During our stay in South Africa, earlier this year, we had the privilege of visiting The Cotton Club Café, an informal restaurant in the gardens of 24 Degrees South Country Estate, not far from Hoedspruit. The restaurant is run by Charlotte Hunt and provides a menu full of contemporary dishes, with lots of choice and not short of dishes for those of us with different food requirements. The salads were remarkable; mine arrived in an iceberg leave basket, piled high with a collection of tasty leaves, fruits and vegetables, topped with a variety of sprouting seeds, it was a fantastic meal. I was full of enthusiasm for the care and attention with which it had been created.
I have since received the gift of a book with a collection of recipes from the Lowveld area, one of which had been provided by The Cotton Club Cafe and having cooked it a few times now, I’ve adapted it, to suit my own tastes and more importantly to feed the family. It’s my homage to that lovely day we spent at the 24 Degrees South Country Estate.
Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Don’t be phased by the list below, it’s actually very easy, it just needs a little planning ahead of time. If the polenta is cold it’s much easier to slice in half. But you can however, use two tins the same size to create the two pieces of polenta.
I love this dish, it always seems so gloriously decadent.
For the polenta sandwich pieces
- 375g Polenta
- 1.5 Litres of vegetable stock. (I tend to use reduced salt marigold stock and for this recipe only add 2 heaped tsp.)
- 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
- 1 Grated clove of garlic
- 1tsp mixed herbs
- 75g butter
- 50g parmesan
- Seasoning (I like to use Cornish Sea salt and the flavoured varieties such as the smoked add a little extra flavouring)
- Use a brownie tin to set the cooked Polenta or a 12 x 9 inch/ 30 x 22 cm traybake tin
Heat the olive oil in a fairly, large pan, it helps to have plenty of room and add the grated garlic and cook gently, without browning, then let cool before adding the hot stock and the herbs to the pan.
On a mid to low heat, in a steady stream, continuously stirring, add the polenta grains and stir until the mixture comes to the boil. Turning the heat down further, continue stirring for roughly 8 minutes on a lower heat until cooked and looks less grainy, almost smooth in texture. Add the butter, parmesan and seasoning and stir until fully incorporated.
Using a tray bake tin or brownie tin, the latter will just make the sandwich deeper, line with parchment and fill with the polenta, smooth the top and allow to cool completely, it helps to do this part the day before and fridge it overnight.
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce
- olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp. of chopped Rosemary
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- A handful of basil leaves to finish
- Pinch of sugar
Method for the Tomato Sauce
Heat olive oil and add the chopped onion, cook gently until translucent, adding a little water if starting to burn. Add the garlic and cook for a few moments before adding the rosemary, cooking again for a further minute, before adding the tins of tomatoes, with the sugar and a pinch of seasalt.
Cook for 20-30 minutes allowing the sauce to slowly cook and develop its strong tomato flavour. Add a little water if it starts to become too thick. Once cooked tear some basil leaves and add seasoning to taste.
Set to one side and allow to cool
Ingredients for the final dish
Heat the oven to 180 degrees C
- 250g Ricotta Cheese
- 200g Gorgonzola Cheese
- 100g grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp chopped Rosemary
Turn out the Polenta and carefully slice through to create two parts. Think of two slices of bread, in effect you are now going to a sandwich.
Using a rectangular oven proof dish, spoon half the tomato mixture over the bottom and cover with one half of the polenta.
Season and scatter over with the Gorgonzola cheese, dot with ricotta and sprinkle with half the grated Parmesan and half of the chopped rosemary.
Top with the remaining Polenta, pour over the rest of the tomato sauce and remaining Parmesan. Season and sprinkle with rosemary. Cook for 30 minutes and rest for 10 mins before serving. Serve with a salad.
Note I’ve tried this with other blue cheeses and the flavour isn’t the same, gorgonzola and polenta, both Italian, are just a marriage made in mouth-watering heaven! Make sure the tomato sauce is cooked sufficiently if it’s overly watery it’ll only serve to create sloppy polenta.