I have to admit I have sought and found inspiration for this in the wonderful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madisson. There is no book approximating this for me in the UK. Some people will surely shout about Ottolenghi here, but, honestly, he’s not even in the same Ball-Park. He also liked a post on Twitter the other day about someone having such a great lunch of Goose-Liver Pate on Toast. Basically Fois-Gras and, though it wasn’t actually him who ate it; he’s pretty much in the doghouse with me right now.
I mean, how can the foremost columnist on Vegetarian Food in this country actually eat like this? Please vote for me to have his job. I would be more entertaining as well as posting recipes that constitute proper rounded meals without copious butter and cream. I could go on; but I think I’ll just cut straight to the recipe for now.
One thing to note, is that I have recently started to cook things like polenta (or masa harina as another example) in a double boiler. Less stirring for a creamier result. If like me, you don’t actually have a double boiler, just set one saucepan inside a smaller one and fill the larger pan up so it covers the smaller pan half way up the sides with water. Place the larger lid over the pan and, hey-presto, a rough an ready version.
Polenta Gratin (serves 4)
For the polenta
1 ½ cups polenta
4 cups water
2 cups non-dairy milk
1 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt
¼ cup vegan-butter
For the spinach and tofu
1 tbs olive oil
2 sticks celery (chopped finely)
1 bunch spinach
½ block of tofu (roughly 1/2 LB or 225g)
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage
1 tsp savory
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
for the tomato sauce
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can whole tomatoes (blend them yourself. Pre-chopped aren’t as fresh)
2 cups water
1tsp oregano, thyme, basil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
- To make the polenta whisk all the ingredients together apart from the butter in the small pan. Now heat the water in the large pan and when it comes to the boil, turn to a high-simmer and place the small pan inside. Keep whisking for a few minutes until the polenta starts thickening to ensure it is mixed well and nice and smooth and lump-free. Now, cover the pans and leave to simmer for 35 minutes, removing small pan regularly to stir thoroughly, before placing back inside your double boiler.
- To make the tofu-spinach layer, place another pan of water on the stove. Roughly, chop the spinach and add to the pan. After a few minutes, drain and refresh the spinach under cold water. Then, squeezing all the water out of it, chop roughly and place in a mixing bowl.
- Next, placing a small frying pan on the stove, sauté the celery in the oil. When it starts o soften, add the herbs and stir for another minute. Tip into the mixing bowl, then crumble in your tofu an mix well. At this point if you want a slightly creamier element to the dish, mix in some vegan-cream or home-made cashew cream (just soak some cashew in water for a few hours, drain and blend with a little non-dairy milk until smooth).
- In the meantime, make your tomato sauce by heating the olive oil in a small pan until warm and then stirring in the tomato puree to cop for a couple of minutes.
- Now add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce and turn to a low-simmer, partially covered, for an hour until quite thick, stirring regularly.
- To assemble the dish pre-heat your oven to 35 degrees and grease a medium size baking tray. Place a small layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish followed by half the polenta in a smooth layer. Now add another layer of tomato-sauce, followed by an even layer of the spinach-tofu mixture, Finish with a final layer of polenta and then tomato sauce on top and cover with tin-foil.
- Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes until hot and bubbling. Serve warm with a crusty bread if desired, but really this is a meal in itself.