This is my idea of midwinter dream food. A bowl of buttery polenta (with a kick of virtuous greens) topped with a rich ragu with a lemony zing of the parmesan gremolata on top. Add a glass of red, crank the heat pump right up (30°C) and this is as good as winter gets IMO.
Corn is a gluten-free person’s best friend. I’ve already raved on about my undying love of tacos (tortilla made with corn masa), and now it’s polenta’s turn. Polenta is made from cornmeal and there are a few different types, including fine, coarse and an instant variety, but I find that the fine kind doesn’t take long to cook and it’s apparently is more flavourful.
Green polenta is my new go-to side. Swirled with a virtuous volume of greens, the polenta is smoothly rich with butter in a perfectly balanced way. If you don’t fancy polenta (I don’t understand you, but that’s okay, you do you), you could turn the ragu into a shakshuka of sorts by poaching some eggs in the ragu — making it a meal-in-one. This dish could also be made vegetarian by leaving out the sausage and adding the eggs at the end.
The green polenta and ragu are easy and uncomplicated enough to cook after work on a weeknight, with an added bonus that it’s also a pretty cheap meal; perfect for the week that isn’t pay week (why does it always seem to be that week?!)
Green polenta with butter bean & chorizo ragu and Parmesan gremolata
For the ragu:
4 chorizo sausages (check they’re gluten-free if you need to)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 cans Italian whole tomatoes
2 cans butter beans, drained
1 teaspoon sugar
Slice the chorizo into chunks and place in a frying pan with a slosh of oil. Cook over a high heat until browned, then remove from pan and set aside.
Lower heat to medium and add the onion and cook until softened. Rip up the bay leaves and add to the onion along with the smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Continue cooking for a couple more minutes before pouring in the tinned tomatoes. Pour a little water into each can to rinse it out and pour that into the pan too.
Bring the mixture to boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When the liquid has almost completely reduced down add the drained beans, cover with a lid and cook for a further five minutes. This is the point where the ragu can be turned into a shakshuka of sorts: make little holes in the ragu and crack an egg into each. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for about five minutes.
For the polenta:
a large bunch of spinach
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup fine polenta
1 teaspoon salt
Wash the spinach and cut the root ends off. Roughly chop the leaves and place into a medium-sized saucepan and cover with a lid. Cool over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the spinach has wilted. Transfer to sieve or colander to drain.
Take a large saucepan (for which you have a lid) and heat water until it’s boiling. Add the polenta and salt, reduce heat to medium and stir for a couple of minutes until the polenta starts to thicken.
Reduce heat to low and cover saucepan with a lid. Leave to cook for 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Remove from heat, cover with lid and set aside.
For the Parmesan gremolata:
a small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chipped
zest of a lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Combine parsley, lemon and Parmesan in a small bowl.
Putting it all together:
Put a small mound of green polenta into warmed bowls, spoon a hearty amount of ragu on top and sprinkle over some gremolata. Be silly not to crack open a bottle of red, too.