Tag Archives: polenta

Today’s cake – Amor Polenta

Such a romantic sounding cake, one with the word love in the title.  Hailing from Lombardia in Italy’s north, it is not an extravagant cake, but typical of Cucina Povera where polenta or cornmeal was often used to take food a little bit further.   Traditionally Amor Polenta is prepared in a ridged cake tin, but no reason why you couldn’t use a normal loaf pan.  The tin I bought was a little too big for this quantity of mix, as the cake is usually nice and high, so next time I’ll make a double batch of mixture (or buy a smaller tin, but I think I’ll go with the double batch as it’s a gorgeous cake).   You need very very finely ground polenta or cornmeal for this, not the typical polenta used in savoury dishes, or you’ll get a very grainy texture.  The Strega – an Italian liquor and a favourite of Mamma Rosa, added a delightful subtle fragrance to it. The Marito loved it, so did I. This one is going to become a regular for sure.

120g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8g baking powder
100g fine cornmeal (polenta)
80g flour, tipo 00
70g almond meal
Splash of liquor such as Strega or rum
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease the tin with melted butter. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until combined then add the eggs and beat till nice and creamy. Add the vanilla and baking powder and combine. Add the cornmeal and combine, then the tipo 00 and combine, and then finally the almond. Lastly add the Strega. Pour the mixture into the tin and use a knife to smooth the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and dust with icing sugar.


Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Fricasse – Scott Conant

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On a recent visit to New York, one of the restaurants I really enjoyed was Scott Conant’s Scarpetta. There was a particular polenta dish which was just magnificent. He has published the recipe so I thought I’d give it a whirl. The recipe below is slightly modified because, funnily enough, I didn’t happen to have any truffle on hand, and also I didn’t have 3 hours to make the chicken reduction before moving onto the main event, so just used stock. In his recipe he suggests cooking the polenta for 2.5-3.5 hours, but I cooked it for about an hour and a half or so. You’ll know its not cooked if it still tastes grainy – it should be very smooth (and whatever you do, don’t use the instant variety!).  Polenta thickens very quickly, but that doesn’t mean its ready. It serves 4-6 as a side dish and is worth the effort. I may however, need to go back to New York and try the original again to make sure I got it right.

Creamy Polenta
2 cups thickened cream
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup polenta, preferably coarse ground
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Fricassee of Mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups mixed domestic and wild mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Making it
1. For the creamy polenta: In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the cream and milk and heat over medium-high heat just until small bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Add the salt, and whisk the cream and milk until quite frothy.

2. Add the polenta and continue to whisk the mixture as it comes to a boil. Continue whisking for an additional 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook the polenta, stirring every 5 minutes or so (switch to a wooden spoon), until it is completely cooked and quite tender (check it after an hour if not keep going) for 2.5-3.5 hours.

3. For the fricassee of mushrooms: In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots just begin to color on their edges. Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a bubbling simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. (You can prepare the mushrooms ahead up to this point; reheat them over medium-high heat just before serving.)

4. Just before serving, stir in the butter, cheese and chives if using. The polenta should pour from the spoon as you serve it and will thicken as it cools. If necessary, you can thin the polenta with a little milk just before serving.

5. Just before serving, reheat the mushrooms if necessary. Toss the mushrooms with the chives. Spoon some mushrooms and some of the cooking juices over the polenta.