Mushroom tart

Mushroom Tart

I have been meaning to post this mushroom tart recipe for ages. It was given to me by my mother’s friend Sarah, who was an excellent cook; her hand-written recipe has been pasted into my recipe book for forty years now. Although Sarah was vegetarian herself, she also cooked meat and fish for her family and friends, and her food was always perfectly seasoned even though she never tasted the meat dishes.

As the tart uses puff pastry, it is a bit of an indulgence, but it does turn an ordinary punnet of button mushrooms into something special. I sometimes use chestnut mushrooms or a mixture of button and field mushrooms. It is important to cook the mushrooms ahead of time and let them cool down as otherwise the heat can soften the pastry which makes it difficult to manage. Tarragon works particularly well here, but parsley is nice too if you don’t have any tarragon, in which case you could add a crushed clove of garlic to the mixture too.

Sarah recommended Saxby butter puff pastry if you can get it. Rolling the pastry yourself will give a thinner crust, but a ready-rolled sheet is fine if you prefer. This serves 3-4, depending on how many sides you serve with it.

350g button or chestnut mushrooms
50g butter
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp sherry or white wine
150ml single or sour cream
huge pinch of tarragon or parsley
200g (or a ready-rolled sheet) all-butter puff pastry
1 egg beaten with a little milk

Slice the mushrooms very thinly. Melt the butter in a frying pan and sweat the mushrooms in the butter over a gentle heat until they are ‘slug-like’, which will take 5-10 minutes.

Mushroom tart 1

Sprinkle on the teaspoon of flour and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in the cream, herbs and sherry and season with salt and black pepper. Cook for another couple of minutes. Then leave the mixture to cool, preferably for an hour.

When you are ready to bake the tart put the oven on to heat to 210°C. Roll out the pastry very thinly into a large oblong (or unroll the ready-rolled sheet) and place half on a baking sheet, with the other half off the edge. It helps to put some baking parchment on the bench to stop this part of the pastry sticking to it. Paint the edge of the pastry with the egg wash. Spoon the cool mushroom mixture onto the half of the pastry which is on the baking sheet and carefully fold the other half over the top.


Seal the edges very firmly with a fork or crimp the edges together with your fingers rather as you would for a pasty. As you can see below, my effort was far from neat this time – I had taken the pastry out of the fridge a bit too early and it was not being co-operative. Paint the top with egg wash and make two or three diagonal slashes in the top for the steam to escape.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven, until the tart is puffed up and golden brown. Serve with salad or a green vegetable such as chard or broccoli, and new potatoes if you wish.

Mushroom Tart


Mushrooms with Taleggio and Tomato Sauce

My friend Jane made this for our Reading Group recently and it was so delicious that I immediately asked for the recipe. It is gloriously quick and easy to put together yet tastes rich and complex. It really does take 10 minutes to assemble and only 15 minutes in the oven, so it’s on the table in under 30 minutes. Make a green salad while it’s in the oven and you have the perfect mid-week vegetarian supper, lunch or, with a starter and dessert, dinner.

The recipe originally came from the Waitrose magazine, and there is a more complicated version in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, as well as a number of other variants online. I made it with sage, as I didn’t have any thyme, and can report that thyme tastes better. If you had some home-made tomato sauce to hand then that would be good here. The only problem with using passata is what you do with the rest of the carton, as I never seem to think of another suitable recipe to make before it starts going mouldy – any ideas?

Quantities here are for two but can easily be multiplied as required.

150g passata
2 large portabella or field mushrooms
100g Taleggio
a few sprigs of thyme
2 small slices of sourdough (or ciabatta)
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 200ºC Fan/220º C/Gas mark 7. Pour the passata into an ovenproof dish. Trim the stalks of the mushrooms and wipe the caps (you can peel them if they are damaged, but I rarely find this is necessary). Place them on the passata, stalk side up.

Slice the Taleggio and divide between the two mushrooms. Strip the thyme leaves from the stems and scatter the leaves over.

Tear the bread into small pieces into a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Scatter over the dish and bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted, oozing into the sauce, and the bread is golden.

There, I told you it was easy!

