Veg-forward eating is bandied about by meat-eaters like myself in the hopes that we might endear ourselves to the growing numbers of vegetarians and vegans. While I may not cut out meat completely, I do aspire to eating less of it, and when I eat it, I ensure it’s of best quality. It’s never been a better time to include more vegetables in our diets , with a vast selection of interesting ingredients being grown right here in Ireland. Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, padron peppers, garlic scapes — it’s all a far cry from the turnips, spuds and iceberg lettuce I remember in the supermarkets growing up.
I recently got sent a spectacular colourful box of Irish-grown organic mushrooms of all shapes and sizes from Garryhinch Wood Exotic Mushrooms, which grows a mesmerising array of mushroom varieties, like pink and yellow oyster, lion’s mane, maitake and forest nameko. It’s inspiring to see ingredients like these grown on Irish soil, and it’s certainly inspiration for a number of dishes where mushrooms form the base of the meal.
Take this mushroom bourguignon — a comforting dish made all the more interesting if you manage to find a variety of mushrooms to use. Dried porcini mushrooms are a pantry staple in my house and here they form the base of this vegetarian take on the French classic.
Italians, particularly in the south of Italy, know how to make the most of very little, and this simple orecchiette dish is a good example of that. This recipe has its roots in ‘cucina povera’, and the breadcrumbs (pangrattato) function as a substitute for Parmesan. I use kale rather than the traditional cime di rapa, which is hard to come by in Ireland, but you could substitute it with broccoli or tuscan cavolo nero if you wish.
Another staple on our dinner menu is this bean-laden chilli, which gets its dark heat from a good dollop of chipotle chilli paste, which you can find in most good food stores these days, and cocoa powder. Pearl barley bulks this hot pot of beans, and the pulses you choose to use are optional — tins of butter beans, cannellini or even chickpeas will happily suffice.
Serves: 4 Time: 1 hour 20 mins
50g dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
300g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
300g baby button mushrooms, cleaned and left whole
250g portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
50g unsalted butter
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp plain flour
400ml red wine
2 bay leaves
Small bunch thyme
250ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
For the celeriac purée:
50g unsalted butter
75ml white wine
1 head celeriac (about 750g), peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig rosemary
150ml double cream
For the garlic butter broccoli:
250g tenderstem broccoli
75g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
1. Put the dried porcini mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with 150ml of just-boiled water. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. When the mushrooms have soaked for 15 minutes, remove from the soaking liquor — keep the liquor as it will be used later on — and finely chop the mushrooms.
3. Place the olive oil into a large, cast-iron casserole dish and set over a medium heat. In batches, fry all of the mushrooms off, excluding the porcini mushrooms, until golden brown all over. Remove the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
4. Add the butter to the pot, along with a small splash of water, and allow to melt. Add the shallots, carrots and garlic and fry, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, until the veg is just beginning to soften. Season with salt and pepper, add the mushrooms back into the pan and sprinkle over the flour, stirring to coat the veg.
5. Add the red wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes, then add in the bay leaves, thyme, vegetable stock, soy sauce, chopped dried porcinis and their soaking liquor. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Partially cover the casserole dish with a lid and allow to cook for 1 hour until the carrots are fork-tender and the sauce has thickened.
6. While the bourguignon cooks, melt the butter for the celeriac purée in a large pan over a medium-high heat, then add the white wine, celeriac, rosemary sprig and a large pinch of salt. Cut a round piece of baking paper roughly the same size as the pan and cover the celeriac with it. Cook very gently over a medium-low heat for 25 minutes, stirring regularly, until the celeriac is very soft and starting to collapse. If anything starts to stick at all, add a splash of water to the pan.
7. Meanwhile, bring the double cream to the boil in a small pan.
8. Tip the celeriac, butter and wine mixture into a food processor and blitz until almost completely smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the hot double cream, a small bit at a time, until you have a light purée. Season with salt and pepper and pass through a fine-mesh sieve.
9. When you reach 10 minutes before serving, place the celeriac purée on to a low heat to warm through and bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the tenderstem broccoli and cook for 4 minutes, until tender, then drain.
10. Add the butter to a small saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Then add the sliced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to brown. Add the tenderstem broccoli, season and stir to coat in the garlic butter. Finally, stir through the chopped parsley.
11. To serve, place some celeriac purée into 4 bowls, ladle the mushroom bourguignon on top and serve with the garlic butter broccoli on the side. Sprinkle everything with some chopped parsley to garnish.
Serves: 4 Time: 25 mins
350g orecchiette pasta
40ml olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp chilli flakes
250g kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped
For the spicy pangrattato:
150g sourdough bread, or any crusty bread, a few days old is best
30ml olive oil
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. For the pangrattato, blitz the bread in a food processor until fine crumbs are formed.
2. Add the olive oil, chilli and garlic to a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Tip in the breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Then cook, stirring constantly to ensure the breadcrumbs toast evenly, for about 8-10 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and toasty. Tip onto a baking tray lined with kitchen paper and set aside.
3. Place a pot of boiling, salted water over a high heat and cook the orecchiette according to the packet instructions.
4. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil, anchovy fillets and garlic and heat, slowly, until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have broken down. Add the chilli flakes and kale and cook for about 5 minutes, until the kale has wilted.
5. Add in the cooked orecchiette along with a ladleful of the pasta cooking water and toss to emulsify everything and coat the pasta.
6. Serve in pasta bowls sprinkled with the pangrattato.
Serves: 6 Time: 1 hour 30 mins
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chipotle chilli paste
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
Few sprigs fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
200g pearl barley
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Fresh coriander leaves
Dollops of soured cream or natural yoghurt
Good grating of Cheddar cheese
1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, add the onion and celery and fry gently for 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, chipotle chilli paste, paprika, ground coriander and oregano and fry for a minute more.
2. Add the pearl barley and tomatoes plus 1 can of water and season well. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
3. Add the sweet potato and another half a can of water and simmer for a further 15 minutes, uncovered, until the barley and sweet potatoes are tender.
4. Add the beans, cocoa powder and vinegar and bubble for 10 minutes until the beans are piping hot. Serve with the suggestions listed.