My grandma hasn’t been very well lately, so I’ve been trying to go round and see her once a week, and cooking up some comfort food when I get the chance. I turn up, take over my grandparents’ kitchen for forty minutes and then me (and whichever cousins and siblings happen to be there that day) literally sit at my grandma’s feet, eating bowl food and listening to some of the stories she’s gathered over the past 80-odd years on this planet.
Okay, enough rose-tinted spectacles. The first time I make this polenta was at my Grandma’s house.
Its the house she’s lived in since my mother was a teenager, so you’d think I’d know where to find the utensils and kitchenware I need, but apparently not. So, I knew I’d add 120g of polenta to the pan, but here’s the thing.
I have no spacial awareness, like none. I cannot guess a volume or a distance with any semblance of accuracy. But,
Polenta grows, guys, like it grows. I had to swap to a bigger pan. Twice.
Polenta everywhere, on the stovetop, the sideboard, the floor, polenta handprints cemented onto every cupboard door as I searched for bigger and bigger pans to decant into.
Listen, long story short, weigh out your polenta. To be honest, if you don’t have the facilities to measure it somehow, just don’t make this recipe. I’m serious, we almost had polenta seeping under
The good news though, is that leftover polenta is excellent. I’ll follow up this recipe soon with a recipe for polenta fries, but essentially just put all the polenta is a baking tray, flatten it out and refrigerate overnight. Then, the next
Is polenta gluten-free?
Why, yes it is. Polenta is essentially coarsely-ground cornflour, so vegans are good to go with it, too.
Polenta can be quite bland-tasking if you don’t pep it up though (or if you only add enough pep for about a quarter of the amount of polenta you were supposed to make). This recipe adds garlic, basil, lemon and pine-nuts for a pesto flavour, nutritional yeast to add a sharp umami-cheesy edge, and coconut milk for creamy texture.
The trick with polenta is to keep stirring – it wants to be thick and smooth.
Pesto polenta with balsamic roasted tomatoes
For the balsamic roasted tomatoes
- 350 g Mixed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & pepper (pinch)
For the pesto polenta
- 1 tbsp. Olive oil
- 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp. Pine nuts
- 200 ml Coconut milk (half a can)
- 300 ml Vegetable stock (gluten-free)
- 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
- 120 g Polenta
- 3 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
- 0.25 tsp. Nutmeg (grated)
- 0.25 tsp. Salt
- 2 tbsp. Fresh basil (approx.)
- Start with the tomatoes: Heat the grill, then roughly chop the tomatoes into an oven dish. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Put the dish of tomatoes under the hot grill to cook for 15-20 minutes, while you make the rest of the polenta
- Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low hob. Add in the garlic and pine nuts, and cook for a few minutes, stirring so they don’t stick to the pan until the garlic just begins to brown
- Next, pour the coconut milk, stock and lemon juice into the pan and turn the heat up until the liquid is just beginning to bubble
- Add the polenta, nutmeg, salt and nutritional yeast to the hot water and keep stirring. Stir constantly with a manual whisk for five minutes, until there are no lumps and all the liquid has been absorbed
- Right before you serve, finely chop the basil and add it to the polenta in the pan, continuing to stir until the basil has wilted
- pour the polenta into two bowls, making a dip in the centre of each, and top with the balsamic roasted tomatoes