So my love of mushrooms is pretty well documented on this blog, so much so that is probably something I don’t really need to go over again. But, as my children will tell you I do like to over emphasise things, or as they would say bang on a bit. Although in my defence I would say that certain things such as mushrooms (and yes boys, if you are reading this, things like table manners) are worth the odd bit of repetition.
Now I am aware that a lot of people don’t go in for mushrooms in a big way, but if I could change that I would. Apart from all the amazing health benefits we’d all get if we were eating them regularly (I’m talking fibre and beta- glucans, choline, anti-oxidants, minerals such as iron, selenium, phosphorus or potassium) they are a fantastic alternative to meat and are the only vegan non- fortified dietary source of vitamin D. Like ants, they leave their surroundings cleaner than when they found them. We can’t say the same about factory farms. They’ll break down organic matter and research is still being carried out to find out just how far they’ll go in helping us to clean up some of the mess we’ve made since we’ve been in charge. If we could all switch over to eating them instead of meat just once a week we’d be doing the planet the power of good.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be any great hardship to you because (if you cook them right) they are delicious. They pair up perfectly with one of my all time favourites, leeks, and also with most types of beans (result), but quickly cooked with some lovely healthy fresh herbs has to be one of my favourite ways to handle them. This recipe does just that and is a perfect mid-week supper when you are pushed for time. It is popular with adults and children alike (as long as you don’t over cook your mushrooms) and is an easy way to change previous mushroom haters into fans; even meat lovers will wolf it down. I love this ragu served up with the crispy polenta and the sautéed samphire and spinach but you could always use it to toss through some pasta or to top off a jacket potato. The world is your oyster mushroom.
Mushroom Ragu Recipe
Serves 6 :
4 cloves of garlic
A large bunch of thyme, sage and rosemary. You want enough to have about a tbsp of each, chopped.
1 stick celery
5 rashers smoked streaky bacon, or pancetta (optional)
600g mushrooms (I used a mix between shiitakes and chestnuts)
2 tbsps of dried shiitakes
150ml fruity red wine
500 ml good quality vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbsps of creme fraiche or soured cream
Parmesan or pecorino and flat leaved parsley to serve
1 kg polenta (made up already, buy it ready made if you are in a rush)
300g baby leaved spinach
300g samphire (if it is unavailable where you live, just double your spinach)
Start by preheating your oven to around 160 deg.C. Pour 400 ml of boiling water (or stock if it is already made up) over the dried shiitakes and leave to one side to steep.
Chop your polenta into largish bite sized cubes and toss lightly with olive oil.
Fry lightly in batches until the edges are slightly golden, then drain on kitchen paper and transfer to the oven to stay warm.
Chop the shallots, garlic, celery and herbs finely in a food processor or if you are feeling energetic do it by hand. I like just the mushrooms to stand out in this sauce so I like to get mine really fine. If you are not so fussy, don’t worry about using a rougher dice.
Fry the chopped bacon without oil for around 2 minutes then turn the heat down and add a splash of oil to the pan. Throw in the shallots mixture and let soften for ten minutes.
Roughly chop your mushrooms whilst you are waiting, then turn the heat up and pour in the red wine. Reduce it down until it is almost gone then bung the mushrooms in the pan. Keep them moving around the pan and cook them for between 3 to 5 minutes.
Use the water from the shittakes to make up you stock if it wasn’t already made up, then pour the shiitakes and the stock into the mushrooms in the pan. Check the seasoning, then bring to the boil, stir through the creme fraiche or soured cream and turn right down so that it keeps warm.
Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add a teaspoon or so of olive oil. If you are using the samphire, sauté for around 3 minutes then add the spinach for the final minute. Or just sauté the spinach for a minute if that’s all you have.
Put a spoonful of spinach onto a plate, top with crispy polenta then the mushroom ragu. Sprinkle over some freshly chopped flat leaved parsley and some pecorino or parmesan shavings.