Such a simple cupboard staple with so many variations. A block of cooled polenta is great fridge food for busy lives, the polenta can be made in minutes and refrigerated ready to snap to action. Best of all it goes with almost anything and makes it better. Most of these photos have been taken over the summer but as we transition to winter I am looking forward to teaming it with the likes of – buttery mushrooms with loads of garlic and parsley or roast pumpkin, maybe some chorizo, spinach, walnuts and cheese, or a slow cooked juicy ragout – mmmmm.
Sliced into “chips” and baked or fried polenta is never a bad choice and will make the most conservative palates happy. Set it like a trivit under a stack of roast vegetables and olives or a whole cauliflower drizzled in a spicy paprica oil, or for meaty options – think chicken pieces, lamb fillets, chops, rumps or racks, or a steak on the bone to roast and catch the juices – any of these choices will never be wrong and if you want to test its versatility just crumble it and bake or fry to use as croutons in your next salad and you will be equally happy.
Another great feature is that although like most foods polenta can be richly enhanced with any amount of butter cream and cheese, the polenta can be equally delicious when made with fresh herbs, olive oil and or spice mixes such as (my favourite) – harrisa.
As you can see with the various photos I have spent a lot of this summer with a block of polenta in my refrigerator. On many occasions it has been the thing that has helped me to an easy healthy dinner option especially on those nights when inspiration for dinner is thin on the ground. Mostly this has been baked with whatever vegetables are available and teamed with whatever condiment goes best in the moment and it is always delicious.
SIMPLE GOLDEN POLENTA
This will fill a small baking tray and be approximately 1 1/2 cm thick, but the recipe can easily be doubled, or more, to feed a crowd.
- 1 cup of instant polenta
- 4 cups of liquid – today I used a mix of 3 cups water 1 cup of cream
- 50 grams of butter or olive oil to finish
- 1 teaspoon salt – seasoning as always is very important so taste and adjust to your palate.
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Optional – (especially good when making a vegan version) fresh herbs, spices, chilli, harissa, slow cooked onion …
Use a large pot to contain the bubbling hot polenta.
Add your liquid to a pot along with your salt pepper and seasonings of choice – if any.
Traditionally you bring the liquid to a boil and then pour your dry polenta into the liquid in a slow steady stream, whilst continually stirring it, into the gently boiling liquid.
Please remember it is VERY important to not have this boiling too rapidly or you will have boiling polenta splattering YOU and the surrounds.! If it starts to splatter out of the pot take the pot off the element immediately and adjust the temperature before proceeding.
I have found recently while using a finer organic brand of instant polenta that it is difficult to pour in a steady stream, and I have had better success pouring the polenta in to the cold liquids and then bringing it all to a slow boil. Once again you will need to keep stirring once the polenta is added to avoid lumps.
For both methods you will then need to cook the polenta while still stirring – at a slow boil – for four or five minute until it is thick and creamy.
Add the butter or oil of choice, if using, and stir through to finish.
Once you have cooked the polenta you can pour it into a small lined dish to cool.
Once cooled it will set into a firm block that can but cut to whatever size suits your purpose and used as desired.