This is part of a basic ‘How To’ series to help you cook the basics.
Let’s start with the first questions? What is polenta? When would it be eaten? And with what?
Polenta is ground up corn. The dish originated in northern Italy and is also well known in Swiss and French cuisine. Polenta can also be called cornmeal. It is usually boiled and eaten hot or cold as a creamy side dish or it can be grilled and sliced into wedges. I love it as a pizza base, too.
If you can stir a pot you can make polenta. Don’t be put off by the long cooking time. Once the water is boiling you will need to keep an eye on it and keep stirring every couple of minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, but it’s not difficult to cook polenta.
Polenta is normally eaten as the starch component of a meal, so it could be eaten with a savoury breakfast with mushrooms and tomatoes; in place of a potato mash at dinner or as part of a salad, like in this Polenta and Tomato salad.
I’m going to share a basic recipe to cook polenta to get you started and then you can play around and add other ingredients to give it more flavour if you wish.
There are 2 main ingredients when making polenta – polenta and water. You could replace the water with stock or milk. Both will give a much more full-bodied flavour, so it depends what you’re serving the polenta with if you want the extra flavour. I will sometimes replace ½ – 1 cup of water with plant-based milk or vegetable stock, but rarely would I replace the whole liquid amount.
Other flavours to add during the final couple of minutes in the pot are dried or fresh herbs and savoury yeast flakes, particularly if you’re after a cheese-y taste.