Polenta Aplenty

Despite what Mr. B. says, it’s good to have a meat-free day once in a while! Going meat free once a week not only makes your food shop a bit cheaper; it’s also environmentally friendly! Sir Paul McCartney runs a ‘Meat Free Monday’ campaign promoting how cutting meat once a week helps reduce green house gas emissions; you can read more about it online here. So next time you indulge with a carb loaded meal, just think of how you are helping the planet!

Here’s a meat free dish you can make on a Monday, or any day you choose! Polenta is an Italian cornmeal dish, which is becoming more and more popular in the UK. I like to buy finely ground cornmeal to make polenta as it takes hardly anytime to cook. On its own, cooked cornmeal is nothing special, but add a little fat to it along with some cheese, and it’s instantly yummy. I tried a recipe for creamy polenta from Joy the Baker’s blog recently – it works so well that I’m not looking back. I’ve also adapted it by adding extra cheese such as Taleggio. Serve it with roasted vegetables or with tomatoey beans like Joy does. If you are having a meat day polenta also goes well with grilled chicken, a pork chop or some sausages.

Just two more pointers – 1. Polenta is super filling; your stomach might let you down ½ way through your meal. If it does, you can spread out the polenta and chill it. You can then cut slices and griddle them in some oil up to 2 days later. These griddled slices go great with creamy mushrooms or some salad. Oh and 2. A little polenta goes a long way; it’s very purse friendly stuff. I always end up cooking too much though, ending up with Polenta Aplenty!

Roasted Vegetables with Cheesy Polenta
Serves 2

You can use any vegetables you like depending on what you have in and what you prefer, as long as they roast well. Here’s what I used, but you could try butternut squash, sweet potatoes, fennel and red onion.

Ingredients
For the roasted vegetables:
– 2 courgettes, diced
– 1 large aubergine, diced
– 6 garlic cloves, skin on
– 2 red/yellow peppers, cored and diced
– 4 -6 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
– Salt and pepper
– 1 tsp thyme
– 1 tsp rosemary

For the creamy cheesy polenta:
– 75g fine ground polenta/cornmeal
– 360ml cold water
– 240ml whole milk
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 30g grated Parmesan cheese
– 20g Taleggio (optional)

Method
1. Mix your chopped vegetables in the oil and herbs until they are well coated. Season to taste and roast in a 180°/Gas Mark 4 oven for 45 minutes, or until soft and golden.

2. Ten minutes before your vegetables are ready, you can start your polenta. Cook according to Joy’s method here. I have halved the quantities (except the cheese!) to serve 2 people and also converted them to metric, so mix the polenta with 160ml of the water and then heat up the rest of the water and the milk. If you are using Taleggio as well, just mix this in towards the end with the Parmesan. Break it up into small pieces so it melts quickly. You know the polenta is ready when it starts coming together and thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.

3. Plate up your polenta, take your vegetables out of the oven and pop the garlic cloves out of their skin before serving on top of the polenta. If you’re feeling frivolous, you can drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil!

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