“This is my take on the classic Shrimp and Grits that hail from the Southern states of America,” says Gizzi Erskine. “Deeply satisfying and savoury, while quick to whip up, this prawn dish is the perfect accompaniment to my luxurious polenta recipe. The main difference between grits and polenta is that Americans traditionally use white cornmeal, as opposed to the sunnier yellow Italian cornmeal.

“The combination of the sweetness of the prawns and the saltiness of the bacon works perfectly against the mellowness of the polenta. I recommend not being overly cautious with the cayenne or lemon juice, as this really helps to cut through the richness of the dish.”

Gizzi Erskine's cheesy polenta and dirty prawns (Issy Croker/PA)
(Issy Croker/PA)
Gizzi Erskine's cheesy polenta and dirty prawns (Issy Croker/PA)
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Nutrition Facts
Cheesy polenta and dirty prawns
Amount Per Serving
Calories 725 Calories from Fat 342
% Daily Value*
Fat 38g58%
Saturated Fat 17g106%
Cholesterol 142mg47%
Sodium 1684mg73%
Potassium 733mg21%
Carbohydrates 61g20%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 33g66%
Vitamin A 777IU16%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 300mg30%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cheesy polenta and dirty prawns

Comfort food from the American South
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 25 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Calories: 725kcal
Author: Gizzi Erskine


  • Saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Bowl
  • Frying pan


For the cheesy polenta

  • 2 l fresh chicken or veg stock
  • 200 g polenta, cornmeal or grits
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 80 g Cheddar grated
  • 30 g Parmesan grated
  • 30 g butter
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch white pepper
  • sea salt

For the dirty prawns, spring onions and bacon

  • 16 raw king prawns peeled with tails on, deveined and split down the middle to butterfly
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves crushed
  • 100 g smoked streaky bacon cut into lardons
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 spring onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • Good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon juice


How to make the cheese polenta

  • Put the chicken (or veg) stock, polenta, thyme and quarter of a teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer over a very low heat for one hour. Initially it will resemble murky yellow water, but have patience, it will slowly come together. Keep whisking the mixture, especially during the last 15 minutes of cooking, to prevent the bottom of the polenta scorching.
  • Once you have a nice thick gloopy consistency similar to a well-cooked porridge, which pulls away from the sides of the pan and has no bite to it when tasted, mix in the cheeses, butter and peppers. You will notice that the the polenta lightens in colour and becomes lovely and shiny. Season with salt to taste and keep hot until ready to serve.

How to make the dirty prawns, spring onions and bacon

  • Place the prawns in a bowl with enough olive oil to coat them, add the crushed garlic and allow to marinate while you get everything else ready. This dish cooks fast so have everything prepped and organised before you start cooking.
  • Heat a frying pan over a medium heat with a slick of oil. Add the bacon and fry until it is starting to crisp and the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter in the remaining bacon fat. Turn up the heat to high and add the prawns. You want to cook these hard and fast. When they have begun to turn opaque, return the bacon to the pan along with the spring onions, salt, pepper and cayenne.
  • Check for seasoning and give it a generous squeeze of lemon juice before serving alongside the polenta.


Calories: 725kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 142mg | Sodium: 1684mg | Potassium: 733mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 777IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 300mg | Iron: 3mg

Slow by Gizzi Erskine, photography Issy Croker, is published by HQ

Slow by Gizzi Erskine, photography Issy Croker, is published by HQ.

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