Light & Fluffy polenta
This is my favourite way to cook polenta, as it pretty much looks after itself, and results in a light, surprisingly fluffy, dish with just the right touch of cheese. Once made, you can hold it over hot water, and it will stay soft and warm for ages, which is great as you can make it well ahead of time.
Serves 6 – 8
1 ½ cups (250g) stone-ground polenta
2 teaspoons sea salt
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little extra to finish
1 cup (90 g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
The first thing you need to do is create a sort of double boiler to cook the polenta in. To do this, half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. Turn the heat down so it bubbles very gently.
Meanwhile, measure out 5 ½ cups (1.375 litres) water, pour it into your kettle and bring it to just on the boil. While it’s heating up, put the polenta and salt into a large stainless steel bowl which will fit on top of the ‘double-boiler’ saucepan. When the water in the kettle is boiling, add it to the polenta, a third at a time, whisking all the while with a balloon whisk, to avoid it clumping together. After a short time the polenta will start to thicken and absorb the liquid.
Now, sit the bowl over the saucepan of gently bubbling water, making sure it doesn’t actually touch the surface. Cover it with a lid – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t quite fit perfectly (or if you don’t have a lid that will even come close in size, just cover the bowl with foil, sealing it tightly around the edges.) Cook the polenta for 1 ½ hours, removing the lid or foil every 20 minutes or so to give it a good whisk or stir to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bowl. Re-cover it each time, and continue with the cooking until the polenta is ready. I usually taste it to check – it should be gently ‘corn-y’ and very, very light. Keep an eye on the water level in the bottom of the saucepan as you cook the polenta, and top it up if necessary.
If you’re using the polenta immediately, thoroughly mix in the butter and parmesan. Scrape the polenta into a warm serving dish, plop the extra nugget of butter on top, and grind on some black pepper.
If you want to hold the polenta for a while, don’t add the butter or parmesan. Instead, just press a sheet of baking paper onto the polenta and cover the bowl again. Turn off the heat under the saucepan of hot water and sit the bowl back on it. The polenta will keep well for up to an hour – just heat up the water from time to time if it starts to cool. Add the butter and parmesan just before serving.