SERVES 4 – 6
Polenta is a bit of an obsession of my mine. I enjoy it for breakfast, adore it cut into wedges and fried, and think it makes a pretty epic substitute for mash. But this easy pizza crust might just pip everything else to the post when it comes to how best to consume this super-versatile ingredient. Basically a fancy vehicle for toppings, this crispy, crunchy, flavourful base brings a bit of unexpected wow factor to the table. Perfect for parties, it’s sure to make even the most low-key affair go off with a bang.
Base 700ml water 175g polenta 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil sea salt flakes and black pepper Pizza sauce 3 tablespoons passata (sieved tomatoes) 1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée 1 teaspoon oregano 1 garlic clove, minced 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 50ml water sea salt flakes and black pepper Toppings 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bitesized pieces 1 heaped teaspoon oregano 1 tablespoon olive oil 200g spinach 2 shallots, sliced 2 heaped tablespoons freshly chopped basil, plus extra to garnish 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional), plus extra to garnish sea salt flakes and black pepper ‘Cheesy’ sunflower seed sauce 70g sunflower seeds 1 small garlic clove, minced juice of 1/2 orange 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon maple syrup 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional) 125ml water
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan), Gas Mark 7. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. For the base, place the measured water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Generously salt the water, whisk in the polenta and cook over a medium heat, stirring vigorously, for 15–20 minutes, or until it thickens. Add the oil, season and continue to cook, stirring, until it becomes rubbery and pliable.
3. Tip the polenta mixture on to the prepared baking tray and spread it to the edges using a spatula. Transfer to the refrigerator and leave for 30 minutes to firm.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings. Put the squash, oregano and olive oil in a bowl and toss to coat. Season generously and roast for 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
5. Increase the heat to 240°C ( 220°C fan), Gas Mark 9 and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, then remove with a slotted spoon and squeeze out any excess liquid before mincing to a rough pulp. Season and set aside until needed.
6. To make the pizza sauce, add the passata, tomato purée, oregano, garlic, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and measured water to a bowl and whisk together to combine. Season and set aside.
7. Once firm, bake the pizza base for 20–25 minutes until the edges begin to crisp.
8. Spread the base with the pizza sauce and top with the sliced shallots, wilted spinach, basil, roasted squash, pumpkin seeds and the nutritional yeast, if using. Bake for a further 15–20 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and golden.
9. Meanwhile, place all the ‘cheesy’ sauce ingredients in a bowl and whizz together with a hand-held blender until completely smooth.
10. To serve, cut the pizza into squares, drizzle over the sauce and garnish with a little extra basil and/or nutritional yeast
More vegan recipes to cook, share and eat in Áine Carlin’s new book