• 850g squash, peeled
  • 5 medium beetroot, peeled using rubber gloves
  • 12 shallots, soaked in hot water for 5 mins, then peeled and halved
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, bashed flat
  • 2 thyme and rosemary sprigs, plus 2 bay leaves, all scrunched with your hands to release their scent
  • a little butter, for browning
  • 2 tbsp sesame seed, toasted

For the spinach and polenta

For the dressing


  • STEP 1

    For the spinach, boil a kettle and put half the spinach into a colander. Pour over the hot water until it wilts, then cool completely under cold water. Tip into a clean tea towel, then wring out every last drop of water you can. Repeat with the other half.

  • STEP 2

    For the polenta, bring the stock to the boil in a large pan, then stir in the polenta in a fine, steady stream, so to avoid any lumps. Keep cooking for 5 mins, stirring all the time, until thick. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, half of the spinach, the nutmeg and plenty of seasoning, then leave to cool for a few mins.

  • STEP 3

    Meanwhile, slice each cheese into three rounds. Tear off six pieces of cling film, about 30cm across, then, while the polenta is still soft, spoon a sixth onto each square. Nestle the slices of cheese on top, then draw the edges of the cling film around and twist, to make burgershaped polenta cakes with the cheese completely sealed in the middle. Cool and chill for up to 2 days.

  • STEP 4

    Cut the squash and beetroot veg into finger-tip-wide chunks. Keeping the beetroot separate, put the squash, shallots, 2 tbsp extra virgin oil and half of the garlic and herbs into a large bowl, then rub well and leave to marinate for 1 hr. Do the same with the beetroot, remaining herbs and garlic and 1 tbsp oil.

  • STEP 5

    Heat a small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan, then fry the beetroot, herbs and garlic, for 10 mins on a medium heat, stirring often till starting to colour. Tip into one end of a large roasting tin. Wipe out pan, then repeat with the squash and shallots in a little more butter, browning one-third at a time for 5 mins, until tinged golden. Tip into the other end of the tin. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Transfer the roasting tin to the oven and roast for 40 mins. The veg can be cooled to room temperature at this stage, then covered for up to 24 hrs and crisped up in a hot oven for 15 mins on the day.

  • STEP 6

    After 40 mins scatter the sesame seeds over the roasted veg, then tip the veg into a large bowl and keep warm. With the roasting tin over a low heat, splash in the Madeira, bubble it down to 2 tbsp, then stir in the honey, balsamic, soy sauce and a little butter. Simmer until just starting to make a syrupy sauce, then stir in the olive oils. Can be made ahead and re-heated.

  • STEP 7

    Fifteen mins before serving, heat a little oil and remaining butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Once sizzling, add the polenta cakes and fry on both sides for 5 mins until golden. Fry in 2 batches and keep warm. Re-heat the remaining spinach in a pan for a few secs, with a grating more nutmeg and a good pinch of seasoning.

  • STEP 8

    Sit the polenta cakes on warmed plates, and top with some spinach. Stir parsley into the dressing. Toss the roasted veg with a few tsp, then pile the veg on top of the polenta. Drizzle a little more dressing over and around, then serve.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, January 2010

Goes well with


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