I had a meal some months ago at the Wine Library in Woolahra. It was a great meal and I liked the dining room with meats like salami and prosciutto etc hanging on display in a little glass room near where we were eating. The food consists of antipasto and small sharing plates, a way I really enjoy eating, but a style of eating not suited to the small tables of the restaurant. In an attempt at showing some lady like characteristics, I suggested only ordering 3 share plates including a salad for my companion and I. At some point into eating the second plate and I stress not at my initiation, we ordered another plate. We needn’t have bothered. The third plate, that had yet to arrive and did so shortly after us placing an order for additional food, was a gorgeous polenta bake with a bolognaise with melty cheesy goodness. Now I admit anything with melted cheese in it is likely to draw gasps of appreciation and lustful looks. But this was more than merely good melted cheese. It was rich, robust and smooth on the palate. Needless to say the meal has stayed with me.
Polenta was not something I really grew up with in my house, but I have started to use it more and more in my in cooking. It is fantastic with stews in the winter and I have even baked cookies and cakes that contain it. But baked savoury polenta has eluded me. I can never quite seem to get the consistency right. But with the inspiration of that remembered meal and eggplant to use. I decided I would try a vegetarian version of the meal I had so enjoyed.
Do you over order food at restaurants?
Baked Polenta with Eggplant and mushroom Ragu
- 2 medium Eggplants
- 250 grams of Polenta
- 300 ml of Passata
- 1/2 cup of kalamata Olives chopped
- 1/2 cup of red wine
- 1/2 cup sliced Button Mushrooms
- 1/4 cup of sliced Shitake Mushrooms
- 100 gms of Dried Porcini
- 1/4 cup of chopped basil
- Chopped onion
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 150 gms Mozzarella sliced
1. Add polenta to boiling vegetable stock as per packet instructions, add parmesan when cooked.
2. Pour half the polenta into a baking dish and smooth to form a 2 cm layer of polenta.
3. Place in a fridge while preparing the sauce. Leave the remaining polenta in the pan, this will top the bake.
4. Peel and chop eggplant into 1 cm cubes. Place in Paper towel lined colander, salt well and leave for 20 mins. The bitter juices should drain out.
5. Pour enough boiling water over dried porcini mushrooms to cover and leave to soak
6. Heat oil in pot, add onion and then garlic. Fry until starting to soften
7. Add cubed eggplant to pan and toss in oil onion and garlic. Cook until starting to soften.
8. Add fresh mushrooms and red wine.
9. Allow liquid to reduce slightly. Add rehydrated porcini to the ragu and then add the water that the mushrooms were soaking in.
10. Reduce liquid until it is thickening. Add passata and reduce heat.
11. Allow to simmer for approximately 15 mins. Then add basil and olives and season to taste. Simmer for a further 20 mins.
12. Pulse with a stick blender for a minute to get a smoother consistency. Allow to cool
13. Pour an equal proportion of sauce in the dish on top pf the polenta. Top with sliced mozzarella and then pour a further equal proportion of polenta . Top with parmesan.
14. Bake for 20 mins or until golden on top and sauce is starting to bubble at the side.
15. Serve with salad and crusty bread.