Mushroom topped polenta fingers

    1 hour 15 min

    Cooked and cooled polenta can be cut into shapes and grilled to make an excellent base for a tempting topping. Here the polenta is flavoured with Gruyère cheese, and the topping is a savoury mixture of mushrooms, walnuts and herbs. Serve as a sophisticated starter, with a few mixed salad leaves if you like.

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    Serves: 6 

    • 750 ml (1¼ pints) vegetable stock
    • 170 g (6 oz) instant polenta
    • 85 g (3 oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
    • 15 g (½ oz) dried porcini mushrooms
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 225 g (8 oz) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
    • 3 tbsp dry sherry
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
    • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
    • 30 g (1 oz) walnuts, finely chopped
    • salt and pepper

    Prep:1hr  ›  Cook:15min  ›  Ready in:1hr15min 

    1. Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps from forming. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyère cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    2. Pour the polenta onto a damp baking tray and spread out into a rectangle measuring about 20 x 18 cm (8 x 7 in) and about 1 cm (½ in) thick. Leave to cool for 1 hour or until set.
    3. Meanwhile, put the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tbsp of the soaking liquid. Finely chop the mushrooms.
    4. Preheat the grill to moderately hot. Lightly brush the polenta rectangle all over with 1 tbsp of the oil. Cut into 12 fingers, each measuring 5 x 6 cm (2 x 2½ in), trimming the edges to straighten them. Place oiled side up on the rack in the grill pan, and grill for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
    5. Turn the polenta slices over and grill for a further 2–3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and keep hot.
    6. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the soaked dried mushrooms and the sliced chestnut mushrooms, and sauté over a fairly high heat for 3–4 minutes or until softened.
    7. Add the sherry and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Cook over a high heat for 1–2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the parsley, rosemary, walnuts, and salt and pepper to taste.
    8. Spoon the mushroom mixture on top of the warm polenta fingers. Garnish with a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.

    Each serving provides

    Excellent source of copper. Useful source of selenium.

    Some more ideas

    Add 2–3 tbsp half-fat crème fraîche to the mushroom mixture with the herbs and walnuts, and heat. Replace 150 ml (5 fl oz) of the stock with dry white wine. * Add 1 tsp chilli powder or cayenne pepper to the cooked polenta at the end of step 2. * Make polenta and tapenade squares. Cut the cooled and set polenta into squares and grill as in the main recipe. For the tapenade topping, blend together 85 g (3 oz) stoned black olives, 2 tbsp capers, 30 g (1 oz) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, well drained, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Alternatively, finely chop the olives, capers and tomatoes, and mix with the garlic, oil, parsley and seasoning.

    Plus points

    Polenta is fine corn or maize meal. It provides a starchy carbohydrate alternative for those who need to avoid wheat or gluten in their diet. * All mushrooms are a good source of copper, a mineral with many functions but particularly needed for the maintenance of healthy bones. * Walnuts are a good source of many of the antioxidant nutrients, including copper, selenium, vitamin E and zinc.

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