Main content

Wet Polenta, Sand Crab, Chilli, Garlic & Basil

This recipe is from Eating In by Philip Johnson.


  • extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes

  • 350g cooked sand (blue) crabmeat

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • 1 small handful of basil leaves, chopped

  • 1 red chilli, seeded and thinly sliced lengthways

  • Wet Polenta: (see Note below)

  • 1 litre (4 cups) milk

  • ½ onion

  • 3-4 thyme sprigs

  • 1 rosemary sprig

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 4 garlic cloves, cut in half

  • 130g polenta

  • 60g (2/3 cup) freshly grated Italian parmesan cheese

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 1.

    Put the milk, onion, herbs and garlic in a saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Put the polenta in a large, heavy-based saucepan, strain the infused milk into the polenta and whisk until combined.

  • 2.

    Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture returns to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes or until the polenta is cooked and has thickened – it should have a smooth consistency.

  • 3.

    Just before you are ready to serve, fold in the parmesan and butter and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. You can continue to keep warm over a double-boiler, until ready to use (see Note).

  • 4.

    Polenta can also be cooked over a double-boiler, covered with a lid or foil. You will need to cook it for 1-1½ hours, whisking occasionally. (See Note)

  • 5.

    Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and chilli flakes for 2-3 minutes until the garlic has softened. Add the crabmeat, stirring until it is warmed through. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat and quickly toss in the lemon juice to combine.

  • 6.

    To serve, place a spoonful of wet polenta in the centre of each plate and spoon some crabmeat neatly over the top. Scatter over the basil and red chilli, then finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of black pepper.


NOTE: Polenta is best served immediately, however, if you need to prepare in advance, cook the polenta as above, omitting the parmesan, butter, sea salt and black pepper. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate until needed. To reheat, put 125ml (½ cup) milk in a saucepan over medium heat and gradually whisk into the cold polenta. Heat through over medium heat, then stir in the parmesan cheese, butter and seasoning.

If you’re short on time, instant polenta will work just as well – follow the packet instructions.

» Metric Converter


Sign Out

Click to Rate

Join the Conversation

Please note, LifeStyle cannot respond to all comments posted in our comments feed. If you have a comment or query you would like LifeStyle to respond to, please use our feedback form.

0 0 0 0 0
Average Rating
0 comments • 0 ratings