For me, the idea that polenta is somehow ‘cool’ or ‘fancy’ is like if someone told you that in Mongolia, fine dining establishments serve rissoles with gravy.
Polenta formed the unassuming and seldom heralded backbone of a Croatian peasant’s diet. As my dad often says, if it had a topping that even smelled like meat, they were lucky. Usually it was coarse and cooked en masse for large families, rendering it dry and crumbly.
My mum’s mum – Baba – was almost completely self-sufficient raising seven children and caring for two ageing parents in what was little more than a barn, with a well for water and no talk of electricity – I doubt she had the time for patient stirring nor occasion for Parmesan.
These days mum makes her polenta with a rich, beef goulash but still maintains the same, old-fashioned texture to which I have grown partial. Nonetheless, the ways of the new world intrigued me so I wanted to try the soft, cheesy polenta y’all are accustomed to over here! Verdict: where have you been all my life?
This is a recipe from the New York Times but I’ve made it my own, in particular by adding loads of sliced green spring onions to the mushrooms. A lot of people don’t think to treat these alliums as veg, but they should. Cut into long segments they’re sweet with good bite, not dissimilar to leek… if that last part wasn’t already obvious.
I also managed to incorporate some delicious black garlic from Bredbo Black Garlic which added great “oooooh Mummy!” [umami]. If you haven’t used this ingredient before, I encourage you to try it. I mistakenly thought it was a strain of garlic that’s naturally dark in colour but it’s actually regular garlic that has been fermented, giving it an almost soy-like flavour.
Let me know if you try this one and, don’t forget to take a photo before you eat.
The polenta part of the recipe is taken straight from the New York Times Article because it’s pretty darn delicious!
- 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 ¾ cups polenta or cornmeal
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, or to taste
- Bring 4 1/2 cups water and the milk to a high simmer in a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add salt. Pour the polenta in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Continue stirring for a few minutes as the mixture thickens.
- Turn heat to low. Cook for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. If the polenta becomes quite thick, thin it with 1/2 cup water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more water as necessary, to keep the polenta soft enough to stir.
- Add the butter to pot stirring well then add the Parmesan, if using.
- 500g of mushrooms
- About 6 fresh spring onions
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 bulb of black garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- F1 teaspoon or so of fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a frying pan adding the mushrooms and crushed garlic at the same time so the latter doesn’t burn.
- Sauté until they begin to brown. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and season.
- Add soy sauce and black garlic along with a splash of water.
- Lastly, add the shallots and cook stirring until they are vivid green and begin to wilt just a little.
- Tip onto the warm Polenta and grate some Parmesan cheese over the top.