I am lovebombing mushrooms before they are swallowed up by Spring. Mushrooms have to be one of the most sophisticated and understated veggies we’re not eating. They are the Woody Allen of the grocers – hardly overburdened by good looks, but scrumptious and uniquely nourishing all the same.
Mushrooms bring great depth to dishes as well as inimitable flavour profiles. Often ‘shrooms can make a stealthy replacement for meat, like in this recipe. Apart from their meaty, lip-dancing taste, mushrooms of all sorts like to fangirl our immune system. Especially shiitake.
For hundreds of years, Chinese doctors have prescribed shiitake mushrooms to boost white blood cell activity. A unique polysaccharide found in shiitake – the beta glucan – has shown to tickle the immune system by activating cytokines and killer T-cells. Oooh argh. Kind of like a fascinating immune system defibrillator. More clinical trials are under way to understand the medicinal effect polysaccharides can offer our bodies.
This mushroom and merlot stew uses bone broth to help it sing. But this ain’t no singsong. Think opera. We serve it with mash, and a dot of horse radish yoghurt. My BAE. (Okay, so this teenspeak is normally a reference point for Justin Bieber’s abs, or bare-chested members of One Direction. Grand so. Except when you get to my age, food will excite you more).
Mushroom and merlot stew
Serves 12, freezes well
6 tablespoons ghee, butter or olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and diced
4 fat cloves of garlic
4 beetroots, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
5 sprigs of thyme
3 cups (750ml) merlot or other dry red wine
8 cups (2 litres) really good vegetable stock or bone broth
1 tin of anchovies, chopped (leave out for vegetarians)
8 big handfuls of wild mushrooms
4 tablespoon grated ginger (optional)
2 tablespoons kuzu or arrowroot
For the horseradish yoghurt:
4-6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
1 large tub natural or Greek yoghurt
Handful of fresh parsley
Heat 2 tablespoons of your preferred fat in your largest, heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté until glassy.
Tumble in the chopped beets, bay leaves, thyme and let them socialise for 5 minutes on a low flame while you get going on the shrooms (method below). Then pour the merlot, stock and anchovies into the pot. Let the pot gurgle for 60 minutes until the beets are tender. Leave the lid off and let the alcohol escape. This might sound counter-intuituve if you’re Irish, but trust me. You don’t want alcohol in this.
To prep the shrooms, slice into bite-sized chunks or leave whole if small. Heat the rest of your chosen fat in a large frying pan, lower the heat and cook the mushrooms until tender and caramelised. I do this in batches while the stew bubbles. Season the mushrooms, and parachute them into the pot. Simmer until tender.
Dissolve the kuzu or arrowroot with 2 tablespoons of cold water and add to the pot 10 minutes towards the end of cooking to thicken the broth. At this point, you can also grate some ginger into the pot and let it gently simmer until the beets are tender.
Serve with fabulously spicy horseradish yoghurt, creamed potatoes, or chickpea mash.
Thanks to Elle Magazine in Canada for originally publishing this recipe over Yuletide. Yez are The Snazz, Elle Canada!