I use large mushrooms for this recipe, I find something appealing about the need to cut up food while I am eating it, all too often an activity denied those who don't eat meat. I use a mixture of cultivated large mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms. If you have access to edible wild mushrooms then of course that's even better. I serve this dish with creamy herb polenta, chargrilled shallots and trufle oil. It's a wonderful autumn dish but is comforting even now when the days are sunny and the evenings very chilly, here in the UK.
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For this recipe you will need; (serves 4)
400g of mixed mushrooms, (see above)
30g of dried porcini mushrooms
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
400g of chopped tomatoes or passata
100ml of Noilly Prat
3 pickled walnuts, sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Seasoning, I use marigold bouillon powder in place of salt, and ground black pepper.
500ml of vegetable stock
100g of polenta
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
100g of parmesan cheese, grated.
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and chives.
salt and white pepper.
For the char grilled shallots;
4 Banana shallots cut in half, lengthways.
Begin by soaking the dried porcini mushrooms in 100ml of boiling water. Cut up the fresh mushrooms into large chunks and fry in the olive oil on a gentle heat until they have taken on colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two before adding the Noilly Prat. When the vermouth has cooked off almost completely, add the rehydrated dried mushrooms along with the soaking liquid. Be careful not to add the last few drops, there is sometimes a small amount of grit in the bottom of the bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes or passata and cook on a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Sufficient time to make the polenta.
Rub the cut surface of the shallots with a little olive oil and place them cut side down on a medium heat griddle for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they have taken on a little colour, turn the shallots over and switch the heat off, the shallots will finish cooking in the residual heat.
Chop up the parsley and chives. Bring the vegetable stock up to a simmer and gradually sprinkle on the polenta, whisking in with each addition. The polenta will thicken gradually as the mix comes back up to the boil. Continue stirring as the polenta cooks and thickens, I find using a whisk to do this produces a smoother, lump free result. add the creme fraiche which will slacken it back down again and a couple of minutes before serving, add the herbs (keep a little parsley back to garnish) and the grated parmesan, this will also slacken off the polenta, but if you like it even wetter than this, add a little more creme fraiche. Adjust the seasoning, with salt and white pepper.
Gently stir the sliced pickled walnuts into the ragu just before serving. Serve with a portion of the polenta, topped with the ragu, the grilled shallots on the side and a drizzle of truffle oil and parsley.