Polenta With Saffron Mushrooms
Polenta is a type of flour, ground from corn or maize, that is particularly popular in Italian cookery. Look for it in Italian delicatessens and large A supermarkets. Polenta is not difficult to make but because it tends to spit and splutter during cooking, it is best to use a tall, heavy-based saucepan and a long-handled wooden spoon. It is also important to stir the mixture frequently to prevent lumps forming. Polenta is usually flavoured with cheese, herbs or garlic then grilled and cut into wedges. It can also be served as an alternative to pasta, rice or potatoes. Simply simmer it in the water until pulpy then season lightly and serve plain or beat in olive oil, butter, garlic, ground black pepper, cheese or herbs as above.
1½ teaspoons salt
280 g (9 oz) polenta
125 g (4 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon saffron strands
3 celery sticks
1 red pepper
45 g (1½ oz) pine nuts
125 g (4 oz) shitake mushrooms
180 g (6 oz) button mushrooms
300 ml (½ pint) double cream
Salt and pepper
Chilli Tomato Sauce
1 Bring 1.1 litre (2 pints) water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt. Gradually whisk in the polenta until thickened. When thick and pulpy, reduce heat and cook very gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Beat in half the cheese.
2 Turn polenta into a greased flameproof dish and spread to an even layer, about 2.5 cm (1 in) thick. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
3 Mix saffron strands with 1 tablespoon boiling water and set aside.
4 Slice the onion and chop the celery. Cut the pepper in half, discard core and seeds and slice the flesh. Heat remaining oil in a saucepan and add onion, celery and pine nuts. Cook gently, stirring, until softened.
5 Add red pepper and mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in saffron and liquid, cream, salt and pepper. Heat gently.
6 Cook polenta under a moderate grill until hot and turning golden. Cut into portions. Spoon mushroom mixture on to warmed serving plates and top with portions of polenta. Serve with the Chilli Tomato Sauce.