• Polenta
Polenta
An Italian accompaniment dish made from ground maize, polenta makes a great change from serving pasta and potatoes.
What to buy
There are three different types of polenta sold in supermarkets and delis. Traditional polenta takes around 40 minutes to cook, and it does need to be stirred while it's on the stove.

Supermarkets sell instant polenta, which can be brought to the table, piping hot, in less than 10 minutes.

If all this seems too much like hard work, check out the ready-to-use pre-cooked variety. It's sold in good delis as a slab or a roll.

How to prepare
Because traditional polenta takes longer to cook, it's an idea to get hold of a sturdy saucepan, which isn't likely to scorch.

As a rough guide, allow 50g polenta per person and about 250ml water for cooking.

Add the polenta in a thin steady stream into a saucepan of boiling water. Don't forget to stir it constantly, or it might go lumpy on you.

When cooked, polenta has a smooth, creamy texture and comes away from the sides of the pan.

Serving suggestions
Serve it softly set, straight from the pan, with a hearty casserole or rich sauce.

You can also leave it to cool on a tray before cutting into fingers and deep frying.

Ring the changes - try using polenta instead of flour for a nutty, slightly crunchy flavour in cakes and biscuits.