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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Joe Woodhouse

Joe Woodhouse’s recipes for saucy mushrooms with grilled polenta, and veggie fritters

Joe Woodhouse's saucy mushrooms and grilled polenta.
Joe Woodhouse’s saucy mushrooms with grilled polenta. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Sam Dixon. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Connie Simons.

These recipes help see me through from winter to spring. The carrot fritters are a go-to breakfast number in our house (but are equally good at lunch or dinner) and can be made with whatever root veg you have around. I enlist my four-year-old son to help with the grating and mixing. The polenta and mushroom dish is like a warm embrace – rich, comforting and fortifying – and will convert any polenta sceptics in your life.

Saucy mushrooms and grilled polenta (pictured top)

A lovely, warming dish for the colder months, this also works as a pasta sauce or as the base for a bean stew. I use a 20cm x 25cm oven tray to set the polenta in, then portion it and grill the individual sections, but you can set it in anything you like, so long as it’s about an inch thick.

Prep 25 min
Cook 50 min
Set 30 min+
Serves 4

Salt and black pepper
150g polenta
600g mushrooms
– I use button or small chestnut, but any will do
6 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced, or a bulb of finely diced fennel
1 rosemary stalk
2 bay leaves
125ml white wine
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
25g parsley
, finely chopped
Grated cheese, to serve

In a medium saucepan, bring a litre of water and a good pinch of salt to a boil. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking continuously to remove any lumps, turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, giving it a good stir every few minutes. Check the seasoning, then pour into a lined tray. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to set.

I keep the mushrooms whole if they are small and halve or quarter any larger ones – you want them all roughly the same size. Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of oil, followed by the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, then fry, stirring occasionally, for five to seven minutes, until the mushrooms have taken on a little colour and are softening.

Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add two to three tablespoons of oil to the hot pan, followed by the carrot, onion, celery, rosemary and bay. Add a good pinch of salt and cook on a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until really soft. If the mix starts to catch, add a splash of water and turn down the heat a little.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, add the wine and tomatoes, then fill the empty tin with water, then pour this tomatoey water into the pan, too. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened, then stir in the parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put a griddle pan on a medium-high heat until smoking. Brush the remaining oil over the set slab of polenta, then cut it into four equal-sized pieces. Lay these in the griddle pan and don’t touch them for three to five minutes, by which time the polenta should release from the pan and you can flip it over. Cook for a further three to five minutes on the other side, until crisp and golden.

Serve the polenta on top of the mushrooms with cheese grated over.

Carrot fritters

These are really easy to rustle up in the morning, especially if you weigh out the ingredients and prep the veg the night before. Swap in any veg that you have – shredded cabbage works especially well. These fritters can help you out of a jam for a light lunch or dinner, too.

Prep 15 min
Cook 10 min
Makes 12

1 good-sized onion, peeled and sliced
200g gram flour
500g carrot
, coarsely grated
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
25g parsley, or other soft herb, finely chopped, plus a little extra to garnish
5 tbsp oil
– I use sunflower
Yoghurt, to serve

Separate the onion slices, then put them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside for at least five minutes.

Mix the flour with a good couple of pinches of salt, then mix in 200ml water until smooth. Stir in the carrot, spring onions, parsley, drained onion and two tablespoons of oil.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a tablespoon or so of oil. Roughly divide the fritter mixture into three in the bowl, then spoon four fritters from one-third of the mix into the pan, patting them down as you go. Turn down the heat to medium-low and leave to cook for three to five minutes – when they release from the pan, they are ready to be flipped. Cook for three to five minutes on the other side, repeat with the remaining fritter mix, and serve with yoghurt and more herbs to garnish.

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