Sweetcorn salsa with polenta triangles

Fresh, seasonal vegetables are definitely the best – for flavour as well as nutrients. Wednesday is always an exciting day for me as it’s the day my organic veg box arrives on the doorstep (sad, but true!!). Unless I have a stock pile of one particular vegetable, I never check to see what’s coming so it’s always a little surprise to see what gorgeous goodies are going to be on the menu for the next week.

This year, the sweetcorn has been amazing – swollen, juicy sweet cobs so packed full of flavour that just boiling and eating straight off the cob with a sprinkling of black pepper is usually all that’s required. But at the weekend, I decided to zing it up a bit, and went for this fabulous sweetcorn salsa.

Since my son has stopped eating wheat (to help deal with his terrible eczema), I have been experimenting with wheat free options. Whilst wheat free bread is readily available in the supermarkets, I’m not convinced about relying on it as a major food replacement due to the horrendously long list of ingredients on the packet, as well as the horribly expensive price tag! Polenta, or cornmeal, is a pretty new to me. Whilst in India, I went to a number of different cooking demonstrations, including some at our local Italian restaurant, Toscano’s; Italian in India may seem a little odd, but they serve up gorgeous food, some of it with an Indian twist (spicy!). One of the dishes was polenta triangle covered with bread crumbs and then deep-fried. Unfortunately, the breadcrumb covering meant I couldn’t try the complete dish (yeast!), but apparently it was gorgeous, with the crispy crumbs complementing soft, creamy polenta inside.  For lunch, they served me just the polenta triangles lightly pan fried, and I was surprised to find they still tasted delicious and had a good texture.

I’ve been meaning to try this for myself ever since, and I finally got around to it at the weekend. Polenta as a basic food stuff is pretty good for you, although being dried and ground it probably isn’t a whole food product. It’s cornmeal, so seemed to go well with the sweetcorn salsa.

The rich yellow colour of corn means it’s carrying great amounts of beta-carotene and caroteninoids as well as a good dollop of vitamin C, B6, iron and magnesium. It has a reasonable amount of fibre and apparently it can help support the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines, which is great news. In the States, a lot of corn is GM, so check where it’s from, or buy organic.

Polenta dishes can be transformed from relatively healthy to high fat junk – it’s what you add to it that makes all the difference. It does take about 20 minutes to make and then a couple of hours to set, so if you haven’t got time, you can buy ready made in packs, but there’s added preservatives and salt, so beware! I wanted to keep mine simple, so I just added vegetable stock (yeast free of course) and some dried herbs; this give a lovely, subtle flavour.

This dish is a fabulous light lunch or a great plant based, dairy free, wheat free starter that is packed with both taste and nutrients – give it a go and see what you think.

Polenta triangles
1 cup polenta
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tspoon dried herbs (I used oregano and parsley)
Bring the vegetable stock and herbs to the boil in a large pan then slowly pour in the polenta, whisking all the time. Cook, stirring continuously, until all the stock is absorbed and the mixture becomes really thick and creamy (about 20 minutes or so). Line a medium sized baking tray with greaseproof paper and pour in the mixture, spreading it out to the edges. Place in the fridge to set – 1-2 hours.
Once set, take the polenta out of the tin with the greaseproof paper and cut into squares, then triangles. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large frying pan and toast both sides for a few minutes until slightly coloured.

Sweetcorn salsa
2 sweetcorn cobs, husk removed or 200g frozen sweetcorn
kernels defrosted
2 avocados, diced
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1-2 red chillis, deseeded and chopped
large handful coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbspoons lime juice
salt to taste

If you are using sweetcorn cobs, place a griddle pan on a medium heat and toast the sweetcorn on the cob until slightly browned. Make sure you turn it regularly.

Leave until cool enough to handle, then cut off the cobs with a sharp knife. If using frozen sweetcorn, ensure it’s fully defrosted.

Prepare the tomatoes, avocado, chilli and coriander leaves and put in a bowl with the sweetcorn. Once your polenta triangles are ready, add the lime juice and salt, and serve. Enjoy!

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