Garlic pesto, charred leeks and cauliflower, courgette ribbons, hazelnuts and Parmesan polenta

    50 min

    This recipe is a total favourite for the vegetarian in my life. The polenta really makes you rethink why you’d ever bother to peel and boil potatoes for mash. This is way creamier and far more indulgent. The contrast between the charred crisp cauliflower, the soft flavoursome leeks and the garlic pesto all served on top of a serious mound of creamy heaven is an all round winning combination. Perfect for a dinner party and easy to prepare well in advance.


    London, England, UK
    1 person made this

    Serves: 4 

    • 1 leek
    • 1/2 cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
    • zest of 1/2 lemon
    • generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes
    • several turns of freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 handfuls hazelnuts
    • 2 cloves garlic or handful of wild garlic leaves
    • 20g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
    • sprinkle of salt flakes
    • 1 small bunch parsley (around 2 tablespoons once chopped)
    • 2 courgettes, sliced into ribbons using a peeler
    • 800ml cold water
    • 200g polenta
    • 2 large tablespoons butter
    • 150ml single cream
    • 40g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • small handful fresh oregano, finely chopped

    Prep:25min  ›  Cook:25min  ›  Ready in:50min 

    1. Begin by blanching the leek. Cut it in half and place in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes then remove and allow to dry out. There’s no need to plunge the leek into iced water for this recipe.
    2. Place your griddle pan over a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until it starts to smoke.
    3. Half the leek again lengthways and lightly coat both the leek and chopped cauliflower in a drizzle of oil, the lemon zest and season with salt and black pepper before placing onto the smoking hot griddle.
    4. Allow to char for 2 to 3 minutes before turning and doing the same to the other side. You can add in the hazelnuts at this stage as well, lightly toasting them until golden.
    5. Next prepare the garlic pesto, either by muddling all ingredients with a pestle and mortar and or by blitzing in a blender: 2 cloves garlic, 20g Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon pine nuts, sea salt and parsley.
    6. Pull the charred leeks apart and place in a bowl with the courgette ribbons and cauliflower and lightly coat in pesto.
    7. For the polenta add your 800ml water to a large saucepan then once it’s almost boiling reduce the heat and slowly pour in the polenta, If you do this very gradually you’ll avoid any lumps forming. NOTE – Ensure that you’re stirring the whole time when pouring the polenta in, this again will ensure you don’t get lumps.
    8. Cook for around 7 to 10 minutes until the grainy texture of the polenta has gone, you can check this by rubbing a little between your fingers.
    9. Next add in the butter and cream (still stirring) along with the 40g Parmesan cheese.
    10. Have a taste at this stage and add in the seasoning according to taste. I find you need a fair bit of seasoning with polenta despite there being a tonne of cheese in here.
    11. Finish by serving up the polenta onto a large platter. Add on the charred pesto vegetables, some extra generous dollops of the garlic pesto and sprinkle over the toasted hazelnuts and a little lemon zest plus an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt flakes and black pepper and oregano.

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