Mushroom, mascarpone and polenta bake

Polenta – basically cooked dough made from ground maize — was originally a peasant food. Now it regularly appears on the menus of chic restaurants. It’s funny stuff. It can be stodgy if it isn’t cooked properly, but well handled, as in this cheesy bake, it’s delightful. Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook


150g uncooked polenta, or 600g cooked polenta
2 bay leaves
1 white onion (200g), sliced in rings
100g butter
300g mushrooms (mixed or one type only)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary leaves
250g mascarpone
250g organic milk
A good pinch of grated nutmeg
200g vegetarian Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Follow the cooking instructions on the packet for the uncooked polenta, using half water, half milk if desired, and adding salt and the bay leaves for extra flavour. Bring the liquid to the boil in a large saucepan, then whisk in the polenta. Keep stirring until all the polenta is incorporated, keeping it over a low heat for 40–45 minutes. Pour into a metal tray or glass dish and allow to cool and set. This will take 1–1 1/2 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Fry the onion rings with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper in half the butter until soft.

3. In another frying pan, fry the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary in the rest of the butter over a high heat, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Meanwhile, mix the mascarpone and milk together with the nutmeg.

4. Cut the polenta into 0.5cm slices. Grease a medium ovenproof dish. Lay half the polenta slices in the base, scatter over the fried onions followed by the mushrooms, sprinkle with pepper and add half of the vegetarian Parmesan in a layer. Pour over half the mascarpone sauce and arrange the remaining polenta slices on top. Finish with the remaining sauce and top with the remaining Parmesan. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and browned.