So, let’s talk polenta. First of all, anything that is versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes deserves a serious pat on the back from yours truly. Bacon, mushrooms, chives, tomatoes, cakes, muffins (!), muffins with lavender (!!), and thankfully, the list goes on. I had been under the impression for a long while that it was not easy to find polenta here in Montreal, at least in your standard grocery market. I had previously asked a disgruntled supermarket representative if they carried the product, and I received the brusque reply, “pimento? polento?” After a few back and forth clarifications, I was informed that they didn’t carry any “fancy” stuff like that. Walking out of the store, I couldn’t help but feel a bit defeated. In desperation, I had wanted to fervently demand of the representative, “But what about the polenta pancakes?” Thankfully, I had restrained myself from doing so, but here I was, jonesing for a polenta-full kitchen. Instead, I was walking out of a grocery store, shoulders sagging and, sadly, empty-handed.
For ‘reading week’, my boyfriend and I went down to Texas to visit my parents. There, I shoved my arms full of polenta packages and stowed them away into my tiny luggage. If I may add, the February weather was astounding, with highs of 32 degrees C. Much more reminiscent of summer than the measly, wet weather in Montreal.
Anyway, back to polenta. I’ve been holding an unreasonable grudge against the grocery store aforementioned. Amidst my batches of rich cornbread and cakes, I could not understand how they didn’t carry this beautiful cornmeal. I felt like approaching the disgruntled store representative with a piece of cornbread, placing it in his hand, and allowing him to understand just what his store was missing.
Skip forward to now. I was in said grocery store yesterday, sorting through bags of lentils, when I saw it. A crisp, golden yellow bag of polenta. Crying out, to the confusion of others around me, I hugged this bag to my chest. I’m not sure if the disgruntled man had been simply unaware of the polenta in his store, but I prefer to imagine him putting it on the supply list after taking my wounded, polenta-deprived reaction to heart.
So, hence the lavender corn muffins! Which, if I may say so, are quite moist and rich (I have found it a challenge to eat more than one without feeling enormous). Nonetheless, please do me a favour here, guys: do not go easy on the cream. Please. Allow yourselves to bathe in the rich creamy polenta sweetness.
These guys are humbly asking to be served with apricot jam or perhaps some clotted cream.
Oh, and now for a music review!
So, as I mentioned, summertime has been at the forefront of my mind, just barely in front of final exams (just!) So, as the day was not particularly sunny, I opted for an album that makes me feel as if the summer season is just around the corner.
I first saw these guys at a concert in Montreal when they opened for Yann Tierson (in my opinion, they beat out the main act by far). If you get the chance to see one of their live shows, you won’t regret it. They’re a very interactive, light-hearted group, and I felt myself falling in love with the lead singer and his turquoise pants / wolf t-shirt.
The album itself is a playful compilation of airy tunes, filled with tambourine jambles, cooing vocals, plucky acoustic chords, and good-humoured lyrics. As buoyant as most of the songs leave you feeling (a good example of Breathe Owl Breathe’s cheerful lyrics is “Dragon”), it is not filled with the emptiness that accompanies ‘shallow’ music. The album contains some thoughtful pieces, including the sleepy calls of “Lake Light”, and the dreamy beats of “Across the Loch”.
As you can tell, many of their songs reference water, which is probably why I feel so close to summertime when I listen to this album. “Swimming” details the faraway days that only come with summer—afternoons playing on the beach, the rope swings that set you into the air before your body splashes into the water. Other songs that come highly recommended from me are “Dogwalkers of the New Age”, and “Board Games”, but hey, they’re really all great!
Listen here to “Across the Loch”
Here’s Montreal’s grey, springtime weather, as it stands today.
In the meantime, I’m going to eat another muffin, close my eyes and let myself sink into the sounds of summer.
Lavender Polenta Muffins
Makes 12 + a few
¾ stick of unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of agave nectar
1 ¾ cups flour
¾ cup coarse dry polenta, plus some extra to sprinkle over the tops
¾ to 1 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness preference)
2 tablespoons dried lavender buds
1 tablespoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (for my temperamental oven, it ended up being 325 degrees, so use your best judgement considering your knowledge of your oven). Generously grease a muffin tray or line the tray with muffin cups.
In a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, melted butter, eggs, and agave nectar, and mix together. In a separate bowl, add the flour, polenta, sugar, lavender (you can give these dried buds a few grinds in a mortar and pestle for some finer lavender buds), baking soda and salt and mix them. Add the flour mixture into the cream mixture (1/2 cup increments) , mixing all the while. Fill your muffin cups 2/3 of the way full and sprinkle the tops with some more polenta.
Shove those guys into the oven and wait 10 to 12 minutes. Let them sit on a cooling rack for a few minutes (or just go for it). In my opinion, serve warm for best results.