It’s not often I give in to ready-meals but sometimes it’s inevitable when I’m working long days and The Man comes home to a ravenous toddler. I usually try to prepare something in advance but when time’s against me, Annabel Karmel’s chilled toddler meals have been invaluable, knowing that despite not being made by my own fair hands, they’re packed full of fresh veg (3 of your 5 a day) and totally nutritious – the next best thing to homemade.
As the country’s leading children’s food writer, Annabel Karmel definitely knows a thing or two about feeding fussy toddlers, so today I’m taking inspiration from her Tomato & Mascarpone Pasta with Hidden Veggies. Annabel Karmel’s ‘hidden vegetable’ pasta sauce is almost legendary amongst parents – I know so many people who have fallen back on her recipe for sneaking vegetables into their unsuspecting offspring’s innocuous looking pasta with tomato sauce!
However, tonight I’m using the sauce in another one of her pizza recipes – one thing Mathilde has really been missing recently. Alongside the sauce having the benefit of hidden vegetables in it, the base is also superior, not only for being homemade but also using polenta and therefore making it gluten-free too.
Ingredients for Mini Polenta Pizzas:
- 750ml veg stock
- 190g instant polenta
- 60g freshly grated (vegetarian) Parmesan
- 1 x large shallot
- Half a small leek, thinly chopped
- 1 x small carrot, peeled and grated
- Quarter of a courgette, grated
- 1 x tbsp olive oil
- 1 x small garlic clove, crushed
- 2 x tbsp tomato purée
- 1 x tbsp sundried tomato purée (I used 1 x sundried tomato instead)
- 2 x tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- Half tsp caster sugar (optional)
- 60g cheddar or mozzarella cheese, grated
- Toppings of your choice
To make the polenta base, bring the vegetable stock to the boil then whisk in the polenta. Keep stirring and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. Stir in the grated parmesan then tip into a lined or lightly oiled baking tray. Spread evenly to the thickness of a pound coin and leave to cool and set for approx. an hour.
Prepare the sauce by cooking the vegetables in olive oil for 8-10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for 1 minute, then transfer to a blender with the tomatoes, purees, ketchup and sugar. Blend until smooth and return to the pan. bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Leave to cool slightly.
When the polenta is set, either cut into circles or use cutters to make shapes (I cut mine into rectangular slices). Spread the sauce onto the slices and sprinkle with oregano. Top with the cheese and any other toppings. Place on a lined or lightly oiled baking tray and bake at 200C for 13-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
These pizzas can also be assembled and frozen (add 2-3 minutes cooking time), as can any surplus sauce for use with both pasta and pizzas.
I’ve been looking for an ideal use for polenta for some time. I used to cook it with vegetables in a tomato sauce when the children were in the early stages of weaning but apart from polenta fries haven’t really found a recipe that appealed since. Polenta is great for providing energy in the form of carbohydrate and also protein and minerals such as iron and potassium. Unfortunately Mathilde wasn’t that easily fooled by the base but she did scrape off and eat all of the sauce and it’s undetected hidden vegetables – well done Annabel!