This summer I rediscovered an old friend. Previously cooking polenta had required a seemingly endless amount of stirring but the instant variety that’s now available brings the task down to a manageable three minutes. The following recipe makes firm polenta that can be cut into squares and grilled.
Simple polenta squares
(Quantity for a regular sized, rectangular baking dish.)
500 gm instant polenta
1.5 litres good quality vegetable stock or salted water
Bring salted water or stock to the boil in a large pot. Pour in the instant polenta in a steady stream and stir for three minutes over a low heat until thick. Be careful, if the heat is too high the lava-like mixture will splash and burn. Once it is cooked, quickly transfer to an oiled baking tray or dish to set. If you’re tardy the mixture becomes too firm to wrangle.
Leave the polenta to set in the fridge or cool place for at least an hour. Overnight is fine if you want to prepare a meal in advance.
When set, cut the polenta into squares while still in the dish and then grill on a hot barbecue. Alternatively place the polenta squares under a hot grill and turn once golden. Another method is to set the oven to high and carefully invert the tray onto a clean oven rack. Make sure the polenta is arranged in a single layer and then pop the rack in the centre of the oven. Check after ten minutes. Remove when the top and bottom of the polenta is becoming crispy.
Polenta squares are dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan. They taste great hot or cold and transport well for picnics and other moveable feasts.
Just before turning the hot polenta into the dish, quickly stir through some extra bursts of flavour. For example try shredded basil leaves, slices of sundried tomato, halved olives or marinated mushrooms. Set and cook the polenta as usual.
You can also serve plain polenta with a touch of tapenade, pesto or your favourite dip.