• Sometimes a quick childhood fav of cornmeal, butter, milk and salt does the trick (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A bowl of cornmeal porridge went a long way in my family home.
Farah Celjo

6 May 2021 - 5:03 PM  UPDATED 7 May 2021 - 10:25 AM

Another day, another bowl of breakfast to bookmark.

Pura is a Bosnian cornmeal porridge that featured heavily on my breakfast table. It was an inexpensive pantry staple must that was quick, easy and created the best base for any savoury toppings we had on hand. It was a weekend comfort food, but more often than not it was primed for those weekdays where time wasn't on our side, especially when it was a scramble to get out the door.

From Italian polenta and Southern grits to East African ugali and Chilean pastel de choclo, there are many cuisines that already praise a bowl of maize. As expected across the Balkans, there are also slight iterations of pura being spooned - kačamak in Macedonia, močnik in Slovenia, and mămăligă in Romania - all featuring the likes of cornmeal usually boiled in water or milk, seasoned to taste and served with a good dose of dairy.

Beef and corn pie (pastel de choclo)

This Argentinian-style shepherd’s pie contains a corn filling, a beef filling, and a slightly sweet pastry spiked with currants, pine nuts and cinnamon.

Pura is typically made with cornmeal that has been boiled in salted water and finished with regular or buttermilk, and topped with kajmak (a clotted cream), yoghurt, or sour cream (make your own with this easy recipe). If you're feeling a little edgy then garlic and cheese can also be thrown into this mix or even topped with chopped cured beef. This naturally gluten-free bowl is great all year round and is best eaten warm/hot as it sets relatively quickly. 

Cornmeal and polenta are terms that can be used interchangeably and are often referring to the same creamy golden ticket. While cornmeal typically refers to the ingredient, polenta the dish, we're not going to hold you back from wielding your porridge potential based on a technicality. Instead, I'm here to make sure you use cornmeal or instant polenta, which is much coarser than semolina and cornflour and saves you on the drawn-out cooking time. I did promise 5-ish minutes, didn't I?

How to make pura at home

Heat 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Add 50 g butter, a hearty pinch of salt and bring to the boil, ensuring the butter has melted. Reduce the heat and add 1 cup cornmeal or polenta, stirring consistently for 3-4 minutes until the water has evaporated and the soft porridge remains. This is also where you can add extra butter for creaminess or crumble in some of your favourite cheese if cheese is your life. #cheeseisalwayslife

Heat 2 cups of milk or buttermilk until hot, not boiling. In the interest of time, you would want to heat the milk and porridge at the same time so they are both warm. 

Divvy up your porridge between two bowls. Pour the warm milk over the top. 

If you used buttermilk and/or cheese, you can salt and pepper to taste. If you used regular (or sweet) milk you can salt, to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour or clotted cream and go forth with a big spoon.

Don't panic if you don't eat all the polenta in one sitting or if it cools and hardens in the saucepan. It also makes a great base for a batch of polenta chips for later that night. Boom!

Best served warm.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @farahceljo.

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