I am having a love affair with polenta.
As queen of knocking together quick, easy and delicious home food, my mother used to make it all the time when I was little and I have always found its creamy yellow fluffiness both comforting and exotic.
It wasn’t until I saw it in a farm shop at Stourhead by Stonehenge the other weekend that I thought to cook it. And I am so happy I did. It is bright, easy and suoer good value, as well as gluten free, so great for allergies and intolerances. It can also be taken in so many different directions – cheesy, herby, buttery, grilled… It’s a time-poor plant foodie’s best friend. And it holds flavour so well.
This summery substantial recipe (especially good for hungry healthy men) is easy and simple and can basically morph around whatever you have in your veg box and fridge. The peas and mint are a staple for me, adding sweetness and generally tasting of fresh summer gardens. A little spare buffala mozzarella has occasionally been known to find its way in….
Follow the quantities on your polenta packet, or try the below, but overall use your own taste and preference to figure out how much water you need. You can’t go far wrong as more polenta or stock evens out any mistakes and in my (growing) experience it always feels good to know you’ve done it with your own judgment and not just because it says so on the box.
And don’t be shy of the butter, it’s not some big fatty evil. Vitamins A,D, E and K are fat-soluble and it helps make sure you get them. Black pepper, as always, is essential.
Serves 2 as a main:
450ml vegetable stock
A good chunk of hard sheep’s milk cheese (around 40g, and optional)
40g organic butter (cold-pressed hemp or linseed oil is good if you’re dairy-free)
A big handful of greens
1 cup petits pois
A sprig of mint
A drizzle of oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Start by slowly adding stock to your polenta, simmering and stirring all the time over a medium heat, as per the instructions. Like I say, if you want it thicker or creamier don’t be shy to change up the ratios. Stir all the time to keep it smooth and avoid lumps. When you’re happy with your consistency, add salt, pepper, a little of the cheese, and the butter until it is rich enough, cover and set aside while you steam your greens and peas for 1-2 minutes.
Then place the polenta in a bowl with greens and peas on top. Grate the remaining cheese on, drizzle with oil, garnish with chopped mint and a little extra black pepper. Serve immediately.