Last week I headed down to Wales. Abergavenny to be precise. I was invited down by Collier's (Powerful Welsh Cheddar) and Chef Stephen Terry at The Hardwick.
I've got lots to share but I'll start with a a little bit about Colliers and this recipe for cheesey polenta, which was absolutely amazing.
I'm ashamed as a vegetarian to say I've never cooked polenta before. I do have it sitting in my kitchen in a tub, but I only use it to sit my freshly made pizza bases on before they're popped into the oven to bake. A shameful under-use of this wonderful grain.
Stephen made us polenta fingers with lots of Collier's cheddar and wilted cavolo nero. He served these tasty crisp bites on a bed of grilled lettuce with a drizzle of salsa verde and some sauteed oyster mushrooms. It was heavenly and I was instantly converted. I couldn't believe how easy it was either.
Collier's Powerful Welsh Cheddar has been a favourite in our house for many years. It was the only cheddar on our shopping list for years before it disappeared from the shelves of our local supermarket. I'm pleased to say it's back again and there are now snack packs with individual fingers which are great to tide you over if you're feeling hungry and it's no where near lunch or dinner.
The cheddar stands out on the supermarket shelves with it's striking black packaging and the iconic image of the miner which is in tribute to founder Chris Swire's mining heritage. Miners would often take cheddar sandwiches and apples down the mine for their lunch, but it had to have a kick so they could actually taste it through all that coal dust.
While we were in Abergavenny we visited the Big Pit in Blaenafon. The mine is now a World Heritage Site with an excellent simulation you can walk round. You can also wander around the medical areas, lockers and wash rooms, as well as a trip down into the mine itself in the miners lift.
The conditions were grim but the miners were a proud people. Kevin (The Crafty Larder) and I stopped at in indoor market in Abergavenny and heard an elderly gent picking up a miners lamp and talking about wearing it and his time in the mine with such pride.
So now you know a bit more about Colliers lets cook with some of their flavourful cheddar. Stephen served the polenta garnished with watercress, tardivo/radicchio/treviso, gem lettuce and friseline which he grilled, but I'll leave you to decide which leaves you use.
Collier’s Cheddar Polenta
A simple recipe for crisp cheesey polenta fingers from Chef Stephen Terry.
- 650 ml water
- 200g instant polenta
- 200g grated Collier's Cheddar
- 50g well-cooked cavolo nero, finely chopped
- 50g braised outer puntarelle leaf (or other bitter leaves) finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic peeled & finely chopped
- 1 small mild red chilli, finely chopped
- a small plate of flour for dusting the set polenta
- 2 tbsp salsa verde
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 150g oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 small clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 small bunch flat leaved parsley, chopped
1. Place the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. 2. Add in the polenta, remove from the heat and stir until smooth. 3. Return to a low heat. Add the cavolo nero, puntarelle leaf, garlic & chilli 4. Cook for 5 mins, add the cheddar and cook for a further 5 mins. Add a little crushed sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. 5. Pour the polenta into a small tray lined with cling film. Spread out evenly, cover with another sheet of cling film and place in the fridge to cool and set. This will take approximately 3 hours.6. When the polenta has set, remove from the tray and cut into 6 equal portions. 7. Place a heavy frying pan or wok on a high heat and heat the oven to 160°C/140c fan/325f/gas mark 3.8. Lightly coat the set polenta in flour, gently pat off any excess and deep fry until lightly golden brown. Place on a tray and pop into the oven for 8-10 mins. 9. In a separate medium sized frying pan, heat a little oil and put in the sliced oyster mushrooms. Cook for two mins then add the shallot, garlic & parsley. Cook for approximately 5 mins and season with a little salt.10. Cut each polenta ‘cake’ into 3 with a sharp serrated knife and place your choice of grilled salad leaves, then share the oyster mushrooms between the plates. Drizzle with salsa verde and serve.11. Enjoy!
(plus 3 hours chilling)
Yield: Serves 6
Disclosure: Collier's invited me down to Wales and paid for my travel and hotel stay. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.