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Polenta

ingredients

1.5 litres (2 1/3 pints) 7 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
300 g (10 oz) 2 cups polenta or cornmeal flour
2 beaten eggs (optional)
125 g (4 oz) 2 cups fresh fine white breadcrumbs (optional)
vegetable oil, for frying and oiling
2 quantities Basic Tomato Sauce (see below)

mushroom sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
250 g (8 oz) mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150 ml (1/4 pint) 2/3 cup dry white wine
4 tbsp double (heavy) cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbs
salt and pepper

method

1. Bring the water and salt to the boil in a large pan and gradually sprinkle in the polenta or cornmeal flour, stirring all the time to prevent lumps forming.

2. Simmer the mixture very gently, stirring frequently, until the polenta becomes very thick and starts to draw away from the sides of the pan, about 30-35 minutes. It is likely to splatter, in which case partially cover the pan with a lid.

3. Thoroughly oil a shallow tin, about 28 x 18 cm (11 x 7 inches), and spoon in the polenta. Spread out evenly, using a wet spatula. Allow to cool, then leave to stand for a few hours at room temperature, if possible.

4. Cut the polenta into 30-36 squares. Heat the oil in a frying pan (skillet) and fry the pieces until golden brown all over, turning several times - about 5 minutes. Alternatively, dip each piece of polenta in beaten egg and coat in breadcrumbs before frying in the hot oil.

5. To make the mushroom sauce: heat the oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms with the crushed garlic for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the wine, season well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cream and chopped herbs and simmer for another minute or so.

6. Serve the polenta with either the tomato sauce or mushroom sauce.

basic tomato sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
425 g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato puree (paste)
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, parsley, oregano, bay leaves, tomato puree (paste), sugar, and salt and pepper.

3. Bring the sauce to the boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 - 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Discard the bay leaves before serving.

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