Polenta, made from cornmeal, is yet another versatile gluten-free foodstuff.
It is used a lot in Italian cooking and goes great with savoury dishes primarily, but this recipe can be adjusted for sweet meals – great as a replacement for porridge in the morning!
Polenta can also be used in baking, and for making American cornbread. I love the stuff. It gives baked goods a really warm, yellow colour. Very comforting and it lends a nice corn-y taste!
The consistency of the polenta depends on the type of cornmeal you are using – finer types will be creamier. You can buy instant polenta in the supermarket, in which case, ignore this recipe. But if you want to dabble in making your own (it’s cheaper this way!), then read ahead.
Cornmeal differs from cornflour. Cornmeal is the ground up dried whole corn kernels, but cornflour (cornstarch in America) is the exacted starch turned into a powder. If you try this recipe with cornflour, it will be disgusting. You’ve been warned! Who wants to eat a big glob of cornflour!?
Some recipes call for milk instead of water, and tell you to add butter, oil, parmesan cheese, various herbs and spices. It would be great with some nutritional yeast and garlic oil mixed in. The great thing about this dish is that you can tailor it to your tastes. The following recipe is very basic.
- 1 cup/120g cornmeal
- 4 cups/1 litre water, stock, or milk
- 1 tbsp butter or oil (optional)
- Herbs (optional)
- Bring water (or milk or stock) to the boil in a pan and pour in cornmeal in gentle stream, whisking to prevent lumps. Add your herbs, if using.
- This mixture gets very ‘spitty’, so as soon as pockets of air begin to explode, put the heat down low.
- Keep an eye on the mixture, stirring every so often to prevent it catching on the bottom. If it looks like it’s soaking up too much liquid and becoming sticky or gluey, then add another cup/250ml of water.
- It should be a thick consistency after around 40 minutes. The mixture should not be glue-like, nor should it be runny, but somewhere in between. It should pull away from the sides of the pan when you move it with a spoon.
- At this point you can enrich it by adding in butter or oil. This is purely optional and just lends a creamier, richer flavour, as well as a nice glossy sheen.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.