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Lunchbox, Salads & Suppers, Sides

how to cook polenta

Once in a while we flirt with polenta, like Colin Farrell with Elizabeth Taylor. It’s not serious, but it loiters on our hit list.




Polenta has the creaminess of mashed potato, with a pinch of unfamiliar excitement. That might be the yeast flakes talking, giving flavour-bombs to everything it touches.

Potatoes will still beat polenta on the nutritional circuit, so we’ve added extra vitamins with the tomatoes, summer kale and garlic in this recipe. And if you really want to glow, let some avocado join the party.

Tomatoes are beefed up with lycopene. These carotenoids behave like boisterous antioxidants in the body. Think of an internal system of Pacman, and you’ve got the idea. We like antioxidants because they help to counteract mischief-making oxidants in our blood stream. These pesky oxidants, or ‘free radicals’ don’t do our skin any favours either. Want to know the best remedy for dull skin? More water and more sleep.

If you’re off dairy, some mushrooms pan-fried in a splash of tamari and olive oil will add some badass umami notes, to replace the Parmesan cheese. Think of umami as our plate’s BF.


100g polenta (ground maize)

500ml stock

Fistful of grated Parmesan, or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Fistful of sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed (adults only)

Fistful of baby spinach, rocket or red summer kale


Start by downloading a good podcast to keep you company in the kitchen. You’ll be locked to the saucepan for 6 minutes. Bring your stock to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan. (I spotted handsome heavy-based saucepans on sale in TK Maxx this week).

Slowly pour your ground maize into the stock, whisking all the while. Turn down the heat to a gentle pitter-patter. As you stir the maize, it will become creamy and thick. Tumble in the remaining ingredients. If you are using yeast flakes in place of Parmesan, add a few drops of olive oil from the sundried tomatoes at this stage.

Keep stirring until the cheese has melted (if using) or the maize doesn’t stick to the side of the saucepan. Now you are ready to dish the hot polenta into individual bowls.

Serve alongside a simple bowl of olives or Sunday’s roast chicken. Also excellent with curries and stews. Leftovers can be scraped into a small shallow dish, pre-lined with cling film. As soon as the leftover polenta sets, you can cut up into squares and tuck them into lunchboxes or pockets.

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