Earlier this week I was beside myself with excitement after coming home and finding a basket full of porcini mushrooms on the kitchen table! A family friend and expert mushroom picker had kindly donated them to us after I had told him how difficult it was to source porcini in the UK and how, although I’d often used dried porcini in my cooking, I had never had the pleasure of being able to cook with fresh ones. After extensively quizzing my boyfriend’s mother on fresh porcini preparation I decided to experiment with a creamy porcini and polenta bake and was not disappointed! Again, this is a really simple recipe that delivers big on flavour. For those of you who are unable to source fresh porcini it would also work well using another variety of mushroom, such as chestnut, mixed with some dried porcini for that extra rich flavour.
Serves 4 as a primo
For the polenta
- 350g polenta flour
- 1.5 litres water
- Large teaspoon of salt
For the filling
- 300g porcini mushrooms
- 1 clove finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
- 150 ml double cream
- Salt pepper
- Good-quality grated cheese (I used a mix of asiago and parmesan)
To cook the polenta bring the water to the boil in a heavy based saucepan, add the salt and sprinkle in the polenta flour. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon and allow to cook for 40-45 minutes. For those of you who don’t have time for this stage (let’s face it, it’s a bit of a faff really) you can also use quick-cook or ready-made polenta which you can find in most big supermarkets.
When your polenta is cooked, pour it onto a large, clean work surface and spread it out to a 2-3cm thickness and leave to cool. When cold, cut out the disk
Clean your porcini by scraping them with a knife and wiping with a clean tea towel. If your mushrooms are really dirty you can give them a quick rinse under some cold water but be sure to dry them as quickly as possible as washing the mushrooms will make their flavour less intense. Separate the mushroom stalks from the tops by gently twisting them, then slice into fairly chunky pieces.
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a frying pan then add the mushrooms and let them simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the cream and parsley and turn off the heat then season well with salt and pepper.
Place a disk of polenta in the bottom of your greased dish or ramekin. Add a generous amount of the porcini mix and top with another disk of polenta. Cover with lots of cheese and grill for about 10 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbling!