In this versatile, colourful and substantial version of an Italian favourite, the creamy grains are given the extra flavours of cheese and olives, along with your choice of herbs and crushed peppercorns.
1 1/3 cups (200g) instant polenta
a small bunch of sage, oregano, basil or parsley
200g Provolone or Gruyère cheese
2 teaspoons black or mixed peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
8–10 pitted black olives
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Put the polenta into a saucepan with 3 1/2 cups water. Place over high heat, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently with a large wooden spoon or paddle to remove any lumps.
Meanwhile, strip the leaves from the sage, oregano, basil or parsley, and chop finely. Grate or dice the cheese and crush the peppercorns. Finely chop the black olives.
When the polenta becomes thick and starts to stiffen, stir in the herb, grated cheese, peppercorns, salt and the olives. Beat vigorously until the cheese is incorporated and the mixture begins to leave the sides of the saucepan when stirred.
Serve immediately, or leave to stand for 5–10 minutes to stiffen further. It will remain hot.
While the polenta is standing, make a green leaf salad or steam vegetables such as snow peas or fennel, to serve alongside.