This wonderfully easy new-to-me way to cook polenta comes from Paula Wolfert's terrific new book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking. There's none of that strewing cornmeal onto fiercely boiling water, followed by constant stirring. You just mix cornmeal, oil and cold water, put the resulting mess into the oven & let time do all the work for you. Amazingly, it comes out of the oven entirely lump-free. Not sure if it works in a metal pot, although I can't think why not.
Waitrose in Henley have just begun to stock bags of Italian stoneground cornmeal ... perfect for this, and for a loaf of cornbread later this week.
Oven polenta in a clay pot
2 cups cornmeal, stoneground if you can find it
2 tablespoons olive oil, or butter if you prefer
8-10 cups water (see note below)
Note: Paula Wolfert's instructions say: the consistency of the polenta is a factor in deciding how much liquid to use. For soft polenta, use 5 parts liquid to 1 part cornmeal and for firm polenta 4 parts liquid to 1 part cornmeal. She also specifies a wide, shallow dish; I cooked mine in a narrower, taller pot, and therefore didn't need so much water.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Stir the cornmeal, oil salt and water. Bake uncovered for one hour and twenty minutes. Stir, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven. If you're using a clay pot, be careful where you put it or it will break; it will be safe on a folded kitchen towel, or on wood. Let the polenta rest for 10 minutes before serving.
You could spread it out flat to cool, for cut and grilled/fried polenta shapes. That's the thing to do with the leftovers (especially good if you stir in a little parmesan). But I couldn't bear to deprive my blue Orpington hens of the pleasure.
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