Ragout 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.
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?
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.
– 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.