Mushrooms with polenta

This is my favourite stand-by lunch or supper at the moment – it takes about 20 minutes, is easy, satisfying and really tasty. I found the recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg Everyday!, when I needed to eat up some mushrooms and didn’t fancy my usual options: risotto, mushrooms on toast or mushroom tart (a puff pastry turnover, filled with creamy mushrooms – a delicious recipe given to me by my mother’s friend Sarah). The mushrooms are dark and winy and the parmesan-flavoured polenta soaks up the juices (use a substitute for the parmesan if you are cooking for a strict vegetarian).

I used chestnut mushrooms the first time – as that is what I had – but next time I got a mixture of chestnut and portabella, which was even nicer. I think the recipe would work fine with most kinds of mushroom, especially the dark flat-cap ones. Delicate varieties might not stand up to the robust wine and herb flavourings. You can stir some chopped rosemary into the polenta at the end, if you want to. These quantities are for one, as I cooked it.

100ml milk
100ml water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 spring onion, trimmed
40g quick-cook polenta
a knob of butter
a good grating of Parmesan

small slug of olive oil
small knob of butter
175g mushrooms (see above)
1 clove garlic, minced
leaves from a sprig of thyme
40ml red wine topped up to 80ml with water
salt & black pepper

Put the milk and water in a pan with the bay leaf, thyme, spring onion and a good grind of pepper and heat to a simmer. Then put aside to infuse while you prepare the mushrooms.

Trim the mushrooms and slice them thickly. Put the oil and butter in a frying pan and put over a medium-high heat. When melted, add the mushrooms, turn the heat up and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their juices, and are starting to get drier again and caramelise. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute.

Now add the wine and water (you could use stock instead of water if you have it to hand, or indeed just use 80ml of a good vegetable or mushroom stock if you prefer). I have recently acquired some little 90ml Duralex glasses and find them really useful for approximately measuring small quantities of liquid like this. Bring up to a simmer, turn down the heat and leave to cook until about half the liquid has evaporated (say 7-10 minutes). While this is happening, I prepare a green salad to eat with it. When the mushrooms are about ready check the seasoning and turn the heat right down while you make the polenta.

Fish out the bay leaf and thyme from the milk and bring back up to a simmer. Pour in the polenta, stirring all the while to get a smooth mixture. I use a silicone spatula for this, as it is useful for getting all the polenta out of the pan afterwards. Keep stirring over medium heat for one minute – no more, as the polenta thickens quickly. Then pull off the heat, stir in the butter and parmesan and scoop onto your plate. Top with the mushrooms, add a drizzle of olive oil and/or a few shavings of parmesan if you wish, and devour with the salad.

Mushrooms with polenta and gorgonzola

img_2389It had been a long day, it was raining and I was in serious need of comfort food – and a supper that didn’t involve going shopping first. I had some kale, the end of a packet of Gorgonzola, and a packet of chestnut mushrooms in the fridge – not very inspiring.

As soon as I spotted this recipe for mushroom ragout with polenta I knew it fitted the bill, as I had polenta in the cupboard and, unusually, a few dried porcini mushrooms too. Although I had to adjust some of the ingredients – no flat mushrooms only chestnut ones, Marsala instead of red wine, and gorgonzola instead of taleggio – my version was still really tasty – and comforting. I found this quantity of polenta rather more than I could eat, so if you’re not ravenous you might want to cook less.

Solace for one wet, weary person

a few porcini mushrooms
a large knob of butter
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Leaves of 2 sprigs of thyme
175g mushrooms, sliced
good slug of Marsala
60ml vegetable stock
25g gorgonzola

125ml milk
125ml water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
60g instant polenta
12g butter
15g grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)

Start by putting the porcini in a small bowl, covering with 40ml of hot water and leaving to soak for 20 mins. Put the milk and water into a saucepan with the bay leaf and thyme, and heat to boiling point. Pull off the heat and leave to infuse while you get on with slicing the shallot and mushrooms. Measure out the polenta and make up the stock. I used a scant ½ tsp of Marigold bouillon with boiling water – it would be better still if you are organised enough to have cubes of home-made stock in your freezer – I’m not there yet!

