Even though I’d be lying if I said that we’re having a particularly hard winter over here, this is still the time of year that makes you long for a good old-fashioned stew. And although I’m completely used to not eating meat by now (I’m actually more at the ‘what the hell was I thinking’ stage), I’ve always struggled a bit when it comes to stews.
For me, vegetarian stews roughly fall into three categories: bean, vegetable and mushroom, and combinations of those three. Of course you could add tofu, tempeh or seitan to a stew, but it wouldn’t usually be the main ingredient.
Now I love bean-based stews. Although I’m not a fan of all beans, any chilli-like stew, preferably made with black beans or chickpeas certainly hits the spot. But do they give me the same feeling of preparing and eating a special, indulgent dish that I used to get when I made, say, beef stew back in the day? No, or not really.
Speaking of the proverbial spot, all-vegetable stews generally don’t hit mine, and I’ve tried quite a few of them. As much as I love vegetables, stewing doesn’t generally improve them (root vegetables excepted), and as for the luxurious feeling I used to get while cooking a meat stew? No. And in this case a definite no.
But after all those negatives, a positive, because I have found my vegetarian/vegan answer to those beef stews I used to love. I can’t really explain why, although the ‘meaty’ texture of mushrooms probably has something to do with it. And the fact that I love (LOVE) mushrooms, of course.
This mushroom stew is loosely based on Nigella Lawson’s Boeuf à la Flamande recipe from her Kitchen book, which I’ve made several times and (if I remember correctly) was actually the last meat dish I ate. What I think is brilliant is that she leaves out the ginger bread that is often used in this type of stew, and replaces it with spices, creating the same flavours without any of the heaviness.
To me, these Mushrooms à la Flamande are what stews should be about: comfort, indulgence, heartiness; weekend winter food. I hope you think so too.
– generous splash of olive oil
– 1 large onion, chopped finely
– 2 large cloves garlic, chopped finely (not grated or pressed, it might burn)
– 1 kg mixed mushroom, chopped roughly (think bite-size once cooked, so not too small)
– 4 tbsp/30 g plain flour
– 1 tsp allspice
– 1 tsp thyme
– 250 ml dark beer (I used Leffe Dubbel)
– 250 ml mushroom stock, made with one whole stock cube
– 2 tsp grainy mustard
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
– 2 bay leaves
– salt and pepper to taste.
– Heat the oil in a deep, heavy casserole.
– Add the onion and fry till translucent
– Add the garlic and all the mushrooms. Mix well, clamp on the lid, turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
– Meanwhile, mix flour, allspice, and thyme in a bowl and mix beer, mustard, stock, sugar and tamari/soy sauce in a jug.
– Once the mushrooms have had their 15 minutes, take off the lid and stir in the flour mixture.
– Add the beer/stock mixture and bay leaves.
– Let simmer, lid askew, for 10 more minutes.
– Check flavours and add salt, pepper or tamari as needed.
– Serve with noodles, crusty bread, mashed potato, rice, whatever you fancy.