Italian vibes this morning with this pancetta polenta and avocado breakfast. This looks fancy but it took me 10 minutes and was wolfed down by my boys. I taught wet polenta in class last night (recipe below) and had some left over. So I poured it onto a plate before I went to bed and left it covered in foil on the side until this morning. By then it was a hard rubbery disk. Not very appetizing but I had plans for it. In fact I’d been planning this breakfast since about 5am when I woke up full of cooking ideas. That’s how I roll.
I’m assuming you don’t have leftover polenta on hand, so I suggest you make wet polenta for dinner and then make extra so you have some as dry polenta the next day. Below you’ll find my recipe for wet polenta – it serves four people so you may want to double it if you want enough for four for dinner and four for breakie. You can serve the wet polenta hot and soft, like mashed potatoes (or grits). I love it with shrimp and pesto, or ragu, or with sausages and roast tomatoes.
Those of you who have lived in England will be familiar with the joy that is a fried slice, or fried bread. When done well – good white bread, shallow fried slowly in bacon fat – it is quite possibly one of the most guilt-inducing delicious breakfasts ever. Done badly in motorway service stations (where the plastic bread is deep fried in chip oil) it serves merely to give truck drivers heart attacks. This polenta fry takes what is good from a fried slice – soft within, crunchy and salty on the outside but doesn’t have the health-damaging effects of the original. Because we all know now that a bit of bacon fat, on occasion is ok, don’t we? And because this is made from corn rather than wheat, it keeps the gluten-free brigade happy too.
Remember the ratio of 1 part polenta to 4 parts water or stock if you want to make more or less.
Ingredients for wet polenta for 4 people
940ml (4 cups) hot water mixed with ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon chicken/vegetable paste or a stock cube of your choice
150g (1 cup) coarse ground organic cornmeal or polenta
60g (2oz) chèvre soft goat cheese or freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
zest of a lemon
sea salt to taste (depends how salty your stock it)
- Put a large saucepan on a medium high heat and add the stock. Heat until bubbling then pouring in the cornmeal while whisking
- Use a whisk or spatula to stir the pan constantly on a medium heat. The polenta is liable to splutter so be careful. Cook while stirring for 2 minutes. It will thicken very quickly
- Continue to cook and stir for around 4 minutes before turning off the heat and adding the cheese, lemon zest, sea salt and pepper (and any extra flavors you are adding). Then serve immediately or, if you want to make dry polenta, pour onto a Silpat or plate then spread with a spatula until it is around a 1/4” thick. Set aside to cool for 30-60 minutes, or overnight.
Italian breakfast fry (serves 4)
8 thin pancetta slices, or 8 slices of thin streaky bacon
cooked and cooled polenta (see above)
Maldon sea salt
1. Put a large frying pan on a high heat. I use my Scanpan. Put the bacon or pancetta into the pan in a single layer without any oil. As the pancetta cooks it will crispen and release its oil. Depending on your heat, your pan and how thin your pancetta is, it will take around 5-10 minutes to cook and crispen.
2. While the pancetta cooks, slice your polenta into wedges. I like triangles around the size of a pieces of sliced bread that has been cut in half
3. When the pancetta is 90% done, scooch it to one side of the pan and put slices or triangles of polenta in the same pan on a high heat so they sizzle aggressively. Cook them without moving them for about 5 minutes on each side until crispy and golden
4. While the polenta cooks, slice your avocado or mash it depending on what you prefer
5. When you’re ready to plate up, put a piece of the polenta on your plate. Top it with the avocado, then a sprinkle of chili flakes or black pepper, Maldon salt and lemon zest (I use my Microplane). Give it a little squeeze of lemon juice then pop the bacon on top. A bit of ketchup goes nicely on the side and a soft-yolked poached egg wouldn’t go amiss.
Play around with the recipe next time you make it:
- Use Parmesan in place of the goats cheese
- Add chopped basil or fresh chilli to the wet polenta
- Fry little cubes of the dried polenta in olive oil before sprinkling with salt, red pepper flakes and chopped rosemary and nibble the resulting bites with drinks.
You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools. You can also buy my other bits of essential kitchen equipment through this post.
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