Did you know that MA-MA is half-Egyptian? I’d be surprised if not because she likes to tell EVERYONE. She slips it into conversation and when whoever she’s talking to expresses disbelief (she’s pretty pale) she comes out with a few well rehearsed phrases in Arabic and everyone goes crazy at how clever and exotic she is. Let’s just forgive the fact that all she can say is “hello, thank you, my name is MA-MA”, or that she’s not really pronouncing it correctly; she’s a proud half-Egyptian and therefore that makes me a proud quarter-Egyptian too.
My Grammy grew up in Alexandria and her Egyptian heritage most likely explains her feeder tendencies and obsession with fattening me up. When MA-MA proudly declared I was sleeping through the night last year, Grammy suggested she wake me up in the early hours to give me a bottle in case I was still hungry. I can’t even begin to explain the reaction she received to this idea…
MA-MA and Dadada have been to Egypt together several times, and in fact they got engaged lovely in Sharm-El-Sheik and went back there for their babymoon just before I made my grand entrance. Most of Grammy’s family now live in Cairo, although a fair few are now further afield. These relations who have flown the nest include our foodie inspiration, Noha from Matters of the Belly.
Noha lives in Australia and although we have never met, I know that we are meant to be. Unfortunately she’s married to MA-MA’s cousin, but as soon as I’m old enough I’m going to Oz to declare my love and we can spend the rest of our lives eating and drinking together and talking about how much we love food. Noha’s writing is beautiful, her pics are amazing, and most imporatnaly her recipes are to die for. If I had my way we’d just work our way through them and BigBabyBelly would simply be a list of 5* reviews. I’ll resist the urge to do this because it might be a tad weird, but we’re definitely going to be making a lot of her recipes.
First up, Noha’s Baked Cheesy Polenta Chips.
I have had potato French fries all of three times in my long life, but my god do I love them. First up, on our recent holiday to Norfolk we visited the epic No1 Cromer and Grandma defied MA-MA and gave me half her plate. Next up, we went to an engagement party at Notting Hill hotspot the Windsor Castle, where their deep fried chunks of potato were basically coated in salt and Dadada had to take me home early before I “caused a scene”. Finally, we went to a christening at the weekend and I sat next to this awesome three year old who kept feeding me her chips and MA-MA pretended she didn’t notice because it was keeping me very quite and she was enjoying the open bar.
Luckily, Noha has found a more nutritious alternative that is just as tasty. Like Noha, I thought that polenta grains were added to boiled water to make a kind of mashed potato (reminiscent of those boring baby rice days) or fried in oil (yum but high chance of setting off the fire alarm/acquiring a 4th degree burn) but actually they can be baked with exceptional results.
When MA-MA made these the intention was eat a couple and freeze the rest. In reality she and I wolfed down the whole batch in one go. These scrummy fries are truly sent from above! The crunchy exterior that encases the smooth cheesy goodness is totally addictive. The herby hint is just enough to add intrigue without being overpowering. They go with absolutely anything and in fact would enhance any meal. Ahhh I can taste them as I write!
These are not frozen chips that you stick in the oven for twenty minutes. They do take time to prepare, but the recipe is so easy and moreover the effort is TOTALLY WORTH IT!
I find that it’s surprisingly difficult to get instant polenta in supermarkets, you’ll need to check out a larger Waitrose or an Italian deli. We used fresh rosemary and our fave Kallo stock cubes, but as with all our cooking we left out the salt. I believe any leftovers you have will freeze really well, but trust me you’ll never find out!