Monday, August 20, 2007


This is really a thick, rich mushroom stew - the lentils and onion providing a complex savoury background to woodland porcini. You would want to eat this on an autumn day after conkering - or a bleak August day blackberrying, as I've just done! It was a recipe that, upon reading and even upon sniffing the simmering pan, I doubted would come together so well as it did. Lentils and mushrooms just make sense, in theory, but this didn't really come together until the very last stages.

I should also say that I have adapted this from a recipe in 'Fagioli'; Judith Barrett's version does not feature ordinary mushrooms. I am serving this with farmhouse bread (picture to follow) and spiced plum crumble. Having soup is a great excuse to eat pudding! This serves two at dinner or four as a starter.

1/2 cup lentils verde, washed and checked over
1 onion, finely chopped
2tbsp olive oil
2 large bay leaves
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
1 cup finely-diced chestnut (ordinary) mushrooms
3 cups hot water

First soak the porcini and set aside. In a soup pan, warm the olive oil and add the onion and bay leaves; stir to soften and sizzle. After a couple of minutes - or when it's ready - add the chopped tomato and mushrooms. Continue to stir until most of the liquid has gone and the vegetables are soft. Drain and finely-chop the porcini and add it to the pan with the green lentils and 4 cups of warm water. Bring to a fierce boil, lid off, and set the timer for 10 minutes. After that, turn the heat down to a gentle putter, and cook for another 35 minutes. You may want to add a little more water to reach the right consistency.

Make sure it's hot, remove the bay leaves and, if you like, garnish with a swirl of cream - it's rich enough to take the dilution - and chopped chives. Or a swirl of truffle oil and chopped rosemary... or whatever you have to hand... if you haven't already started eating!