I am deeply in love with polenta. When I have it I think to myself ‘why am I not having this all the time?’
It’s true that it can be hard work to cook, and it does make a mess of the pan, but don’t let any of that put you off. Polenta is awesome, it’s as simple as that. You can buy it in the supermarkets ready-made, but I haven’t tried it so can’t give it a recommendation. In my experience, however, nothing is as good as when you make it yourself.
This is the course grain cornmeal, which you can buy in the world food section of any supermarket. All you do is whisk it into boiling water to make the polenta. Sounds easy enough, but you do need to get a good whirlpool going and pour the grains in gently to minimise the lumps you might get. I’ve made that especially difficult in this recipe by adding chopped kale into the mix, which makes whisking it a less than smooth operation. Don’t expect to get all the lumps out with this one, but you will get most out if you work at it. The longer you leave the finished polenta to set in the oven dish, the more firm it will become. It is much better when completely cooled, and you’ll be able to slice it easily. This one was a little warm when I cut it because I was running out of daylight for the picture, and I found my cuts weren’t quite as smooth as they could have been.
The good news it that you can just put the tomatoes in the oven and leave them to it while you’re pan-frying the polenta. The only looking-after they need is a quick shake halfway through cooking to make sure they don’t stick to the baking tray. To break up the workload you can always make the polenta the night before and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to fry it (I have some in my fridge right now, which I’m looking forward to cooking over the weekend).
My last helpful tip would be to soak the polenta pan as soon as you have finished using it. I then use my whisk to remove any that has stuck to the pan during cooking after it has been soaking for a little while. If you haven’t cooked polenta before, then please give it a go. It really is a wonderful staple that deserves much more of a centre stage in our cuisine.
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: About 35 minutes, plus cooling and setting time.
For the Polenta:
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing
3-4 large kale leaves, stalks removed, roughly chopped, washed and drained
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
A handful of coriander leaves, chopped
1.2 litres light veg stock (use 1 stock cube)
200g course cornmeal (polenta)
150ml vegan cream
Salt and pepper to season.
For the Roasted Tomatoes:
7-8 vine tomatoes, cut in half
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of oregano
More olive oil for frying
Vegan parmesan to top
To make the polenta, heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the kale for about 3 minutes, or until it has wilted. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the chopped coriander and give it a minute more.
Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then whisk the water to create a whirlpool. While the whirlpool is going, slowly add the polenta, keeping the whisk going at the same time to get rid of as many lumps as possible. You’ll still have some, but keep coming back to it with the whisk and most will disappear by the time it’s cooked. Simmer the polenta for 10 minutes.
Add the vegan cream and season with salt and pepper if desired. Cook for 3-4 more minutes.
Use a little olive oil to grease a deep baking dish and then pour the polenta into it. It will begin to set immediately so flatten it out as best you can. Leave to set until cool, which should take about 90 minutes. When it is cool, tip it out onto a chopping board and cut into 6 even squares. Cut those squares in half again so that each square becomes 2 triangles. You will have 12 triangles of polenta at the end.
Preheat the oven to gas 7/220C/425F.
Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Season with the salt and oregano and then place at the top of the oven. Cook the tomatoes for 20 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through to make sure none are sticking.
During this time, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, until quite hot. Fry 4 of the polenta triangles at a time, for about 4 minutes each side, until they are crisp and golden. Put the fried polenta in the bottom of the oven to keep warm while you are cooking the rest.
When they are all done. Serve 3 slices of polenta on a plate, top with a few roasted tomatoes and grate on the vegan parmesan.