So this was a difficult week for everyone but perhaps especially for those of us living in Italy who, over the course of just a few days, lurched from facing ‘red zones’ in the North to complete ‘lock down’ as the country battled to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). For me personally it meant a frantic rush to try to get back home following an ill-fated decision to travel to the UK on a work trip and to see family. Since my return I’ve been turning to comfort food – and my garden – to help me get through the days of isolation. Which brings me to sage…
Sage is one of those herbs which, even at the end of a long winter, somehow manages to remain edible. The medicinal properties of sage are well-documented and include, among other things, the ability to strengthen the immune system and keep viruses at bay, an added bonus in these COVID-19 days. For centuries it has been used for smudging, a way of cleansing and purifying the air in your home. But it’s also delicious to eat with a rich, earthy aromatic flavour. So when I found myself in lockdown and feeling under the weather this week I turned to this polenta recipe made with leftovers in my fridge and sage from my garden.
1 cup of dried polenta A chunk of pumpkin or butternut squash Mushrooms A good handful of fresh sage leaves A vegetable stock cube A chunk of Parmesan cheese Butter Salt and pepper
This recipe is incredibly quick and simple, as all comfort food should be!
First, boil a kettle and make your vegetable stock, add your polenta to a pan, pour the stock on top and mix well over a low heat. The amounts are always a bit hit and miss for me, I just keep adding liquid until the polenta is thick and creamy but not too think or ‘dry’. The amount of fluid needed and the time it takes to cook varies hugely depending on the courseness of the polenta. In this case mine took about 20 minutes as well the polenta was very fine. When it’s done add a good handful of grated Parmesan cheese and a knob of butter and season well.
Whilst the polenta is bubbling away chop up the veggies and fry them off in butter starting with the pumpkin which needs a little bit longer than everything else. It should be nice and soft, just starting to caramelise, which for me took around 15 mins. Add your chopped mushrooms and finally the sage, seasoning well. I also added a splash of water at this stage to keep everything nice and moist.
And that’s it! Spoon the polenta into a bowl, top with the veggie mix and add more grated Parmesan cheese…this is Italy after all! If, like me, you end up with enough polenta to feed a small village but can’t share it due to the lockdown simply pour it into a low dish and leave to set. You can then cut into slices to create a myriad of other polenta dishes for the rest of the week!