When cooking polenta my father always makes much more than he needs. Half of it he serves straight away in the runny state, like a mash, with a flavoursome sauce. The rest he spreads onto an oiled surface and allows it to set. The next day he cuts out chunks, fries them in olive oil and serves with a chunky vegetable salad (tomato, cucumber, cos lettuce) dressed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil. The dish here uses soft polenta, but you may want to double the quantity to follow my father’s idea.
Note that there are two types of polenta meal (or cornmeal) available – a quick or instant variety and the traditional, slow-cooking one. For most purposes I find that the quick polenta is good enough. Either one can be used for this dish
4 tbsp olive oil
350g mixed mushrooms, very large ones halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon truffle oil
500ml vegetable stock
80g polenta (instant or traditional)
80g Parmesan, grated
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
100g Taleggio (rind removed), cut into 1cm slices
salt and black pepper
- Heat up half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add half of the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, or until just cooked; try not to move them much so you get golden-brown patches on their surface. Remove from the pan, and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and oil. Off the heat, return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, truffle oil and some salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The polenta is ready when it leaves the sides of the pan but is still runny. If you are using instant polenta this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; with traditional polenta it could take up to 50 minutes (if it seems to dry out, add some more stock or water but just enough to keep it at a thick porridge consistency).
- Preheat the grill to high. When the polenta is ready, stir in the Parmesan, butter, rosemary and half the chervil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta over a heatproof dish and top with the Taleggio. Place under the grill until the cheese bubbles. Remove, top with the mushrooms and their juices, and return to the grill for a minute to warm up. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining chervil.