Polenta with mushrooms and herbs is another recipe aimed at elevating the Namibian staple, “pap”. One can use white maize flour if that is all that’s available, and any mushrooms will do, even tinned ones if you are on a camping trip chasing the next big sunset. If it is omajova season and you happen to find some, then they have to be your first choice. Finding good quality fresh herbs is no longer a problem. Most supermarkets stock fresh herbs produced by Namibian growers, so there is no excuse not to try this.
Polenta with Mushrooms and HerbsCourse: Sides, LunchCuisine: NamibianDifficulty: Easy
Although pap (maize porride) is a staple in parts of Namibia, it can be a very bland affair. By substituting the normal white maize meal for yellow ‘polenta’ the dish gets more flavour and a courser texture. The addition of mushrooms and cheese is what makes this a very special way to prepare pap.
350 grams mixed mushrooms, very large ones halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon truffle oil
500 millilitres vegetable stock
80 grams polenta (instant or traditional)
80 grams hard cheese such as parmesan, grated
30 grams butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
100 grams brie cheese (rind removed), cut into 1cm slices
salt and black pepper
- Heat up half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Once hot, add half the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, or until just cooked; try not to move them much so you get golden-brown patches on their surface. Remove from the pan, and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms and oil. Take the pan off the heat, return all the mushrooms to the pan and add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, truffle oil and some salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- Bring the stock to the boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The polenta is ready when it leaves the sides of the pan but is still runny. If you are using instant polenta this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; with traditional polenta it could take up to 50 minutes (if it starts to dry out, add some more stock or water but just enough to keep it at a thick porridge consistency).
- Preheat your oven’s grill to high. When the polenta is ready, stir in the Parmesan, butter, rosemary and half the chervil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta over a heatproof dish and top with the Brie. Place under the grill until the cheese bubbles. Remove, top with the mushrooms and their juices, and return to the grill for a minute to warm up. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining chervil.