for the polenta
300ml water or vegetable stock
75g quick polenta
pinch of salt
knob of butter or olive oil
some grated parmesan
for the mushroom ragù
200g mixed exotic mushrooms
150g portobello mushrooms, sliced
few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest only
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground smoked chilli (optional)
pinch of salt and pepper
some olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
couple of anchovy fillets
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g chopped tomatoes
glug of dry vermouth
200ml water or vegetable stock
some fresh herbs such as tarragon and parsley
for the garnish
handful of kales tossed in olive oil
toasted sunflower seeds
This simple mushroom ragù is meaty.
Roasting of mushrooms gives this dish a good texture and intensified flavour. Use of anchovy fillets will give plenty of depth and umami rich flavour to otherwise can-be-boring tomato sauce.
You could serve them with pasta or on a well toasted slice of sourdough.
I will leave the chilli out if I want to save some for my toddler and add it at the end, after I saved the spoonful to blitzed them for smoother sauce for her pasta next day.
Start by preparing mushrooms. Preheat the oven at 180º.
You will need a fairly large tray to accommodate the volume of mushrooms. Line the tray with grease proof paper and lay the mushrooms. Torn some large bits of exotic mushrooms. You want to make sure they all look fairly similar in size to ensure they cook more or less the same.
Drizzle some olive oil, followed by even sprinkle of rosemary, lemon zest, allspice and smoked chilli, if using. Smoked chilli will give the dish a little kick and the depth.
You can substitute smoked chilli for chilli flakes or smoked paprika. Or omit altogether.
Season with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for 20 mins, gently turning the mixture halfway through.
When the mushrooms are done, you can put your kales in the oven. Lower the temperature down to 150º and roast them for 10 mins or so or until crisp.
While the mushrooms are being roasted, prepare the tomato sauce.
Heat a little oil in a large pan. Add chopped onions with pinch of salt and gently cook them down until softened and slightly caramelised. Add the garlic and anchovies. Cook them down for further couple of minutes, then in goes balsamic vinegar and splash of dry vermouth. Let them bubble. Add chopped tomatoes and water or stock.
Simmer for around 15 mins. Stir in roasted mushrooms and fresh herbs. Turn off the heat.
You want to do this when you're ready to serve, because polenta thickens quickly and you want to serve them while it is still soft and creamy.
Put milk and water in a small saucepan. Bring them up to boil and turn the heat down.
Slowly add polenta while continuously stirring. Add pinch of salt and continue to stir for further 5 mins or so. Soon as polenta is cooked, it will come away from the side of the pan and resemble slightly runny mash consistency.
Take it off the heat. Add butter or oil and some generous grating of parmesan.