Dinner party recipes

Polenta stack with peperonata and pesto cream sauce

Polenta stack with peperonata and pesto cream sauce Polenta and tomatoey peperonata go amazingly well together. Polenta is just corn meal and can be found anywhere these days. Most recipes call for coarse or instant polenta. Whichever type you use follow the packet instructions for the length of time it need to cook. For the extra ingredients use my recipe as it makes very tasty polenta.

In the restaurant I buy fine cornmeal from my local Asian shop and use that. It cooks almost instantly so the recipe here is for this type of cormneal.

For the polenta

230g (8oz) fine cornmeal
1 vegetable stock cube
500ml (1 pint) water
250ml (½pint) whipping cream
Salt and pepper

Place the water, cream and stock cube in a large pan and bring it to the boil. As it comes to the boil line a tray with cling film. This will be used to set the polenta.

When the liquid comes to the boil take it off the heat and quickly whisk in the polenta. Sprinkle it in quickly but not in one lump. Have a wooden spoon at hand. When the polenta has been added return the pan to the heat and cook and stir over a low heat until the polenta tastes cooked ie it is no longer grainy and gritty. For fine cornmeal or instant polents this will only take a couple of minutes.

Scrape the polenta onto the lined tray and spread it out evenly as best as you can. Allow it to cool and when cool cut the polenta into the shape you require. For this recipe I use a round cutter. Polenta can be held in the fridge for a couple of days so you can prepare it in advance.

To serve cook the slices of polenta in a little butter and olive oil until golden brown on both sides. Serve with the pesto cream sauce and the peperonata. The polenta can be held in a hot oven if you need to fry it in batches.

For the peperonata

1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic
100ml (½cup) olive oil
4 red peppers, rough chopped
2 courgettes, thick sliced
1 large glass white wine
20 black olives
2 tbsp capers
500ml tomato sauce, passata or any tomato based tomato sauce
Salt and pepper
Handful of fresh basil

Peperonata is best cooked slowly so take your time. Place a large, preferably wide, saucepan over a medium to low heat. Add the oil and when hot add the onions and garlic. Cook slowly for about ten minutes stirring regularly until the onions are soft and starting to brown. Add the peppers and the courgettes and continue cooking slowly until the vegetables are very soft and falling apart. This will take about 15 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce, olives, capers and fresh basil and simmer - stirring regularly - for a further ten minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and serve or cool, store and reheat for later. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and even freezes quite well.

For the pesto cream sauce

1 small onion
2 small cloves of garlic
50g (2oz) butter
1 glass white wine
2 tablespoons basil pesto
500ml (2 cups) whipping or double cream
1 teaspoon of vinegar
Salt and black pepper

Fine chop the onion and garlic. Heat the butter in a pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the white wine and simmer until most of the liquid has been reduced out. This stage of wine reduction is important as you need to boil off any alcohol. Add the pesto and then the cream. Simmer lightly until the sauce is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes). Add the vinegar and then season with the salt and pepper. This sauce keeps well in the fridge but cannot be frozen.

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