Put a good knob of butter into a large-ish frying pan. When it sizzles add the chopped shallot and cook for a few minutes. Then add the garlic and thyme leaves and cook for another minute. Squeeze out the dried mushrooms, keeping their soaking water. Turn up the heat and add the porcini, then after a minute add the rest of the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring all the time so they don’t catch, until they are soft. Add a good slug of marsala (or red wine) and let it bubble up and reduce for a minute or so. Finally add the mushroom soaking water and stock, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and you have the consistency of a stew.

img_2385After the mushrooms have been simmering for 5 minutes or so put the grill on to heat and make the polenta (and if you’re having greens, which I recommend, now is the time to steam them). Heat the flavoured milk and water back to the boil and pour in the polenta in a thin, steady stream, stirring hard all the time. Let it cook for a minute or two, then stir in the butter and parmesan (this is not a recipe for those who are wary of butter!). Pour into an ovenproof dish and create a dip in the centre.

img_2387When the mushrooms are ready pile them on top of the polenta, dot the gorgonzola over the top and put under the grill for about 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted. I do think it is best served with a big pile of fresh greens to counteract the richness of the buttery, cheesy polenta. I think it would be a good vegetarian dish for a crowd too, as the mushrooms could be prepared ahead and gently reheated, so that only the polenta would need to be done at the last minute. It would look good served on a big platter so that everyone could dig in – just multiply the quantities up to suit.

Chicken with leeks and mushrooms

Earlier this summer we had dinner with friends who had cooked a delicious casserole of chicken in sherry vinegar for us. The recipe comes from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection, a book which was a sensation when it came out  – introducing piedmont roast peppers and oven-roast ratatouille to a huge audience, to mention two of the recipes I still use regularly. However, I had never made this dish, possibly deterred by the thought of pouring over half a bottle of amontillado sherry into the pot, though why this should seem any more extravagant than using a similar quantity of any half decent wine I don’t know. Anyway, the results suggest that it is definitely worth it!

Having tasted it, I am now in search of a good opportunity to cook it, and in the meantime used some of its flavourings in this easy supper dish, which took under half an hour from start to finish. I picked up a chicken breast at the butcher on the way home, and had the other ingredients already in the fridge. You could use shallots rather than leeks (which would be closer to Delia’s recipe) and omit the mushrooms. Doing without the tarragon would be a loss, as it is such a distinctive flavour, but it’s not a herb that I always have to hand (and have never managed to grow successfully); I’m sure using parsley instead would result in a perfectly nice supper.

The quantities here are for one, as I cooked it, but could obviously be multiplied, though remember that you only need enough stock to half cover the chicken, so the quantity you need will depend on the size of your pan and how many chicken breasts you are cooking.

1 chicken breast
a good splash of olive oil
1 leek
4 chestnut mushrooms
50 ml sherry
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
200ml stock
3 or 4 sprigs of tarragon
1 tbsp crème fraîche
squeeze of lemon juice

img_0397Start by putting the chicken breast on a board, cover it with cling film and give it a few bashes with a rolling pin so that it is a fairly even thickness. Slice the leek and mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and brown it on each side.

Take the chicken out of the pan and put on one side. Add the leeks to the pan and allow to soften a little. Replace the chicken breast, pour over the sherry and sherry vinegar and let it bubble up for a few minutes. Add half the tarragon and enough stock to half cover the chicken and leeks, bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Take the lid off, turn the chicken over, add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken and mushrooms are cooked through. Chop the remaining tarragon leaves.


Remove the chicken and vegetables to the plate. If necessary, turn the heat up to reduce the amount of liquid to about a teacup-full, then stir in the crème fraîche and let it bubble for a few moments. Check the seasoning, adding a squeeze of lemon juice if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and scatter with the chopped tarragon leaves. I served this with rice, but new potatoes and some beans or peas would also be delicious alongside it.

Classic beef stew

Beef stew ready to go into the ovenThis is the recipe for Irene’s much-admired beef stew, which is as delicious as it is straightforward. Having said that it is straightforward, I have learnt a lot from watching her cook this – having the meat at room temperature, making sure it is dry and taking care with browning all make a huge difference to the final stew, so do take time with these steps.

Today we made it with three large slices of shin with the bone in. Using meat on the bone gives real body to the liquor of the stew, but this recipe also works well with other stewing cuts, though do try to get meat in large pieces – it is hard to get a really good result with finely machine-diced stewing beef. If using meat off the bone, reduce the weight of meat to 800g and the total amount of liquid to around 500ml. Serves 4-6.

