The polenta is spread onto a large board with a mound of stew in the middle. People sit around the table, armed with forks, and tuck in – it’s a really sociable meal.
For the stew
100ml/3½fl oz olive oil
4 celery stalks, very finely diced
2 large carrots, very finely diced
1 tbsp garlic infused oil
2.25kg/5lb mixed meat such as pork, lamb, rabbit or wild boar,
chopped into small pieces
200ml/7fl oz red wine
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 sage leaves
1 tbsp rosemary needles
2 bay leaves
1.5kg/3lb 5oz chopped tomatoes, or chunky passata
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the polenta
4 tsp salt
600g/1lb 5oz quick-cook polenta
100g/3½oz parmesan, freshly grated
100g/3½oz unsalted butter/ dairy free alternative
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the vegetables for 6-7 minutes, or until softened.
Add the pieces of meat and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until browned on all sides.
Pour in the wine, bring to the boil, then lower the heat until the mixture is simmering.
Add the juniper berries, peppercorns, sage, rosemary, bay and chopped tomatoes and cook for 5-6 minutes, then add the nutmeg and the tomato purée.
Continue to cook, uncovered, for a further hour, or until the meat is tender. Season, to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Meanwhile for the polenta, cook the salt and polenta in 3 litres/5¼ pints boiling water, stirring continuously for 5-6 minutes (take care as the mixture may bubble and spit).
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter/ dairy free alternative. Keep warm.
To serve, spread the polenta on to a large, clean board, making a well in the middle, then pour the stew into the middle.