Go meatless with this delicious veggie lunch
Eating a diet that is mostly plant-based is becoming increasingly common; reducing the amount of meat and increasing the amount of vegetables we eat are thought to lead to many positive health and environmental benefits. If you’re interested in experimenting with a more plant-based diet, you could try a meat-free day once a week or simply incorporate a few more meatless meals throughout the week.
If you’re looking for a veggie lunch idea, this delicious combination of rosemary roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, with creamy, cheesy polenta is definitely one to consider. Like other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower is full of vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy diet, particularly vitamin C and vitamin K. It’s filling, high in fiber and can be a great alternative to grains. Combined with sweet potato, onion and garlic, this dish is a plant-based powerhouse.
How to prepare polenta
Polenta is an Italian dish made from cornmeal. Cooked well, polenta can be a tasty, gluten-free alternative to mashed potatoes, cous cous, or rice. It doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor itself, which makes it a good base for other dishes. However, if not seasoned well, it can be somewhat bland, so make sure you add plenty of salt and pepper. You can also experiment with different flavorings such as herbs and cheese.
Making polenta can be tricky but shouldn’t be intimidating. If left unattended, it can quickly become a lumpy mess that sticks to the pan like concrete. But prepared with a little care and attention, polenta can be a delicious and comforting side dish or even a meal on its own. The secret is to use enough liquid (at least 4:1 or even 5:1 ratio of liquid to cornmeal) and stir continuously until it has achieved the desired consistency. While we’ve used water in this recipe, you can use milk or stock if you prefer. These will give the polenta a richer flavor, but if you want a neutral base to allow other flavors in the dish to shine through, go with water.
Instant polenta (pre-cooked cornmeal) is perfectly acceptable and is ready in less than a minute. Traditional polenta can take between 30-45 minutes to cook, depending on the coarseness of the grain and whether you’re looking for a softer, oatmeal-like consistency or something sturdier. Polenta tends to bubble and spit quite ferociously so is perhaps not one for young children to help with.
While this easy recipe is perfect for a quick lunch, for a more substantial dinner you might want to treat it like a side dish as a complement for grilled meat or a rich tomato ragu.
Roasted Cauliflower and Cheesy Polenta (serves 2)
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into bitesize pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bitesize chunks
Half a large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
2/3 cup cornmeal or ‘instant’ polenta
1/2 cup grated cheddar
Seasoning to taste
- Steam the cauliflower and sweet potato for around 15 minutes. At the same time, preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Add the cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and garlic into a large roasting tin and drizzle with oil. Add the rosemary and season well.
- Put the tin on the middle shelf in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.
- To make the polenta, bring a pan of 2 and 2/3 cups water to the boil.
- Add the cornmeal and stir continuously until cooked [see recipe notes].
- Stir in the grated cheddar and season well.
- Serve immediately.
- You can roast the vegetables without steaming first, but it may take a bit longer. Steaming is suggested here simply to save time.
- Polenta tends to bubble ‘explosively’ when cooking so be careful! If you are using cornmeal, soft polenta will be ready in around 30 minutes. For instant polenta, follow the instructions on the packet, but this is likely to be ready in 1 minute. You will need to adjust the timings in the recipe accordingly.
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