Polenta with cavalo nero, bacon and hazelnuts

This recipe featured in the October edition of Hampshire Life magazine with wine matches from Berry Bros & Rudd.

I used to think that polenta was bland and uninteresting until I discovered the trick of using stock instead of water.

As with any recipe where stock is a major player in the flavour department, the quality makes a huge difference to the finished dish, so choose wisely. Polenta deserves to be more widely known in the UK as a comfort food classic – try it with your favourite cheese crumbled or grated on top for an indulgent treat. This is my favourite combination though: salty bacon, crunchy hazelnuts and the deep earthy flavour of cavolo nero. As part of the kale family, it will be in season all the way through autumn and winter, so this is a great dish to keep returning to as the evenings grow colder.

Serves 2

  • 200 g cavolo nero
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
  • 2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 125 g fine or quick-cook polenta
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 40 g butter, cubed
  • 20 g roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • Old Winchester cheese, finely grated to taste
  1. Remove the tough stems from the cavolo nero and roughly chop the leaves. Wash and spin the leaves with a salad spinner – a bit of residual dampness is helpful for the braising stage.
  2. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and fry the bacon for 4 minutes or until it’s starting to colour, then add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the cavolo nero and toss well, then cover the pan and cook over the lowest heat for about 12 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  3. While the cavolo is cooking, heat the stock until boiling, then use a whisk to stir as you pour in the polenta. Continue to stir for 5 minutes, then add the double cream and butter and stir until it starts to bubble again.
  4. Divide the polenta between two warm bowls and top with the cavolo nero. Sprinkle over the hazelnuts, then add a generous grating of Old Winchester cheese.

Local producers:

Cavolo nero – T&V Vegetable Gardens

Goldalming, 07523 644245

find them at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets

Bacon, butter and cream – H G Witt & Son

Fordingbridge, 07714 768974

find them at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets

Old Winchester – Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Landford, 01794 399982


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