I love the noticeable changes in seasons, and none more so than the transition from Summer to Autumn. The leaves are turning the most amazing colours and the nights are just chilly enough to pull out my winter woollies. I also adore the food I am drawn to during these Autumnal months – slow-cooked braises, hearty soups and stews. For me, Autumn all about food that satisfies and comforts.
While many Italians, especially in the North, now see polenta as almost a national treasure, it had very humble beginnings. It was initially brought to Italy in the 16th century and was considered peasant food. It was a meal with a purpose – to fill the bellies of hungry Italians. Although still immensely filling, polenta now often takes center stage on a table, poured onto large wooden boards and paired with rich stews, seafood or artisan salamis and richly flavoured with milk, cream, butter or parmesan. It is comfort food at its best!
I love cooking my polenta in both milk and water, to give it a really creamy texture. Some prefer stock, but I think it overpowers the delicate flavour of the polenta itself. Try and coerce someone else into stirring the polenta for you while you get on to the mushrooms! As it begins to thicken, the polenta stirring becomes an official workout and requires your undivided attention.
Note: Electric stovetop polenta mixers exist for a very good reason. Don’t worry though, polenta has been made for hundreds of years with just a pot and a spoon! You can do it! Also, if you can’t source a variety of different mushrooms for the ragú, the usual button mushrooms will still be amazing!