Saturday 19 February 2011

Borlotto beans with Polenta recipe

Today I made another dish using my home-grown Borlotto beans. It was inspired by a recipe in that "Heirloom Beans" book I wrote about the other day.

My recipe is called "Borlotto beans in Tomato sauce with griddled Polenta". It is a really easy dish, because most of the preparation can be done in advance, with just a few minutes' worth of work at the end.

I soaked the beans (a mixture of types, mostly borlotti) in water overnight and cooked them in advance - 10 minutes boiling hard, then about 30 minutes at a simmer, or until tender (you might need to cook the beans a bit longer than this if they are not so fresh). After cooking, they looked like this (not yet very appetising...)

I also made my tomato sauce some hours in advance, because I wanted it to have some time for all the flavours to infuse. This is how I did it: I made a "sofrito" with diced onion, carrot and celeriac, cooking it in a little vegetable oil over a low heat for approx 15 minutes until the veg were soft. I then added a tin of chopped tomatoes, a large pinch of chilli flakes, some finely chopped Rosemary (from the garden), a little water and some salt and pepper.

Rosemary leaves can be quite tough, so when using them in a dish like this, chop them very finely. Here you can see the ideal tool for the task - the hachoire or mezzaluna. Ours has a wooden chopping board that is dished in the centre like a saucer.

 I brought the sauce mixture up to the boil and then turned the heat down to a simmer. I cooked the sauce slowly for about an hour, adding a little more water to keep the consistency right. When it was finished it was thick and gloopy and looked like this:

I then made some "hard" polenta. A couple of weeks ago I made some soft polenta, using the approved cooking method, and I found that it went lumpy, so this time I did a bit of experimenting: I slaked about 120g of the polenta flour with cold water, rather than pouring the polenta into boiling water. By "slaking" I mean mixing the polenta with a small quantity of water to make a stiff paste. I then put the polenta onto a low heat and gradually heated it to boiling point, adding more (boiling) water as required. I found this method to work better. The sort of polenta I used only needs 4 or 5 minutes cooking. Towards the end of the cooking time I added about 25g of butter and 25g of grated Parmesan cheese. At this stage, the polenta would have been just right for soft polenta, but I poured mine into a greased dish and left it to cool. At this stage it was bright yellow and looked like thick custard!

When the polenta was cool, I tipped it out of the dish onto some clingfilm. The colour on the underside was a bit more muted and it looked just like a slab of mass-produced Cheddar cheese.

I was able to slice the polenta and set it aside in the fridge ready to be griddled later on.

At this stage it looked like a sliced Madeira cake...

Half an hour or so before Dinner time I put the beans and tomato sauce into a pan and heated them gently to warm them through. No further cooking is really necessary at this stage. Meanwhile, the griddle was heating up for the polenta. I cooked three slices of polenta for each of us, turning them a couple of times to ensure even cooking.

When it was nicely browned I placed the polenta onto serving plates and ladled the bean and sauce mixture over the top, and garnished the dish with some chopped parsley. I served it with a tomato-and-olive salad, some nice bread, and a bottle of robust red wine.

Here's the finished article...

I felt that the polenta done "my way" was a great success. It was smooth and much lighter than the commercial stuff you can buy in the shops.

I nearly forgot to point out that this is a vegetarian meal. I am not a vegetarian myself, but there are times when meat seems superfluous!


  1. I like this presentation! It looks comforting and filling.

  2. This dish looks yummy...I can almost smell it! The rosemary had to add just the right flavor...I adore rosemary!

  3. I love the look of this and would have been happy to sit with you to eat this. Good call on making the sauce in advance, agree with you totally on allowing the flaovurs to infuse.

    PS Envious of your homegrown borlotto beans - bet they just melt in the mouth - like butter..well almost.

  4. This looks delicious. I wish my kids would let me plant what I want - but they control the vegetables right now. ;)

  5. It is a curious thing, but I don't like corn meal in any form - polenta, tacos... So I'll have your beans with rice - they look delicious.

  6. Looks delicious, I'm gonna have to go get dinner on (you made me hungry)!

  7. I like your tool for chopping rosemary, but I think that you need also some experience to chop it finely as you did.
    I love polenta, but I rarely eat it... i think that I just forget to use it.


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