Ottolenghi’s sweetcorn polenta

I saw this recipe on this years Masterchef. It really stuck in my head but it wasn’t until getting back from Italy a few weeks back that I searched out the recipe. We ate so much delicious meat out there (in particular delicious wild boar ragus and the best proscuitto I’ve eaten) that towards the end of our holiday we started to crave fish and vegetarian food. This was one of the first dishes I cooked on our return to the UK. It didn’t disappoint, a truly delicious vegetarian dish as we have come to expect from Ottolenghi. I adapted the recipe to use frozen corn as we couldn’t find any fresh. It was delicious anyway, definitely one to make again. Oh and the polenta is feta and sweetcorn blended in to a ‘polenta’. Much nicer than ordinary polenta which I am not a fan of. Such a delicious balance of salty (feta) and sweet (the corn). You can find he original recipe here. Below is my adapted sweetcorn polenta recipe. I haven’t included the recipe for the aubergine sauce served with it as it is exactly as described by Ottolengi in his original recipe.

Sweetcorn polenta

Serves 2

400g frozen sweetcorn

water

10g butter

100g feta, crumbled

Pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

  • Place the sweetcorn in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover it.
  • Add half the butter and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes or until the corn is cooked.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sweetcorn to a food processor. Blitz for a few minutes to break up the kernels as much as possible. If the mixture seems too dry add some of the cooking water.
  • Return the corn paste to the saucepan (now drained of the remaining cooking water).
  • Cook (stirring frequently) until the mixture thickens and resembles mashed potato.
  • Add the remaining butter, feta and season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir to combine and cook for two minutes.

Fresh tomato sauce

The other weekend we made a trip to our local market. We came away with a good selection of fruit and vegetables for the week for under £10 and an entire box (see just how big in this photo) of cherry tomatoes for just £2.50.

I used the tomatoes to make a whole load of tomato sauce for the freezer. I made some roast tomato sauce and also some just cooked down on the hob (using a simple recipe from Rose Prince’s Kitchenella). Both sauces are delicious but the roasted tomato sauce just had the edge in terms of depth of flavour. That said, both sauces are far better than any sauce I have made using tinned tomatoes. I’ve been using the sauces a lot in pasta dishes and pizza’s so I’ll have to keep an eye out for another box very soon.

Roasted tomato sauce

Cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Dried oregano
Garlic
Salt and pepper

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan).
  • Wash the tomatoes.
  • Halve the cherry tomatoes and place cut side up on a baking tray. Leave some room around each tomato (i.e. don’t pack them too close together).
  • Add a few cloves of garlic to the tray.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over some salt, pepper and dried oregano.
  • Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices which begin to caramelise and some of the skins  will have blackened.
  • Allow to cool briefly. Pour the tomatoes (and roasted garlic) and their juices from the tray in to a food processor and blitz to a sauce consistency.

I also oven dried some of them and made my own “sun” dried tomatoes. They were good but I can’t see myself making them again as they didn’t keep well (even in the fridge).

Cous cous with aubergine and feta

We’ve had some gorgeous weather this weekend in the UK and to make the most of it I have spent a lot of time in my garden. I’ve planted out all my seedlings that I have been growing on our window sills and sowed various seeds and some dried peas (for pea shoots, inspired by The edible garden).

We’ve also been eating most of our meals outside including this simple and delicious cous cous salad. I haven’t cooked much couscous over winter for some reason but the sunshine was making me crave this summer cous cous dish with feta, sun dried tomatoes, olives and pesto. I couldn’t find any olives or pesto in my cupboards but I was determined to have cous cous for lunch. In the end I combined an aubergine with feta and couscous and flavoured it with some dried oregano and fresh mint from the garden. The end result was a simple yet delicious lunch and a much needed change from sandwiches.

Cous cous with aubergine and feta
Serves 2

  • 100g cous cous
  • 100ml hot chicken stock
  • 1 Aubergine, sliced into 1cm thick disks
  • Olive oil
  • Dried oregano
  • 100g Feta, cut in to 1cm cubes
  • Handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat.
  2. Pour the hot stock over the cous cous in a large bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle a good amount of dried oregano over the aubergine slices and brush with olive oil.
  4. Once the griddle is hot add a layer of aubergine slices. Cook until chargrilled and softened. Use tongs to turn the slices over and repeat on the other side. Remove the aubergine slices and put to one side whilst you griddle the rest.
  5. Once all the aubergine is cooked, chop roughly in to slices (or leave whole if you prefer).
  6. Fluff up the couscous with a fork.
  7. Crumble half the feta in to the cous cous and add the remaining half as cubes for texture.
  8. Add the aubergine slices and fresh mint. Stir to mix well.
  9. Season to taste, serve whilst still warm.

Quick cook polenta with mushroom ragu

A few weeks back I was contacted by Merchant Gourmet to see if I was interested in entering a competition by coming up with a recipe using their quick cook polenta. The whole recipe (including preparation time) had to be less than 20 minutes. Polenta is a traditional Italian ground maize (corse cornmeal) which usually takes 45 minutes of constant stirring. For this reason I have never cooked polenta. Merchant gourmet quick cook polenta, cooks in only 1 minute so is much more accessible for a week night supper. I have to admit I have never eaten polenta before so I can not comment on how quick cook compares to traditional polenta.

I decided to cook a simple version of a traditional northern Italian dish – Polenta with mushroom ragu. This was indeed on the table within 20 minutes and is a simple vegetarian meal with lots of flavour. I could also see it working well as a side dish with say a steak or lamb chops if you wanted a more substantial/meaty dish.

Quick cook polenta with mushroom ragu
Serves 2

Olive oil
120g Merchant gourmet quick cook polenta
530ml vegetable stock
1 shallot, finelly diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
250g Chestnut mushrooms (or your favorite type of mushroom), sliced
knob of butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan

      • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry over a low heat until softned (around 5 minutes). Add the garlic and thyme, stir to combine and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.
      • Mean while bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a medium saucepan.
      • Once the onions have softened add the mushrooms to the frying pan and turn up the heat to medium. Fry for a further 5 minutes stirring frequently. Once the mushrooms are cooked they will have darkened and shrunk in size. At this point add around 50mls of the vegetable stock and reduce the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper.
      • Add the polenta to the stock in a thin, steady stream,  stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
      • Add the butter and parmesan and stir through to combine.
      • Serve the polenta in bowls, making a well in the centre with a wood spoon. Spoon the mushroom ragu into the well. Serve immediately.