Polenta, made from boiled cornmeal, is a staple of northern Italy and it can be as versatile as southern Italian pasta.
It is often served hot like mash, with various toppings such as a good stew or a Bolognese sauce. However, it can also be moulded, then cut into squares and fried or grilled. The latter is the version I propose here, a recipe for polenta crostini served with wild mushrooms — a tasty seasonal delicacy.
Preparation time 30 min. Serves 4-6 as starter or canapés
● 500g pre-cooked packet polenta (maize meal)
● Approximately 2 litres water
● 1 tbsp sea salt
● 500g chestnut mushrooms or mixed wild mushrooms
● 40g dried porcini mushrooms
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
● Small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
● Splash of white wine
● 6-7 tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil
● Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
● Cook the polenta according to packet instructions.
● Generally, bring 2 litres of water to the boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt per 500g of polenta. Once the water boils, slowly pour in the polenta and stir well with a whisk.
● Keep on stirring and cook for 3 minutes. By the end you should have a smooth consistency.
● Tip: for extra flavour, you can add some fresh herbs to the polenta while cooking, such as rosemary, sage, basil or thyme.
● Once the polenta is cooked, pour it into a large tray or flat surface and spread it so that it is 1 cm (½ inch) in thickness.
● Leave to cool and set.
● While the polenta cools, cook the mushrooms.
● Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in warm water for 10 minutes. Wash and slice the fresh mushrooms.
● Heat the oil and the onion in a non-stick frying pan. Leave to turn golden and add the garlic, half the parsley and some salt and pepper.
● Add a splash of white wine and after a minute add the fresh mushrooms.
● Stir well and after a few minutes add the porcini mushrooms.
● Cook for five minutes on a medium-high flame allowing any liquid to evaporate and the mushrooms to turn golden.
● Add the rest of the parsley, stir well and turn off the flame.
● Cut the set polenta into squares, triangles, rounds or finger sticks. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the polenta.
● Shallow fry each side for a few minutes until golden.
● Remove from the pan and place a spoonful of mushrooms on top of each polenta crostino.
● Serve as canapés or as a starter.