I hadn't come across polenta until a few years ago when it was used as a crispy coating for chicken in the Channel 4 series 'Cook Yourself Thin'. The chicken was sliced into strips, dipped in egg and then rolled in polenta before being fried in a shallow frying pan. I've used the same method to coat fish with good results.
Polenta can also be mixed to the consistency of mashed potato, or it can be left to set after which it can be baked or fried. It's a versatile and popular Italian staple so I was keen to try cooking with it in a new way. The recipe I chose involved setting the polenta, covering it in tomato sauce and cheese, then baking it.
I was hoping that polenta would be the kind of ingredient I could return to again and again but sadly I just don't understand it. The Italians use it in place of rice or pasta but I find neither the taste nor the texture superior to either. I've shared the recipe because Colin enjoyed it but from now on I shall stick to using polenta in its dried form.
We served the baked polenta with stuffed mushrooms.
- Cook the polenta according to the instructions on the packet, then spread it onto a greased baking tray to cool (aim for around 1cm thickness).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Crush two cloves of garlic into a pan with a large splash of olive oil and the chopped onions. Fry until the garlic starts to colour and the onions soften.
- Add the red wine and bubble for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
- Add the chopped tomatoes with a pinch of sugar, the oregano and seasoning. Simmer for about 20 minutes then add the torn basil. Remove from the heat.
- Slice the polenta using either a knife or a cookie cutter and place half of the polenta into a greased ovenproof dish.
- Add half of the tomato sauce and a little of the cheddar before topping with more polenta. Finish with the remaining sauce and cheddar then top with torn mozzarella.
- Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes until the cheese has turned golden brown.