Courgette, Anchovy, Pecorino and Basil Salad

On Crispy Sesame Polenta

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By Peter Gordon

Published 2005

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This salad also makes a great ravioli filling and goes well with grilled mackerel, salmon or tuna as a salsa to accompany a main course. Versatile stuff! If you can’t find Pecorino Sardo (aged firm Pecorino), use Parmesan or some other firm tasty cheese.

For the polenta, I would use the instant type rather than the traditional ‘cook-for-45-minutes-while-stirring’ variety that I used to use when I started my apprenticeship 23 years ago! It is hard to make the exact amount of polenta for just 12 canapés – this quantity will make more than you need, but you could always use the rest grilled and topped with a tomato and basil salad as a starter for your next dinner party! Or just make more topping and eat it all up.


  • 320 ml water or vegetable stock
  • salt
  • 80 g polenta grains, sieved
  • 25 g butter, at room temperature, or tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (I used a mixture of brown and black seeds)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 salted anchovies, or 4 drained anchovy fillets in oil, roughly chopped
  • 1 large courgette, cut into 1cm dice
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 80 g Pecorino Sardo, coarsely grated
  • handful of basil leaves, torn or shredded


Line a shallow baking tray about 20 cm square with non-stick baking parchment. Bring the water or vegetable stock to the boil with some salt and reduce the heat to produce a rapid simmer. Whisk in the polenta in a continuous stream, then change your whisk for a spoon and cook for 1 minute, stirring all the time. Add the butter and sesame seeds and continue to cook until the butter is absorbed. Turn the polenta out on the tray and, using a palette knife, spread it out to an even thickness of about 7 mm. Leave to cool completely, then cut into whatever shapes you like, either with a knife or a cookie cutter.

Preheat a warm oven. Heat 3 cm of oil in a pan and fry the polenta shapes in batches, until golden and crisp on both sides, then place in the warm oven to keep hot.

Place the olive oil in a moderately hot pan and cook the anchovies, mashing them with the back of a spoon as they cook, until they are almost dissolved. Add the diced courgette and continue to cook and stir until they have just begun to soften. Add the lemon zest and juice, and cook for another minute. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little, then mix in the spring onion, cheese and basil.

Divide the mixture between the polenta shapes and serve while still warm.