Baby cos with polenta croutons and streaky bacon

Great summer dish: Baby cos with polenta croutons and streaky bacon.
Great summer dish: Baby cos with polenta croutons and streaky bacon. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Traditionally, polenta is a winter food, but it makes great summer eating as a rich base for simply cooked vegetables - or as here - to add some texture to a salad dish. You can prepare the polenta the day before serving if you like.


2 1/2 cups water plus 1 tbsp 

1 cup instant polenta

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan

2 tbsp butter

Sea salt and black pepper

2 baby cos lettuce, quartered

2 anchovies

1 tbsp capers

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp lemon juice

2/3 cup whole-egg mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

4 slices streaky bacon

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

 Shaved parmesan, to serve



1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to the boil in small saucepan over a high heat. Sprinkle the polenta into the water in a steady stream, whisking as you go. Return to the boil then reduce to a simmer and stir for five minutes until thick.

2. When polenta is cooked, remove from the heat. Stir through parmesan and butter and season to taste. Grease a 21x21-centimetre dish and spread polenta mixture into dish. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm and cold (you can do this a day ahead – cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight).

3. Wash the cos in cold water to remove any dirt near the base of the lettuce, then drain in a colander until needed.

4. For the dressing, blend anchovies, capers, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and one tablespoon of water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and blend until combined.

5. To make the croutons, heat the oil in a fry pan over a high heat. Cut the polenta into even squares, then cut into triangles and fry in two batches for five minutes, turning to cook on all sides until golden and crisp. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

6. Cook the bacon in a dry pan until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel, cut into strips.

7. Place the lettuce on a serving plate. Top each wedge with a spoonful of dressing then sprinkle over bacon, parsley and polenta croutons and finish with parmesan shavings. 

Tip: Any leftover polenta can be used as the base of a main course topped with fish or grilled meat.