20 October 2015, Trentino Alto Adige

Yesterday, I told you that it was summer, so it seems impossible that today I am here to tell you about the winter. Believe me when I tell you that from my window seat on the train, it felt as if I was witnessing the exact moment when autumn came and went. In an instant, an entire season passed.
I have never loved the mountains, I have always felt that - unlike the cities or the coastal towns - there would be little to tell you about them. I thought that they only existed to underline our fragility, to make life more difficult and sometimes even impossible. It's all uphill in the mountains, like just about everything nowadays
. But even if it is unavoidable, it is a mistake to judge things that you know nothing about. To put it better: you believe that you can only judge them when you have heard them mentioned a thousand times over: mountains, quantum physics, happiness. Love.
But now in fact I have met the mountain, and it was not at all what I expected to find. The mountain is like a primary-school teacher who teaches you to read. You already know the letters of the alphabet but, somehow, here they form into new and unknown words. You are not going to feel small in the face of the mountain, it will teach you to grow. It makes me think that if the mountain shows you what appears to be your limit, it is only to show you how you can actually overcome it.
So now, from Trentino, to continue my habit of slipping things into my baggage, I will place in it the sense of still having so much to learn, what we can call in a word "greatness", at the risk of sounding banal.
But if you will allow me, I will also place the window of my mountain refuge in my bag, and the comforting memory of a dish which seems to capture all the colours of an autumn that lasted no more than an instant. I will also add a handful of the snow that I can see on the other side of my window, and the desire that the mountains have given me to stay here, in total silence, and simply breathe in.
An embrace.

Journeys into flour 10 - Trentino Alto Adige

Cured Polenta
First, prepare the ingredients: cut the cheese into small slices, and leave the butter out of the fridge in a pan so that it becomes soft. Using a copper pot, bring the water and the milk to the boil, with a spoonful of the cornflour. Start slowing adding a little salt and the flour, mixing it rapidly and continuously with a whisk to make sure that no lumps form. Now start to stir it with a wooden spoon, slowly cooking it on a low heat for around 50 minutes. Polenta tends to become dense, but it needs to stay soft and creamy, so where necessary add some spoonfuls of milk to the mix while cooking.
Once it is nearly cooked, add the cheese to the mix and continue to stir until it has completely melted. In a separate pot, melt the butter together with the garlic and the sage. Now you can serve the polenta, spooning a ladle of creamy polenta into each plate (preferably warmed), with a couple of spoonfuls of the flavoured butter dripped on top and a sprinkling of ground pepper.

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corn flour for Polenta

corn flour for Polenta

Polenta is a whole grain with origins as an Italian porridge. Made from coarsely ground corn, polenta flour is a source of both fiber and iron. This product is created from cornflour that has been cleaned and stone-milled in a secure plansifter in order to remove any rough pieces, and separate the flour from waste elements. This product is not made with genetically-modified ingredients, and is made from Italian ingredients.

Interesting fact

"Cured" polenta means that it is dressed. It is a typical polenta dish found right across the Alps, from Trentino Alto Adige in the east to Val d'Aosta in the west. The quintessential everyday food, as well as being an excellent and substantial protection against the cold and harsh winters of the Italian Alps, it is prepared with corn grown from graminacea (a type of grass) that originates in Central America that reached Europe via Christopher Columbus. Many different ingredients can be used to make cured polenta: various types of typical Alpine cheese (Casol├ęt, Puzzone di Moena, Spressa delle Giudicarie, Fontal, Formaggio Dolomiti), Lucanica trentina, Alto Adige speck (smoked ham), pancetta or sliced lard, or it can be served simply with fresh butter. Polenta can be either soft and smooth, as in our recipe here, or it can be made in a more compact form that requires brief baking to give it a crunchy surface. It is excellent when eaten alongside any of the best-known Trentino wines: Cabernet Franc, Lagrein, Merlot, Santa Maddalena or the excellent local Schiava.