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 think I need to experiment a bit more. Colin enjoyed this dish but it wasn't for me. In the River Cafe cookbook, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers say, "We only make polenta when in season and either grill it or serve it wet with butter and parmesan... As you must search for the best rice or pasta flour you must also find the best polenta flour". This is probably where I went wrong so for now I'll stick to using my polenta for coating and frying.
We served the baked polenta with stuffed mushrooms.
- 150g polenta
- 600ml water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 finely chopped onion
- small glass red wine
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- ½ tsp oregano
- small handful fresh basil
- salt and pepper
- 100g cheddar cheese
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella
- 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.