1kg shin of beef, bone in
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
A little oil
75g pancetta or bacon lardons
1½ tbsp flour
500 ml sturdy red wine
200 ml water or beef stock
1 small dried chilli
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
A few celery tops, roughly torn
150g chestnut mushrooms
A small knob of butter
A small handful of parsley, chopped

Take the meat out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you start cooking so that it is at room temperature.

imageHeat the oven to 175º C. Chop the onions roughly. Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Brown the pancetta in a large casserole. Remove it from the pan and put on one side. Soften the onions in the bacon fat over a medium-low heat, adding a little bit of oil if necessary. The onions should soften but not brown. After 5 minutes add the chopped garlic and cook gently for a further 3-5 minutes until just starting to colour. Scoop out of the pan and add to the pancetta.

Browning shin of beef for stewDry the meat using kitchen towel. Put the flour on a plate or shallow dish, season with pepper (not salt as the bacon is salty) and lightly coat each piece of meat in the flour. Heat ½ tbsp oil in a separate frying pan over a fairly high heat (you can do this in the casserole if you prefer). Brown the meat quickly in batches on both sides, transferring it to the casserole (or a plate). Don’t put too much meat into the pan at once, or it will steam rather than browning. When all the meat has been browned, add the wine and the water or beef stock to the pan and heat until just bubbling, scraping up any residue from browning the meat. If you have beef stock you can use less wine and more stock, if you prefer, providing the total quantity is about the same (but if you’re using water don’t increase the proportion of water to wine).

Put all the ingredients into the casserole, including the herbs, celery leaf and whole chilli, and pour over the hot wine and water or stock. The liquid should nearly cover, but not drown, the meat (see the photo at the top of this post) so adjust the quantity if necessary. Bring to a simmer and put into the oven.

After half an hour turn the oven down to 150º C and cook for a further 2 hours (1½ hours if using meat off the bone).

Classic Beef StewWipe the mushrooms (if necessary), trim the stalks and cut into quarters. Heat a knob of butter with a few drops of oil, preferably in a good non-stick frying-pan. Sauté the mushrooms briefly – just 2 or 3 minutes – so that they are just colouring and add to the casserole. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Fish out the sprigs of herbs and the dried chilli and garnish with chopped parsley.

Serve with parsnip or celeriac mash and greens or, as we did in Amsterdam and again this evening, with Stampot. Beforehand we had smoked eel with a little salad, and afterwards Dutch cheese, and Simon Hopkinson’s Baked Quinces.


Squash, mushroom and chickpea stew

After a lovely walk along the London Loop through Bushy Park yesterday, supper needed to be straightforward, and ideally use up the butternut squash and mushrooms that were lurking in the fridge.

Squash, mushroom and chickpea stew

I found lots of recipes for squash and mushroom pasta of various sorts, but then I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian version of harira, North African squash and chickpea stew, in his Veg Everyday, and used that as a base for this stew, adding chilli and mushrooms to the original. Serves 3.

1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ green chilli (more if you like it hot)
50g red lentils
200g cooked chickpeas (½ can)
1 tin tomatoes
3 tbsp chopped parsley
A small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
150g Butternut squash
500 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
150g chestnut mushrooms

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them until softening and starting to turn golden. Turn the heat down and add the celery, spices and season well with black pepper, stirring to mix.

Halve the chilli, remove the seeds and add to the pan. Add the tomatoes and their juice, crushing them (or you could use passata), then the lentils, parsley and half the coriander. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Peel and deseed the squash and cut into large cubes. Trim the stalks of the mushrooms and cut them into 4 or 6 chunks each, depending on size. Add the squash to the pan with the stock and bay leaf, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the chick peas and mushrooms and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until all is tender. Serve with rice (or, as in Hugh F-W’s recipe, you could add small pasta, such as orzo, to the stew with the mushrooms) and the rest of the coriander.

The resulting stew is warm with spices and the chickpeas and lentils make it a homely, substantial dish, even without the pasta. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests serving this with dates – I think they work better afterwards, with sliced oranges, a refreshing contrast to end the meal.