I was pretty happy with my first attempt yesterday so feel it justifies its place on my blog. Simple, versatile, healthy food… what more could I want?
So polenta, or more appropriately cornmeal as that is what it is. Having never cooked this stuff before I set about my research. From what I gather traditional polenta is made from coarse cornmeal stirred slooowly and continuously for a long time, ( about 30 minutes) however the product I came across was instant polenta, by Merchant Gourmet, which cooks in 5 minutes ( however still arm-ache inducing!). For a first timer like me this approach appealed. From reading various reviews it seems that many now opt for the instant variety (even the Italians to whom it is their tradition) , however the texture and richness may not compare but I guess this largely comes down to personal choice. I will give it a go one of these days with the real thing.
The options for serving polenta seem almost endless, another good reason it appealed to me and is sure to succumb to further experimentation:
Soft and creamy like mash potato or porridge
Formed into a firm loaf and sliced
Cubed and used as ‘croutons’
Spread thinly and sliced into ‘crackers’
Used as a base for Italian bruschettas
Served as pancakes for a sweet or savoury topping
….Then to serve: baked, grilled, fried…. with herbs or a marinade.
Recipe: Spicy polenta with greens and beans
Serves 2 but can easily be doubled
I decided to spoon the polenta (once cooked as per packet instructions in a large sauce pan stirring for 5 minutes in 4 times the amount of vegetable stock to polenta) into a loaf tin. Once chilled I cut this into thick slices, sprinkled it with chilli powder and paprika for a bit of a kick and then oven baked the slices laid out on baking parchment for approximately 15 minutes, flipping over half way through. Yummy! I served this up with a fusion of tomatoes, onion, beans and spinach.
1 tbs oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 onion finely chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of red kidney beans
2 large handfuls spinach (or other leafy greens)
Handful of fresh chopped basil (optional)
1tsp mild chilli powder (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste]
In a large saucepan or wok (I always seem to use a wok for everything as I find it more forgiving for eager stirring of the contents!) heat 1 tbs oil and fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened. Add the spice (if using), tomatoes and kidney beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer and str fry for 2 mins or until wilted. To serve, arrange the polenta slices around the edge of a shallow bowl (again my favourite form of dish due to practicality!) and spoon the tomato mixture into the centre. Garnish with chopped basil and seasoning.
P.S you can also make a larger batch of polenta and store the cooked (but unbaked) leftovers in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.