This could well be the most delicious food of all time. It's definitely up there in the top 3 most delicious things I know how to make. I made this on a whim, looking for something new to do with mushrooms. It turned out to be the richest, darkest, most complex mushroom stew you could wish for, and a million times better than any meat version, IMO. It is also possibly the hardest food to photograph, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in depth, moreishness and comfort. It's the ideal wintery dish to serve to vegetarian friends, and to vege-sceptic meat lovers. 

NB: This is a boozy recipe. I used at least a 1/3 of a bottle of wine. The trick is in the de-glazing, which needs to be done 2 or 3 times for the best flavour. I also used goats butter, not cows butter, which is a little lighter and more fragrant. Fresh thyme is pretty essential, and for me a thyme sprig is a decent few stalks off one stem. In other words, don't be shy with the thyme.

The polenta method is the one I use most of the time for making polenta. It turns the basic grain from something bland into something pretty delicious. If you have any leftover when making this, spread it onto a plate while still warm, place in the fridge and once it cools, it'll become solid. You can then slice it and fry it for a tasty accompaniment to salads, eggs, avocados etc.



For the bourguignon:

  • around 8 large portobello mushrooms, sliced into 1cm thick slices
  • 2-3 tbsp butter (I used goat's butter)
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, washed and cut into a small dice
  • I small yellow onion, cut into a small dice
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 1/3 bottle red wine (merlot or something heavy is good)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500ml vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tbsp agave or maple syrup
  • sea salt 
  • fresh black pepper

For the polenta:

  • 250g coarse grain polenta (makes enough for 2)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp soft goats cheese
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • sea salt
  • fresh black pepper

Heat 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Fry the mushroom slices in batches, 3 minutes on each side. You want them to brown but not release any liquid. Transfer to a warm plate when done and set aside. In the same pan, add the carrot, onion, thyme and salt. This is your 'mirepoix' and forms the base of that rounded, cassoulet flavour. Cook for around 6-7 minutes, until soft and the onion is translucent. Turn the heat up a little, and let the mirepoix just catch slightly so it sticks to the pan. Once it sticks, add your first slug of wine. Let it bubble away until the liquid is absorbed. Again, when the mirepoix begins to stick slightly to the pan, scrape up any stuck bits and add another slug of wine. Continue 2-3 times until you've used all the wine. Now add the tomato concentrate, bouillon, agave and bay leaves. Stir well until the tomato concentrate is mixed thoroughly and it comes to a low boil. Now return the mushrooms to the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 25 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has reduced by around half. By now it should be pretty thick and glossy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary, plus lots of black pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.

Place the polenta in a medium pan along with water in the ratio 1:3. O n a medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring regularly so as to prevent lumps. Once simmering, add 1/2 tsp of salt plus the thyme and stir often to prevent spitting. Cook for around 15 minutes. It will be close to ready when the grains have dissolved and it becomes a porridge-like consistency. At this stage add the butter, goats cheese, parmesan and black pepper. Mix thoroughly, you'll need a bit of elbow grease at this stage. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. At the last moment throw in the chopped parsley and serve immediately. 

To serve, spoon the polenta into wide cups or bowls and ladle the mushrooms on top, along with plenty of juices from the pan. 

Prep time: 15 mins. Cook time: 1 hr.