A satisfying spring dish from Paula McIntyre, inspired by her culinary heritage
I love polenta in every shape and form. It’s one of my favourite ingredients. What most people don’t realise is that polenta—cornmeal—has a particular place in Irish culinary history. During the potato famine, we were sent shipments of cornmeal by Native Americans in solidarity for our plight. We have a farl called an ‘Indian farl’ and a bread called ‘Indian bread’, both of which stem from that gift. My granny can remember eating cornmeal gruel. I tried to get her to like polenta, but her memories of cornmeal were so bad that she wouldn’t try it.
For the polenta and creamed leeks:
100g grated parmesan
1 large leek, split in half, washed and chopped
25ml double cream
A handful of chopped parsley
For the purple sprouting broccoli:
1kg purple sprouting broccoli, woody bottoms trimmed
75ml olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
25ml balsamic vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
50g Corleggy cheese
Bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Add ½ tsp salt, then slowly add the polenta, whisking all the time. Lower the heat and cook for about 40 mins or until smooth and coming away from the side of the pan. Mix in the parmesan well.
Heat the butter in a pan and add the leek. Season with salt and cook until soft. Add the cream and cook for a further 2 mins. Add the parsley and check the seasoning.
Brush a 1Ib loaf tin with oil. Place half the polenta in the bottom of the loaf tin. Add the leeks and then top with the remaining polenta. Smooth off the top and chill for 2 hours. Remove from the tin. Cut into eight slices. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick pan until very hot and add half the polenta slices. Cook until golden and crisp on all sides. Keep warm in the oven while you repeat with the remaining polenta.
Blanch the broccoli in boiling salted water for 3 mins then drain well and toss in 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Heat a grill pan until smoking hot and add the broccoli. Cook for 1 min, add the shallots, turn the broccoli and cook for 1 min more. Whisk the garlic, vinegar and mustard together. Whisk in the rest of the oil and then check the seasoning. Place the broccoli on a platter and spoon over the dressing. Grate the cheese and scatter on top. Serve alongside the polenta slices.
ALTERNATIVE A good parmesan could be used instead of the Corleggy, as could Bermondsey Hard Pressed from Kappacasein. When purple sprouting broccoli is out of season, cavolo nero would work—just blanch for 1 min, dry, toss in oil and grill. Grilled treviso or radicchio would also work.
Recipe: Paula McIntyre
Image: Kim Lightbody