Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Baked Polenta Cake with Roasted Vegetables and Onion and Sage Gravy

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a lovely meal at one of my favourite local eateries, Cafezique on Hyndland Street. This cute cafe/restaurant is a local gem, serving some delicious and often creative food in relaxing yet atmospheric surroundings. Old school blackboards and plastic seats combine with fairy lights and a shelf full of cookery books to form something really magical (more magical than I can describe - if you live in Glasgow, or are visiting, this is one place definitely worth checking out). It is not cheap, but whenever I walk past it (which I do pretty often), I always smell the delicious aromas wafting out of it and get excited thinking about the next time I will go there.

On this particular night, I was so impressed with my main course that I decided immediately that I would have to try to recreate it - or at least create something extremely delicious based on it - once I was back home and in the kitchen. You may remember that I blogged about my visit to Whole Foods a few weeks ago - well, that visit came in very handy, since I bought my very first polenta there, and that is the base of this recipe! If you haven't tried making polenta before, believe me, it is very easy, and totally worth the effort. I had never made it until a few weeks ago, but it really is simple, and so much cheaper than buying the ready-made stuff.

I won't lie - this is not one of the quickest meals you will make, but it really is delicious, and would be very impressive to serve up to guests. Or, you can just do what I do and make it for yourself as a special weeknight treat. I felt it looked a bit too fancy on my plate as I was eating it tonight for dinner - just me, alone - but then I thought, who cares? As long as I'm enjoying it - and I really was. And I'm sure you will too if you give this a go. I made the polenta base in advance, at the weekend, which cut down on the amount of time/effort needed in the kitchen when I got home from work today.

Baked Polenta Cake with Roasted Vegetables and Onion and Sage Gravy

(serves 4)


For the polenta cake:
650 ml water
1 tsp salt
320g uncooked polenta
100g goats cheese, roughly chopped
approx. 10g chopped chives
a little butter

For the roast vegetables:
4 large parsnips, halved or quartered (depending on size) lengthwise
4 large carrots, halved or quartered (depending on size) lengthwise
4 cooked beetroots*, quartered
a glug of olive oil
a glug of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

For the onion and sage gravy:
a little oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried sage
60g flour
60 ml soy sauce
200g water
salt and pepper

* I opted for pre-cooked beetroot in this recipe, mainly because it was what I could find in the supermarket, but it also cuts down on the roasting time. If you wanted to use fresh beetroot, I'm sure that would be really delicious, but you'd have to start roasting it in advance of the other vegetables, rather than adding it in nearer the end as indicated in the method below.


First, add the salt to the water in a large pan, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (DO THIS or your polenta will spit all over the kitchen....I speak from experience!). Gently stir in the polenta. Keep stirring for a minute or two, until the water has been absorbed and the polenta is just beginning to clump together. At this point, add the chopped chives and goats cheese, and keep stirring. Stir for 5 to 10 minutes (or until your arm gets too sore to continue stirring - at this point, the polenta should have fully clumped together, and you are not so much stirring, as pushing the mass of polenta around the pan with the spoon). Transfer the polenta mix to a greased loaf tin and leave to cool for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes are over, pop some cling film over the tin and refrigerate.

Everything else:
Pre-heat the oven to 200ÂșC. 

Take the loaf tin with the polenta in it, and turn upside down over a plate, to gently push the polenta out. Slice it in half, first lengthwise (so that you have a bottom layer and a top layer that you could put a filling in between), then half again across the width of the oblong. Lay out the slices on an oven tray.

Lay out your parsnips and carrots in a roasting tin. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven to roast. While they are roasting, you can make the gravy.

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, and gently saute the onion and garlic with the sage for about  5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Stir in the flour and soy sauce, and stir until a paste is formed. Little by little, add the water, whisking as you go. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened (about 5 minutes). (If the gravy already seems thick enough before simmering, add a little water before reducing the heat.) Season with salt and pepper. If you want a smooth gravy, with no onion bits, you can push it through a sieve at this stage, but I enjoy the onion pieces in mine.

After the vegetables have been roasting for 20 minutes, add the beetroots to the roasting tin, and also put the oven tray with the polenta slices on it in the oven, for everything to cook for a further 10 minutes. You are now ready to assemble your polenta cakes! 

The unadorned polenta cake

Put one slice of polenta on each plate. Arrange the vegetables over the top, as artistically as you please (I like to alternate the vegetables, so you have one slice carrot, one slice beetroot, one slice parsnip). Drizzle (or pour) some gravy over the top of each cake (drizzle if you're going for the arty look, to impress, but I like to pour a good amount of gravy on if I'm not trying to show off!).

Serve with a side salad (or just extra roasted vegetables if, like me, you can't get enough of them!).

Before the gravy was added

I know that what with the extra step of making the polenta, this is a little more time-consuming than most of my other recipes, but I really think it's worth the effort for something a little different. I also am pleased that I now know how easy it is to make polenta, as I'm sure that would have put me off trying this recipe if I'd seen it myself a few months ago! So don't be put off by that, please!

On a totally different note, I was trying out a new photo app for my phone (VSCO Cam), which is sort of like Instagram but you don't have to share all the photos you take. The photos in this post were taken using this app, but I'm not sure if I'm that impressed...then again, maybe it's just my lack of skills as a photographer. A bad workman always blames his tools, and all that! But if anyone has any tips for getting better/nicer photos of my kitchen creations (without spending a fortune), please let me know in the comments.

And, as always, let me know what you think of the recipe!

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