Hi, my name is Lorraine and I really don’t like polenta!! Ok my confession is out, I think it is probably the only Italian food I don’t like – shock horror:) The first time I had it was in Rome, we were staying with a friend and his family and his dad wanted to cook us his speciality which was polenta. At the time I had never heard of it but assuming that I would love it as I do all Italian food I was really excited but I couldn’t stand it. It was quite difficult actually because there is probably nothing more insulting to an Italian than not liking their food so I put on my bravest face and munched my way through. I rarely saw polenta mentioned in Ireland until recently and it seems to be in all the food magazines and seems to be making guest appearances on a lot of restaurant menus. I recently had chocolate polenta with quail as a starter but wasn’t too fond of it to be honest so I decided with all this new found fame it’s getting in Ireland I would actually make it myself at home to give it one last try. I have to admit not going into this wholeheartedly and used the instant polenta that we have in La Cucina but I just wasn’t prepared to give it my all and then not eat it so instant polenta it was – please don’t hate me;)

I’ve seen a lot of people enquiring as to what polenta is on a lot of forums recently so here’s a little background on it courtesy of the Silver Spoon and Carluccio:

In Roman times polenta was a porridge made from the flour of various grains and pulses such as broad beans, spelt etc. Today polenta is actually made up of yellow or white maize flour, there are 2 types of polenta: fine grained, pale straw coloured Veneto polenta or large grained, bright golden-yellow Lombard or Piedmontese polenta. The former is always served all’onda( with a consistency like mashed potato and the latter is served firm like this recipe. Vicenza in Veneto is actually the best place to eat polenta e baccala which is air dried cod cooked in milk with polenta and another speciality in Veneto is polenta e osei, polenta with sparrows – don’t think I’ll be making that any time soon;) 

Polenta is best made in a copper pan by cooking the maize flour with water until it achieves a fairly solid consistency. It takes about 40 minutes to cook and requires consistent stirring to prevent it sticking. Due to the effort and time required an easy cook variety called polenta svelta has been created for the likes of me;), it is made by pre-cooking ordinary polenta which is then dried and milled again. The results are not as tasty and this is why lots of butter and grated Parmesan are required when using this type of polenta.
what you need:

 – 5 tbsp olive oil

 – 1 small onion, finely chopped

 – 1 garlic clove, finely chopped

 – selection of mushrooms, field and wild if you can get your hands on some. I find it quite difficult to find different variety of mushrooms in Limerick, if anyone knows where let me know. Superquinn have just begun stocking a gourmet mushroom selection in their superior range which are really good so I used 2 packs of these.

 – 1 tbsp of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and basil.

 – 120ml dry white wine  

 – poletna: make according to packet instructions if using instant polenta, I used 250g for 2. Add about 25g butter and lots of parmesan cheese to taste. If you are looking for polenta flour Susan in Olio e Farina has it in stock!!

what to do:

 – when your polenta is ready pour it into a round shallow tin and spread it evenly into a layer of about 1 cm. Leave to cool until set.

 – heat your olive oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and fry for 5 mins until soft and just starting to brown. Stir in the mushroom and parsley and cook for another 5 mins until golden brown. Season, add your wine and simmer for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and stir in your chopped basil.

 – cut the polenta into wedges and heat a griddle pan. Brush your wedges with olive oil and place on your pan grilling both sides for 2-3 mins.

 – put a polenta wedge on a serving plate and serve your mushrooms on top and sprinkle with some basil leaves.

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION – DID I LIKE IT?????? NO!!!! I have to say as a dish it looks amazing and so appetising BUT I took a couple of forkfuls and that was it, I ended up making a sandwich with my leftover lamb and the mushrooms. The mushroom mix was absolutely delicious and would be great as a side to meat so I’ll definitely make them again but the polenta I’m afraid I will leave to the Italians;)

Buon Appetito!!!