanians treat cornmeal porridge - mamaliga - as if it were bread, turning it out onto a wooden board and cutting it into slices with a string. It's always served on its own.

Quantity: Serves 6
Time. Cooking: 40 minutes

250g/8 oz coarse-ground cornmeal
1 litre/1 1/2 pints water
1 tablespoon salt
50g/2 oz butter

Although the traditional way of cooking polenta is by stirring the meal into boiling water, as in Italy.  It is however more easily made if you mix the meal with a little cold water first, and then stir the liquid into the rest of the cold water in a roomy saucepan. Bring to the boil, bubble up for a moment, then beat in the butter. Bubble the mixture up again, turn down the heat and stir over a low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the cornmeal is a thick, soft porridge. Serve it on its own, with sour cream handed separately. 

* Pour a shallow layer into a buttered gratin dish, dot with more butter and bake in a hot oven, 425F, for 10 minutes, till brown and bubbling. Spoon on soured cream and serve immediately. 
* Or fry a few handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs in butter and drop in spoonfuls of the mamaliga, shaking them around to coat.
For oven-baked mamaliga, prepare as above, then spread a layer as thick as your finger in a gratin dish. Cover with a layer of grated cheese. Top with another layer of mamaliga and another of cheese. Continue until it is all used up, finishing with mamaliga. Dot with butter and bake in a moderate oven, 350F, for 20-25 minutes, until topped with a crisp golden crust.
* Or allow to set till firm, then cut into fingers or squares and fry in a little oil, like bread-fingers, till crisp - a non-stick pan makes the task easier.  Good with a juicy civet - venison or wild boar cooked with plenty of wild mushrooms and red wine and thickened with blood (failing this, a square or two of bitter chocolate, unsweetened for preference, will do the trick).


Recipe from European Peasant Cookery.

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