This recipe was provided by our Guest Chef Prue Leith
a knob of unsalted butter
a glug of olive oil
3 banana shallots, peeled and quartered lengthways
4 large field mushrooms or chestnut mushrooms (about 300g), cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
150g kale, tough stalks removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
200ml hot vegetable stock salt and pepper to season
For the polenta
1-litre litre vegetable stock
200g fine polenta
100ml single cream
50g Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese, finely grated
Serve with a small handful of pine nuts, toasted truffle oil (optional)
1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan or a wok over a medium-high heat and add the shallots. Sauté for 5 minutes or until they are just soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan – it will be stuffed full but keep frying and within a few minutes, the mushrooms will shrink and everything will become manageable.
2. Keeping the heat high, add the kale and stock and continue to cook until the leaves wilt and soften. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to low and keep warm while you cook the polenta.
3. For the polenta, bring the stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5–10 minutes (while stirring frequently and scraping the bottom to prevent scorching) until thickened and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream, butter and Parmesan. Taste and season well, then spoon onto plates. Top with the mushroom and kale mixture, and serve sprinkled with a few pine nuts and a drizzle of truffle oil, if you like. It is worth remembering that the longer polenta stands, the firmer it becomes, so be swift to serve this dish. If it does firm up too much, add a little more stock just before plating up. The ideal consistency is similar to a soft risotto.
I used not to be a fan of polenta, because it is so often bland and boring, or, when fried, tough, bland and boring! But I now have the zeal of the converted. I love it. You do have to season it well, and for me that usually means plenty of strong-flavoured cheese like the Parmesan here, or something with power to go with it. In this recipe the polenta is a blank canvas, so taste and season it well to make a delicious backdrop to these simple, seasonal ingredients. It is also very quick to put together.