Ingredients

50g butter, plus a knob to finish
1 large leek, sliced
10g dried porcini, soaked in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes
500g mixed mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, oyster, button mushrooms, honeycomb, enoki etc), cleaned and sliced or cut into wedges
2 teaspoons thyme, chopped
½ cup red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, to garnish
parmesan or a hard cheese, to serve
FOR THE POLENTA
5 cups vegetable stock (or use part milk, cream etc)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant polenta
50g butter
50g freshly grated parmesan
a good handful of herbs such as parsley, chives, spring onions, finely chopped
I never get tired of the combination of sweet and silky leeks with the earthiness of mushrooms. I like to use a mix of mushrooms, including some dried for texture and a deeper flavour (porcini are wonderful, shiitake or other dried mushrooms are also suitable). Here I’ve served it with polenta, but it is also delicious tossed through pappardelle, on toast or over mashed potato or kūmara. Sometimes, too, this combination will find its way into a soup with a vegetarian broth and some sturdy ingredients such lentils, buckwheat or barley for a dose of life-affirming goodness. I like polenta softer and wetter than most directions allow for. The usual suggestion is for a ratio of 1:4 polenta to liquid, but I tend to aim for a 1:5 or 1:6 ratio. Usually I’d add butter to finish, but sometimes if I have a little cream or other dairy that needs using up then it will end up in here. Herbs are always good to add, too, right at the end so that they keep their vibrant colour.

Instructions

1.Heat the butter in a wide pan, add the leek and fry for a few minutes to soften, then put a lid on and allow the leek to steam in its own juices for a few more minutes.
2.Drain the porcini, but reserve the soaking water.
3.Add the porcini to the pan and continue cooking.
4.Add the mushrooms in the order of how long they take to cook.
5.Generally speaking shiitake will take longer than portobello or button, while oyster and honeycomb mushrooms will only take a minute.
6.I add enoki (if using) just after all the liquid has been reduced.
7.Once all the mushrooms have been added (except the enoki), add the thyme, season well with salt then add the wine.
8.Reduce, then add the reserved mushroom-soaking liquid and the vegetable stock.
9.Cook until almost all the liquid is reduced.
10.Add the enoki (if using).
11.Add the final knob of butter to add a sheen.
12.Serve over the polenta while warm, finishing with parsley and freshly grated parmesan.
13.The ragu can be frozen, though it may lose a little texture.
14.POLENTA
15.Heat the vegetable stock, bring up to the boil and add the salt.
16.Using a measuring jug, pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking the entire time to ensure that there are no lumps.
17.Cook for the amount of time directed on the packet, or until the polenta tastes smooth and creamy.
18.Add the butter, parmesan and the herbs and serve immediately.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean /Styling Jessica Hemmings

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