Wild Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta


Autumn is time for mushroom foraging; in my area the Wyre Forest, there are organised walks showing you where to look, explaining the different types you might find and making sure you don’t pick any toadstools by mistake.

Wild mushrooms are now more available in supermarkets if you don’t live next to a forest, and slowly the quality is improving. Wild Mushrooms do tend to absorb moisture quicker so  try to find mushrooms with as little moisture/condensation inside the packet. For more tips on how to buy and store mushrooms here is an earlier post.

The original dish of mine was published in the Sunday Mercury in 2004 and on my old defunct blog, but now judging by the google results this combination has been done by many other chefs so I thought it was time to refresh my recipe and improve it.

Italians use polenta in various ways but perhaps my favourite is creamy, like a good mashed potato. They often put Fontina cheese in their polenta which is not always easy to buy in the UK, but Gruyere makes a good substitute.

Mushroom Ragout (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course)
3 large field mushrooms
100 ml Marsala wine
75 g Shitake mushrooms
30g  Plain Flour
140g Chestnut mushrooms
125g Butter
200g Oyster mushrooms
1 small sprig of fresh Thyme
25g Dried Porcini/ 50 grams fresh porcini
100ml boiling water
2 level tablespoons of Tomato passata
1  head of garlic
500ml brown vegetable  stock or Knorr vegetable stock pot
1 knorr mushroom stockpot *(optional)
1TBsp Olive oil

  1. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a mug and cover with 100ml of boiling water.
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cut the head of garlic in two horizontally, and drizzle with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. Place cut-side down into the pan, lightly brown the cut side, then transfer the garlic to a hot oven (180 C) to cook until soft. Remove from the oven and add to the vegetable stock.
  3. Peel the field mushrooms and cut them into 1/4’s (put the peelings into the stock).
  4. Cut the chestnut mushrooms in 1/2’s or 1/4’s if they are really big.
  5. Tear each oyster mushroom into 2-3 pieces depending on their size. Put any woody part of the stalks into the stock.
  6. Remove the stalks from the shitake mushrooms (put the stalks into the stock because they are often woody) and slice thickly.
  7. Heat up the stock over a low heat adding the tomato passata, marsala wine, thyme and  *optional mushroom stockpot and simmer gently.
  8. In a separate thick-bottomed saucepan melt 30g butter, then gradually stir in the 30g flour and turn down the heat to medium. Cook the roux out (flour & butter mixture) until it is quite brown stirring occasionally.
  9. Gradually ladle the stock through a fine strainer into the roux, stirring well to avoid lumps. Once the stock is added, strain the water from the porcini into the sauce and simmer on a low heat.
  10. Now chop the rehydrated porcini finely and add also to the sauce. *Obviously if you use fresh porcini then disregard step 10
  11. Sauté half of the mushrooms in half of the remaining butter and olive oil until they are golden brown, then repeat with the other half of the mushroom, then transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  12. Now pour the brown sauce onto the mushrooms and cook on a very low gas for a further 2-3 minutes, just to marry the flavours, then season with salt & pepper and remove from the heat.

Creamy Polenta Mash
120 g Polenta corn
250ml water
250ml milk
8 Basil leaves chopped
30 g Butter
60g Fontina cheese or Gruyere
60 g Grated fresh Parmesan
1 level teaspoon sea salt
3o g Parmesan curls or shavings(optional)

  1. Bring the water, milk and sea salt to boil in a heavy based saucepan.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and slowly add the polenta, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is completely blended. The polenta needs to be cooked for about 30 minutes with regular stirring until it falls away from the side of the pan.
  3. Then stir in the butter followed by the cheeses & chopped basil. When serving polenta mash it should the same consistency to soft mash potatoes, so add a little extra milk or cream if needed.

To Serve
Portion some of the polenta into warm soup bowls and top with the wild mushroom ragout. Top with a few parmesan curls if you wish and serve.

Chef’s Tips
In the UK these days Morrison supermarkets sell a very nice selection of wild mushrooms that includes porcini, shitake and oyster mushrooms. *The mushroom stockpots are reduced concentrated jellied form of stock (see photo below) for adding additional mushroom flavour and depth of colour to the sauce. Remember to keep the mushroom pieces quite large, as they will shrink a lot during cooking.

Knorr Mushroom stockpot.jpg

Special thanks to Villeroy and Boch for the wonderful wide-rimmed bowl in which I served the ragout.

Don’t forget to visit my other blogs
Easy & Cheap Student Recipes-A great resource if you are a student or just learning how to cook.

Old Blog Posts– A growing archive of posts from my original food blog, which had 20,922,573 page views from its beginning in February 2006 until December 2015.

© Kevin Ashton 2006-2016


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