Polenta Basics

Incredibly cost effective and extremely versatile, polenta is a great alternative to rice or pasta. It can be enjoyed at any meal. I tend to make a big batch at a time and shape the leftovers into cutlets to use another day.

You can go to town with flavours and add-ons. I love the combination of fresh ginger, cumin and pepper or coconut, curry and cilantro. If I am making Mexican food, I tend to throw in some scallions, chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, oregano, cumin and garlic. A breakfast polenta with chopped nuts, fruit and maple syrup is just wonderful. 

Chipotle polenta with beans, pico de gallo and avocado 'cream'

Chipotle polenta with beans, pico de gallo and avocado 'cream'

Basic Polenta
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients
1 cup polenta or stone ground cornmeal 
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
Savoury mix ins (herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, spices, nuts, seeds of choice)
Sweet mix ins (dried fruit, nuts, vanilla extract, almond extract, citrus zest, coconut, chocolate...)

Instructions
Bring water to a boil in a big, heavy bottomed pan. Stream in the polenta slowly, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.
Turn the heat down to low and cook covered, stirring often to ensure that the polenta doesn't stick. The grains will bloat, become tender and start coming away from the sides of the pan. It should take about 20 minutes, give or take.
Add olive oil (and introduce mix ins, if using and combine well.) 
Serve immediately. 

To make cutlets..
Spread cooked polenta in a dish filmed with oil. Cover directly with parchment paper and refrigerate. 
Cut into desired shapes and pan fry until crisp.. Top with salsa, guacamole, pesto, chutney or preserves. 

Ginger and cumin polenta with coconut, cilantro, sesame and popped mustard seeds

Ginger and cumin polenta with coconut, cilantro, sesame and popped mustard seeds

Breakfast polenta cakes with maple syrup, coconut and almonds

Breakfast polenta cakes with maple syrup, coconut and almonds