Mushroom Ragout with Madeira

IMG_4137Ragout is one of the constants in my life. I remember eating it as a child, as a treat on lunch breaks from school, with my mum or dad. It was tinned ragout then, but it still felt luxurious. My mum also made ragout from scratch for dinner, usually a big pot at birthdays or for any large group of guests. And we had ragout in vol-au-vent cases as a Christmas or Easter dinner starter.IMG_4172

Later, as a student living in houses with health-hazard kitchens, a tin of ragout was the perfect end-of-the-month meal, served with rice or bread and a salad. Okay, I’m probably tampering with historical fact by saying I had salad with it. I mean, why waste money on empty vitamins when you can spend it on perfectly good beer?IMG_4140

These days, ragout is a dish that reminds me of all those different times in my life, and (most importantly) a dish that is simply delicious.
There are two things I particularly love about ragout: 1) it can easily be made vegetarian and 2) you can eat it whenever you feel like it; it can be lunch, a snack, a starter (vol-au-vents), or dinner. I also wouldn’t turn it down if someone cooked me it for breakfast (and, yes, that is a hint). It’s also perfect food for a crowd. Just make a big vat the day before a party and heat it up on the day.

This is my adaptation of an Allerhande recipe (a complementary food magazine published by Albert Heijn, a chain of Dutch supermarkets). I say ‘adaptation’ but, apart from the soy cream and some other minor changes, I’ve followed it pretty much to the letter. I’ve tried quite a few recipes for ragout but this is my favourite, hands down.

50 g butter (2 x 25 g)
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
500 g mushrooms (any type you like), chopped not too finely
40 g plain flour
250 ml warm mushroom stock (from a cube)
2 tbsp soy cream
2 tbsp madeira (or to taste, I like a boozy kick)
salt and pepper

– In a heavy-based pan, fry the onion and garlic in 25 g of butter until softened.
– Add the mushrooms and fry, stirring, for about 5 minutes. They should be soft but still have some bite left.
– Put the contents of the pan, including any juices, in a bowl.IMG_4145
– In the same pan, heat the rest of the butter.
– Add the flour and mix well. Cook the flour mixture for a few minutes, stirring every now and again.
– Add a splash of mushroom stock, stir (or whisk) until absorbed, add another splash, stir, etc, until you’ve used up all the stock. You should now have a creamy, thick sauce with no lumps.
– Stir in cream, madeira, mushrooms, and season the ragout with pepper and salt. Serve.


Gado-Gado with my Satay Sauce

IMG_4033Gado-gado is an Indonesian dish made with mixed boiled or steamed vegetables, fried tofu, and boiled eggs, served with a peanut (‘satay’) sauce. I was never a fan of the dish until I tried Ottolenghi’s version of it, from hisĀ Plenty book. It taught me that it’s the satay sauce that makes the gado-gado. And Ottolenghi’s satay sauce is very, very good. But it’s also a lot of work, comes with a long list of ingredients, and has a grainy texture I don’t really like, due to the peanuts and stalk of lemon grass he uses.

So I wanted to create a satay sauce that was easier to make but at least at delicious. And I think I’ve succeeded! My recipe is a bit of a Frankenstein monster; part Ottolenghi, part River Cottage Meat Book (ironically), and part my own invention. Stitch it all together, bit of lightning and there you have it.IMG_4020

I’ve left out the eggs in this gado-gado to make it vegan, but traditionally they are part of the dish. Add them or leave them out, use them instead of the tofu, play around with the vegetables (although I think the potatoes are key), as long you smother it all in the luscious peanut sauce. I often make this to use up vegetables that are lurking in the fridge. The satay sauce is good over everything, and having a tub of it in the freezer is like having money in the bank.IMG_4027

Serves 2 generouslyIMG_4025

For the satay sauce
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
– 2 green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped (or any chilli you like, seeds in or out)
– 2 tbsp ketjap manis ( a sweet, Indonesian soy sauce)
– 1 tbsp regular soy sauce
– 1 heaped tsp tamarind paste (ready-made, from a jar)
– 125 g smooth peanut butter
– 1 tsp lemongrass powder
– 50 ml coconut milk
– 2 tbsp lime juice
– water

For the gado-gado
– 4 smallish potatoes (350-400 g), cut into quarters
– 200 g green beans, topped and tailed (cleaned weight)
– 150 g cabbage leaf, cut into long, fine strips
– 180 g tofu bits, fried (I use mildly spiced ones from the supermarket)
– cassava crackers

– In a small saucepan, fry the onion, garlic and chilli in a splash of oil until soft.
– Add all the other ingredients, except the water, and bring to the boil.
– Carefully stir in water until you have a pourable/saucy consistency, but don’t go overboard(!).
– Turn off the heat, cover, and put aside.
– Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot, cover generously with water, add some salt and bring to the boil.
– Boil for 10 minutes, then add green beans.
– Boil for 4 minutes, add cabbage and boil for 1 more minute or until the cabbage is tender but still has some bite.
– Meanwhile, fry tofu bits in a bit of oil and reheat satay sauce, if needed.
– Drain the vegetables and spread out on a large serving dish. Scatter over the tofu bits, pour over satay sauce and serve with cassava crackers.