Wild Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Glamourising vegetarian food, one dish at a time…

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After moving to Australia and travelling around the world, I have noticed how underrated good vegetarian food is. For some reason the vegetarian culinary repertoire across most restaurants rarely showcase delicious fresh produce or out of the box cooking techniques. I am no masterchef but I suppose having been a vegetarian for 27+ years I can definitely put up a cracker of a vegetarian dish sure to give even some of the meat dishes a run for its money.

Today’s dish is definitely one that will even knock the socks of an avid carnivore! Ragu traditionally is a slow cooked Italian meat based sauce served with pasta. However since I am all about challenging traditions in the kitchen, my ragu recipe is quick and easy and above all vegetarian!

I have used a medley of Mushrooms as a star of this dish. A mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms provides an abundance of different textures and deep mushroom flavor. I haved served the stew with a creamy polenta, believe me when I say it’s a match made in heaven.

So without further ado, here’s my lip smackingly delicious autumn winter classic.

Ingredients:  18  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves:

For the Ragu

  • 20 gms of dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 200 gms of sliced swiss brown mushrooms
  • 100 gms of shimeji mushrooms 
  • One brown onion, chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • Eight to ten parsley stems, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme
  • Two tablespoons of goats cheese (optional)
  • 300ml of light cooking cream
  • Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season

For the Polenta

  • One cup of polenta
  • Three cups of water
  • One tablespoon butter

For the Garnish (optional)

  • One bunch of asparagus, hard ends trimmed
  • One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • One tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 0.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 

Begin by soaking the porcini mushrooms in hot water and keep aside.

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add chopped onions, followed by chopped garlic and cook until the onions are slightly caramelised and you can smell the delicious garlic aroma.

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Now add chopped parsley stems and about six to eight sprigs of lemon thyme. These fresh herbs help in flavouring the oil and give the dish a great fresh flavour. Cook the onion mix on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.

Add the assorted mushrooms, except the porcini mushrooms to the onion mix and let them sweat on a low heat for about seven to ten minutes. 

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Now add the remaining lemon thyme sprigs to flavour the mushrooms. Followed by porcini mushrooms including their stock. Right about now, you should be smelling the mushroomy goodness!

Once the mushrooms are tender add cream and goats cheese. Season with salt as desired, cover the pan with a lid and let the ragu simmer for another five minutes on low heat.

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To make the polenta, in a saucepan bring three cups of water to a boil. Now lower the flame and add the polenta. Stir continuously to avoid lumps and polenta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the water is absorbed and the polenta has thickened add a tablespoon of butter and stir it through to give the polenta its richness and shiny glaze. Finally season with salt as desired.

Finally for the garnish, heat olive oil in a pan. Add the asparagus, followed by lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Continuously toss the asparagus until evenly coated with the balsamic glaze. Take off the heat once tender.

To assemble the dish – place the creamy polenta at the base, ladle the delicious mushroom ragu on top and finally add the asparagus as the final garnish. 

Enjoy this lip smackingly delicious hearty dish with a beautiful red wine and you may just find yourself teleported to Italy.

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The Breadfree Breakfast

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast”…

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We have all heard how important a good breakfast meal is to start our day right! While exotic, cooked breakfast meals would be great to indulge in everyday, unfortunately during the week you would be lucky if you could scoff a piece of toast or a fruit on the run.

The weekend ushers in the leisure of time and the opportunity to really cook up a delicious breakfast. I have had the luxury of enjoying some beautiful breakfast meals at local cafes in Melbourne! People in Melbourne really get their food and this why I love this place so much, but eating out all the time isn’t my thing.

The breakfast dish I am about to share with you is made up of different textures and flavours I have relished in my culinary adventures across Melbourne. Couple this dish with your beverage of choice and indulge yourself this weekend.

Ingredients: 12         Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 2
  • 250 gms of uncooked instant polenta (or semolina)
  • 1/2 cup of creamed corn (if using semolina)
  • Four eggs
  • One sliced avocado
  • One cup of baby kale leaves
  • One cup of shelled blanched broad beans (or peas)
  • One sliced onion
  • Two chopped green chillies
  • One teaspoon of vinegar
  • One tablespoon of chilli flavoured olive oil
  • Crumbled goats cheese for garnish
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
  • Crispy shallots for garnish

In a saucepan bring three cups of water to a boil. Slowly stream in the polenta continuously whisking it. Once its mixed, continue to stir it for about 15 minutes. Your polenta is now cooked. 

If you cant find polenta you can use semolina and cook it the same way as the polenta. The only additional step is that you add the creamed corn to the boiling water the same time as you add the semolina. This will give the semolina that delicious corn meal flavour.

To give the polenta a boost of flavour, in another saucepan add a tablespoon of olive oil and sautee the sliced onion and green chillies.  Let the onion mix caramelise and now add the cooked polenta and give it all a good stir and keep aside.

Lets make the kale chips now! Pre-heat the oven at 180 degrees, lightly grease a baking dish with some olive oil and add the kale leaves and spray them with some olive oil and put them in the oven. In about five to seven minutes the kale will be crispy.

Next, chilli broad beans – if you are using already shelled broad beans simply blanch them in hot water for two minutes. This will make their outer shell really soft and easy to peal, remember you only want the beautiful green bean. You can use baby peas if you cant find broad beans, again blanch them for two minutes. Once blanched strain the beans in cold water and add them to a bowl with some chilli flavoured olive oil (or some chilli flakes and olive oil)

No breakfast is complete without eggs! We are going to poach the eggs for this dish, a perfectly cooked poached egg is one of the most brilliant things in the world.

First step to making the perfect poached eggs is to use freshest eggs. The next step is to get yourself a wide casserole type pan and bring water to a boil. Add one teaspoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Once the water has boiled let it simmer. Crack the eggs in the pan one by one and you’ll see them begin to cook immediately. Depending on your pan, a really soft poached egg should take around 2 minutes and a soft to firm one will need 4 minutes (it depends on the size of the eggs and whether you’re using them straight from the fridge). To check whether they’re done, remove one carefully from the pan with a slotted spoon and give it a gentle shake. If it feels too soft (use your instincts), put it back and give the eggs a little longer in the water to firm up. Once the eggs are cooked remove them on to kitchen paper and dry off.

Now comes the fun part – Assembling this breakfast of champions!

Scoop the polenta on a plate, this will be the base of our dish. Top this with the crispy kale chips and the poached eggs. Add the chilli broad beans (or peas) around the polenta base. Garnish with avocado slices, crumbled goats cheese, crispy shallots and fresh parsley.

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