Crispy and golden on the outside, soft and cheesy and the inside, these Milho Frito (aka awesome cornmeal fries) are better than regular potato fries!
Well, maybe not better than normal fries. Because, let’s face it, is there anything better than golden, crispy potato fries? I don’t think so. Let’s just say these Milho Frito come a very close second. Then again, if you’re bored with the usual fried potato version then these Milho Frito are coming to your rescue.
Milho Frito come from Madeira, an autonomous Portuguese archipelago comprised of four small Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa. Although, in culinary terms, Madeira is most famously known for its wine, and most of its cuisine comes from Portuguese influences, the islands do have a unique cuisine which, over the last few weeks, I have begun to explore.
And one of the recipes I found were for these Milho Frito. And I can tell you they are delicious!
I adapted this recipe from Easy Portuguese Recipes and the ingredients of Milho Frito seem to be fairly consistent from source to source. Fine cornmeal (polenta to some of us) is cooked in water or stock along with kale, or collard greens, and a little garlic. Once cooked it is allowed to cool until it solidifies before being cut into cubes and fried in oil.
So basically it’s a quick and easy, and delicious, side dish recipe.
I have, however, made a few tweaks and changes to suit my own personal flavour preferences so these are not quite traditional Milho Frito. You can choose to use these changes (namely swapping out the kale – because, seriously, who actually likes kale? – for the greatness that is basil, and adding a decent amount of parmesan cheese because… cheese!), or you can keep it traditional as I will detail in the recipe below!
However you choose to make them, get ready for something totally different and awesome.
I remember cooking cornmeal for the first time. This may sound strange but I felt incredibly fancy because, instead of the usual potato/ rice/ pasta starch accompaniment to my slow roasted rack of lamb, I had decided to go with cornmeal – like some fancy pants restaurant.
But, as so often happens in the chaos of everyday life, I had forgot to read the recipe instructions in advance, and had not taken into account the amount of time to cook the cornmeal – in this instance, concerning the amount I was making, it would be about 40 minutes.
I started cooking it ten minutes before serving.
And, instead of delaying dinner by the necessary time I decided I would speed up the cornmeal cooking time instead.
EPIC KITCHEN FAIL!
Instead of soft, silky polenta, I ended up with a giant, lumpy brick of cornmeal – I reckon it could have been used as building material.
But the story gets better: I still served it, I dolloped this chunk of solid cornmeal on a plate beside a delicious rack of slow roasted lamb and fresh nicoise salad – what was I thinking!?!?!
Thankfully it was only the Paramedic and I eating and, once we realised how bad the cornmeal was (hardened like a brick but still under cooked; imagine eating compacted sand) it was quickly thrown away.
And for a few years after that, I stayed well away from cornmeal.
But now I’m back and I love the stuff. I’ve learned my lesson in taking the time to cook it and, with my collected experience and wisdom, I can turn it into awesome Madeiran cornmeal fries.
Winning at life!
And, since I’m on a bit of a Portuguese/ Madeiran cuisine kick at the moment, later this week I will be bringing you a kick-ass Portuguese BBQ recipe that goes perfectly with this Milho Frito.
So, until next time foodies,
Milho Frito – Madeiran Fried Cornmeal
Crispy and golden on the outside, soft and cheesy and the inside, these Milho Frito (aka awesome cornmeal fries) make a delicious side or snack!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium brown onion, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 150g polenta (fine cornmeal)
- 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
- ¼ firmly packed cut basil leaves, finely chopped
- 60g parmesan, grated (optional)
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp salt – more to taste
- Oil for deep frying
- Line a large rectangular baking dish with baking paper.
- In a pan over medium heat, sauté the minced onion until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the polenta (cornmeal) and mix thoroughly with the onion and garlic. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
- Remove from the heat, stir through the basil, parmesan, salt and pepper, and pour into the prepared baking dish. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
- Remove from the fridge. Cut the set polenta into 2cm cubes. Deep fry the cubes in hot oil for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned and crispy. Drain on paper towel – serve immediately.
- If you want to keep this recipe traditional, use kale or collard greens instead of basil and omit the parmesan cheese.