Baked polenta with feta, béchamel and za’atar tomatoes
Ring the changes with this brilliant homemade alternative to a takeaway pizza from Ottolenghi and Noor Murad's new book Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, Extra Good Things
"It’s not a pizza, insisted Noor, when referring to this baked polenta which does in fact look like a giant pizza. It ended up with multiple names at the Test Kitchen such as ‘polenta-pizza’, ‘polizza’ or ‘polenta not-a-pizza’. It really is a happy-looking pie with its yellows and reds and wonderfully golden edges. Serve with a chicory salad or anything leafy and green. You can keep this gluten-free by swapping out the flour for gluten-free flour, if you like."
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hr 30 minutes
80g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
750ml whole milk
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
200g quick cook polenta
65g pecorino romano, roughly grated
180g Greek feta, roughly crumbled
5g oregano sprigs (try to use the softer sprigs)
400g datterini or cherry tomatoes
120ml olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp za’atar
1/2 tsp caster sugar
5g parsley roughly chopped
5g oregano leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 150°C fan
- Make the za’atar tomatoes. Put the tomatoes, oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and a good grind of pepper into a medium baking dish, roughly 30cm x 20cm. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through or until the tomatoes have just burst but aren’t completely falling apart. Remove the foil, gently stir in the za’atar and sugar and leave to cool completely. Once cool, stir in the herbs (gently so as not to break up the tomatoes).
- Turn the heat up to 230°C fan (if your oven will go up that far. I’d need to use another setting on mine FB). Line a large baking tray roughly 40 x 30cm in size with baking parchment.
- Put 40g of the butter into a medium saucepan over a medium high heat. Once melted, add the flour and cook, whisking continuously for 30 seconds or until it smells like popcorn. Slowly pour in 350ml of the milk, whisking continuously to avoid any lumps, then add the garlic, 1/2 tsp of salt and plenty of pepper, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often until quite thick and no longer floury-tasting. Set aside and cover with a piece of baking parchment to stop a skin forming.
- Meanwhile prepare the polenta by first putting the remaining 400ml of milk, 300ml of water, 20g of the butter, 1 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper into a medium sauté pan or saucepan over a medium high heat. Once it gently bubbles, turn the heat down to medium-low, slowly add the polenta, whisking continuously to incorporate and cook for 2 minutes to thicken. Add the pecorino and the remaining 20g of butter and stir with a spatula until incorporated. Quickly transfer to your prepared baking tray and spread out in a large oblong shape about 1cm thick and 38cm in length. Spoon over the bechamel and spread it so it covers the surface, leaving a 1 1/2 cm rim exposed around the edges. Top evenly with the feta and the oregano sprigs and bake for 22 minutes or until golden and bubbling on top and starting to brown round the edges. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes.
- Spoon about half the za’atar tomatoes on top of the baked polenta, serving the rest in a bowl alongside. Use a pizza cutter to easily cut into slabs and serve warm
What to drink: A light juicy Italian red like a young chianti or rosso di montalcino or a mencia, cinsault or pais.
Extracted from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Extra Good Things by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Nurad published by Ebury Press at £25, Photograph © Elena Heatherwick.
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