Bean Salad with Polenta and Asparagus

This is a delicious, zingy, fresh tasting summer dish that includes lovely seasonal asparagus.  Simple to make but unusual, colourful and impressive.  Serve it on the patio, in the garden or take it on a picnic with a chilled crisp white wine.

There are strong flavours in the dressing for the bean salad but this nicely offsets the blandness of the polenta and beans.  Make the polenta the day before so its sets or up to an hour before.  I used a vacuum pack called Tuscan bean mix (which included cannellini and borlotti beans and lentils) but you can use any canned beans

Bean Salad with Polenta and Asparagus

Ingredients for two

175g (6 ounces) of polenta express (pre-cooked maize meal)

175g (6 ounces) drained weight of canned beans, mixed or a single type

a bunch of asparagus (about 200g or 7 ounces)

a stick of celery

a quarter of a white onion (save the rest for salads)

half a teaspoon of mint sauce

a teaspoon of strong English mustard

a tablespoon of white wine vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 handfuls of salad leaves

lemon juice

chilli flakes (optional)

Method

For the polenta

Bring 600ml (20 and a 1/4 fluid ounces) of water to the boil
Add a teaspoon of salt
Using a wooden spoon stir in the polenta
Stir for five minutes and then scrape out onto a dish that fits in the fridge so that its about a half inch (1.27cm) thick.  Allow to cool and put in the fridge for an hour or more

For the bean salad

Finely chop the onion and celery and put in a large bowl.
Add the half teaspoon of mint sauce, the teaspoon of mustard, the tablespoon of white wine vinegar and two tablespoons of olive oil

Season with salt and plenty of pepper
Add the beans and stir until everything is coated

For the asparagus and polenta

Preheat a large frying pan to a medium heat and splash with olive oil

Cut the now set polenta into triangles (about 4 inches or 10cm depending on the size of your dish) and add to the frying pan, its takes a while to brown, 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
Break the woody ends of the asparagus and add the spears to the frying pan once the polenta is cooked on one side.

Cook the other side of the polenta along with the asparagus for a further 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve with a handful of seasonal salad leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of dried chillies (optional)

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