Make Eleanor Maidment’s courgette and pecorino polenta cakes with vine-roasted tomatoes

This Californian-inspired recipe is healthy, simple and perfect for making in advance and freezing for a quick 30-minute meal

Make Eleanor Maidment's courgette and pecorino polenta cakes with vine-roasted tomatoes and dry-cured ham

Serves 2-3

Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 30 Minutes


  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 courgette (about 200g), thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 500ml water
  • 125g quick-cook polenta
  • 50g grated pecorino, plus extra shavings to serve
  • 250g cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 slices of parma ham (or any other dry-cured ham)
  • 3 handfuls of rocket leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and when foaming, add the courgette and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and fry, stirring regularly, for about 15 minutes until the courgette slices have collapsed and turned golden. Splash in a little lemon juice and set aside off the heat.
  2. Bring the water to the boil with a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Stir the water with a wooden spoon and pour in the polenta. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir continuously (take care as it can bubble up and splutter) for 4-5 minutes until there are no lumps and it’s almost too thick to carry on stirring.
  3. Tip into the pan with the courgette, add the pecorino, season with black pepper and stir until completely combined and the cheese has melted. Spread out in the pan with the spoon and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes, or until you can comfortably handle it with your hands.
  4. Divide the polenta into 6 portions (about 100g each) and shape into cakes about 2cm thick. Set on a plate and leave to cool completely (or chill for up to 48 hours).
  5. Preheat a fan oven to 180˚C and line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
  6. Lightly brush the polenta cakes all over with 1 tbsp of the oil and arrange on half of the lined tray, then roast for 10 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven.
  7. Arrange the tomatoes and thyme around the polenta cakes, drizzle with the remaining tbsp of oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for a final 10 minutes – the tomatoes should just be collapsing and the cakes just golden.
  8. Serve 2-3 cakes per person with the ham, tomatoes and rocket, spooning over any extra juices from the tomatoes, and shaving over a little more cheese.

From California: Living + Eating by Eleanor Maidment; photography by Nassima Rothacker. Published by Hardie Grant .