If you have never tried polenta before, please allow me to inform you that it is THE BOMB. Compared to other carb-type stuff, it's pretty low calorie, it's as cheap as 'owt, it's a complex carbohydrate which is apparently a good thing (something something glycaemic index??) and it's gluten free.
It also needs very little adornment other than stock and garlic or herbs to flavour it. Intrigued? Good.
You can buy polenta from major supermarkets (definitely Sainsburys) and health food shops, either in its ground form or even as a ready-made block. Italfresco sell a ready-made version in Sainsburys which is all ready to be sliced and griddled, and costs 75p. Ground polenta is occasionally called fine cornmeal, but it amounts to the same thing. The main thing to check is the cooking time - some grades of polenta/cornmeal apparently take up to 45 minutes of stirring - no thanks. For this recipe, I used Suma's polenta (health food shop) which only needs stirring for one minute.
I've added cheese to the polenta here but it's dead easy to veganise - just omit the cheese and make sure your stock is vegan (for example, Marigold vegan bouillon).
This recipe only really has 2 main ingredients so, apart from beans on toast, it's one of the cheapest and easiest meals for two I can think of.
If after this you're in my club of Polenta Enthusiasts, try some different stuff - add different things to the polenta as it's cooking, eat it in its gloopy porridge-y form, use it as a hotpot topping, as a pizza base...
Anyway. I shall stop enthusing about cornmeal products because it's getting a bit sad. Have fun!
What you need
100g quick-cook polenta
2 cloves of garlic,crushed
a good vegetable stock
250g cherry tomatoes - a mix of colours is nice if you can get them
50g grated cheddar cheese (optional)
salt and pepper
What to do
Boil the kettle. Add a tiny drizzle of oil to a deep saucepan and add the crushed garlic - just heat it through to take the raw edge off, no need to brown it.
Add 500ml of the boiled water into the pan with the garlic and turn the heat up high to bring it back to the boil. Crumble in a vegetable stock cube, or if you've got 500ml of home-made vegetable stock hanging around then use that instead (if you're fancy like that).
When the pan has reached boiling point, pour in the polenta slowly in a thin stream, stirring all the while. It's easier if you pour the polenta from a jug.
Keep stirring for 1 minute (or however long the packet advises) - watch out because it will bubble like a crazy volcano, but that's normal. When the polenta has thickened, season it generously with salt, pepper and anything else you like (e.g. fresh or dried herbs if you have any knocking around) and add the cheese if using. Stir to combine, then pour into something with a wide, flat base like a roasting tin.
Leave it to cool a bit, then refrigerate it for about half an hour - it will solidify and you'll be able to slice it.
While the polenta is cooling, slice your cherry tomatoes in half and transfer to a roasting tin with a slug of olive oil. About 15 minutes in to the polenta-cooling time, put the tomatoes in the oven at 160 degrees. They need to be in for half an hour, so when the polenta comes out of the fridge you'll have another 15 minutes to slice and griddle it - tweak the timings as you like.
Bring the polenta out of the fridge when it's had its half an hour, and slice it into wedges. Brush a heavy griddle pan with a little bit of olive oil - if it's non-stick, this isn't always necessary - and put it over a high heat until it's outrageously hot.
Add the polenta slices and griddle for a few minutes on each side until they have nice char marks.
Serve the polenta slices with the roasted tomatoes, then scatter with a torn-up handful of fresh basil.