- 8 thin pancetta rashers, halved
Pancetta is Italian cured pork belly - the equivalent of streaky bacon. It has a deep, strong,…
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little for the tin and for brushing
Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…
- 500ml vegetable stock made with 2 tsp bouillon powder
- 100g quick-cook polenta
An Italian storecupboard staple, polenta has its roots in the peasant cuisine of northern Italy…
- 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
Rosemary's intense, fragrant aroma has traditionally been paired with lamb, chicken and game…
- 25g parmesan (optional)
Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…
- 120g creamy but sharp blue cheese such as Saint Agur or gorgonzola
- 8 large medjool dates, pitted and cut in half lengthways
- handful baby spinach leaves (you’ll need 32 leaves)
- pomegranate molasses, to drizzle
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. On a baking tray, sandwich a single layer of pancetta rashers between two pieces of parchment, then weigh it down with a second tray (this will stop it wrinkling as it cooks). Bake for 10-15 mins until the fat is crisp and golden. Pat with kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat. The pancetta can be cooked a day ahead and chilled. Reheat before serving.
Oil a 20cm round tin. Boil the stock in a saucepan, then slowly stir in the polenta and simmer for 5 mins, whisking, until thick and smooth. Stir in 1 tbsp oil, the rosemary and parmesan, if using, and season. Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top, then set in the fridge for at least 1 hr in the fridge or until very firm.
When ready to eat, heat a griddle pan or non-stick frying pan until hot. Cut the set polenta into 16 wedges, brush with a little oil, then cook for 4 mins on each side or until golden and marked. Transfer to a serving plate or board. The polenta can be griddled a day ahead. Reheat it in a hot oven for a few minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, use a cutlery knife to push about 1 tsp cheese into the middle of each date half. Thread a cocktail stick through each stuffed date, then add a piece of pancetta, two spinach leaves and a wedge of hot polenta. To serve, drizzle with a little of the pomegranate molasses.
Get aheadYou could skip cooking the pancetta by buying smoked crispy bacon, then breaking it into shards.