The first time I encountered polenta was, when at the age of 13, I spent a few weeks of my summer holiday in Slovenia with our family friends. Although they live in Ljubljana, the capital city, we stayed at their weekend house, in what I regard as being the most picturesque village in the whole world, Kranjska Gora.
Slovenia shares borders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. The fluctuating borders and unbelievable social mobility during times of peace and war throughout 2000 years, have meant the areas, particularly nearer its borders, take a great deal of influence from its neighbours. No better example of this is food.
While staying in Kranjska Gora, it is possible to cycle, ski or drive to Italy in order to buy some pasta and bring it back for lunch. Although, at the time, in 1999, the border guard was somewhat suspicious of two British sisters, travelling with a Slovene family. However, in 2004, Slovenia entered the EU and since then, it is no longer necessary to declare either your British friends, or your tortellini!
The Detela family would serve up polenta as a side dish to accompany many dishes. One great Croatia dish for which polenta is the perfect accompaniment, is brodet, a fish stew popular on the Dalmatian coast (I will post a recipe for that soon!)
For now, here is my recipe for the perfect polenta.
4 tbsp poltena per serving
250ml boiling water
pinch of salt
drizzle of olive oil
Put the polenta into a saucepan (4 tbsp per serving)
Add the 250ml of boiling water.
Heat on a medium heat.
Constantly stir with a wooden spoon.
After five or so minutes, when the mixture has thickened, remove the pan from the heat.
When the polenta is ready to take off the heat, pour the polenta into a foil dish.
Let the mix settle evenly.
When it has cooled slightly, drizzle olive oil over the top.
Let it cool and place in the refrigerator until the mix has formed a perfect solid.
Place the foil dish under your grill and gently grill the polenta until slightly crispy on top.
Turn out polenta and grill the other side.
Either serve whole or cut into slice.
Done! A different accompaniment to potatoes or rice, super cheap and really delicious! Plus, when you have a small kitchen as I do, it is great to be able to prepare side dishes in advance, whether eating on your own or feeding your ravenous friends, thankfully, for that polenta is perfect. Get it all ready and just grill, just prior to serving up your main course.
Of course, if you would rather it less solid, heat the polenta in the saucepan with the boiling water and pinch of salt, stir until thick and serve! It truly is as simple as that!
Packet of Polenta Valsugana, 375g, £1.39 available at Waitrose www.waitrose.com