Supermarket Vegetarian: Part VI
So as it goes, I am featured in the April edition of BBC Good Food Magazine! They featured me as one of their eight people they love on Instagram in an article dedicated to British cooking. So what better way to mark the sixth instalment of my SUPERMARKET VEGETARIAN series than with a proper British dish?
P.S. if anyone is wondering, the feature also gave a shout-out to my dog Waffle (he just HAD to get mentioned, didn’t he?) and they used an image for my Beetroot & Thyme Dip, the recipe of which can be food here. And if anybody wants to follow me on Instagram (like the Bible of good food suggests, I might add) you can find me here.
So back to eating.
As always, this series is all about making good meatless food accessible, and more importantly, only using ingredients that can be found in a supermarket. And as I said, this recipe goes one further, and in the spirit of being featured in the celebrating Britain edition of BBC Good Food magazine, I’m using ingredients that celebrate British cuisine!
Nothing says Brit to me more than a pudding. Robust yet strangely wobbly, soft and creamy yet still crunchy, a traditional pud is just what you need on a rainy Sunday. In the same vein as a Yorkshire pudding, I wanted to give you a meatless spin on Toad in the Hole. Everyone loves a Toad in the Hole, right? A tray style pudding where the batter cooks around some sausages, except… in this version… there are no sausages, and instead there are some plump, toothsome mushrooms.
I also wanted to introduce another British spike into the mix and that was with the deep, intensely savoury dribble of Red Onion & Marmite Gravy over the pudding and mash. Since 1902 Marmite has actually been made in Staffordshire and even though it’s tagline of ‘Love it or Hate it’ can divide a nation, I definitely class myself as the former and find Marmite to be essential in a Veggie store cupboard for adding depth and layers to dishes.
The mash I use here is dubbed a ‘Dirty Mash’. I would like to preface this recipe by saying this is not because it has gutsy flavours or is dripping with a plethora of urban dubbed ‘dirty’ high-calorie ingredients. While that does sound incredible and not too dissimilar from my usual style, it’s called Dirty Mash because I don’t peel the potatoes.
Because I am lazy.
Start by making the Dirty Mash. I always start with mash when it comes to a situation like this because I can plonk them to one side when they’re done and reheat when I need them.
So, halve up a bunch of baby potatoes (as many as you need and keep the skins on) and drop into a deep, cold pan of water. Salt the water, bring it to a boil and drop it to a simmer. Keep this simmering for like 15-20 minutes until the potatoes soften and the skins start scruffily breaking away from the potatoes. It’ll look a big messy – but these are dirty potatoes, so let’s go there.
Take a little cup of the water out of the pan and leave to one side, and drain the potatoes in a colander. Leave them to steam in the colander for a bit. Put the empty pan back on a low heat and pour in a little of the potato water. Now add a small glug of double cream, a knob of butter, some pepper and a big, filthy spoonful of full-fat cream cheese. Stir everything until the cheese and butter melt and thicken the cream slightly. Keep it on a low heat though, you don’t want to cook the cream.
Take the pan off the heat, gently throw in your potatoes, mix everything together and then bash them with a potato crusher. It will be scruffy, lumpy and absolutely delicious. Taste a little, add some salt if you need it and put to one side.
Now we batter up. It’s always good to do your batter first because resting time with a pudding batter is key. This is dead simple, and nothing to worry about. Preheat your oven to 220C first because you’ll need this hot kit later. The key to good batter is piping hot oil – don’t be scared of though, we’re not doing a Pasodoble in the pan, we’re just pottering around the kitchen.
In a big bowl (or a big jug if you have it, that’s what I prefer) drop in 130g of plain flour and add a teaspoon of salt and a twist of pepper. To this, grate in two cloves of garlic and add a big, juicy handful of chopped fresh thyme. Mix this together with a fork. In another jug of bowl, crack in two eggs and add 180ml of full fat milk. Stir this together before pouring into the flour mix.
Whisk both together until you get a creamy, manila coloured lump-less batter. Put this to one side to rest while you do the gravy.
Finely chop up a small red onion and in a saucepan, melt a little butter until it bubbles. Throw in the onion and add some salt and pepper. Cook gently until the onion softens up a bit and then chuck in a tablespoon of flour. This will form a thick, balled up paste but keep cooking on a low-ish heat for like… 2/3 minutes so that the floury taste disappears.
Pour yourself half a litre of vegetable stock (I have homemade ready but who are we kidding? Use a cube stock if you want) and add a quick dash of it to the flour mix, stirring until the balled up flour loosens. Now add the rest of the stock and stir a little until all of the lumps go. Bring to a boil and drop to a simmer, stirring as you go so that the gravy thickens.
Now grab a 20×30 roasting pan that’s able to go on the hob (a tin one will be fine) and pour in a good glug of vegetable oil. Slide this in the oven to heat up.
To the gravy, add a heaped teaspoon of Marmite and stir through, watching as gravy transforms and goes all dark, cloudy and twisted as the Marmite seeps through it. That’s my favourite bit. Now drop this on the lowest heat you’ve got and just let it very gently bubble away. You might want to do this on a back hob too, so you have a front hob free.
While the gravy blips away and the oil in the tray heats up, prepare your mushrooms and all this takes is to grab some big chestnut mushrooms and snap out the stems (keep them for a carbonara or something) and then grab some whole button mushrooms ready. The next step needs to be done quickly so just put them stove side ready.
Once the oil is piping hot, I’d say 10-15 minutes, turn a hob on, take the pan out and put it on the hot hob. Remember I said you need a pan that will go on a stovetop? This is why. Now, using tongs, place all of your mushrooms in the pan. There’s no rule to how you place them obviously, I put the chestnut mushrooms hump up and then the button mushrooms legs up.
Now I grab the batter that’s been resting and quickly pour it in and around the mushrooms. Yes, it will make a big dragon hiss and sizzle but that’s such a sexy sound, don’t be scared of it. Just be quick but be careful.
Now put the pan back in the hot oven. It’ll still be on 220C now and keep it that way for 10 minutes and then drop it down to 200C for another 20. During this time the batter will firm up, plump up and puff up around your placed mushrooms and turn a gorgeous golden brown.
While the pudding rises, feel free to reheat your potatoes (either back on a hob or in a microwave, whatever is easiest). After the pudding’s full 30 minute time, take it out of the oven and feel free to serve while it is still puffed up and sexy. Bring it to the table with the hot gravy which has been blipping away gently for the 30 minutes and the reheated potatoes.
I serve with an extra sprinkle of salt, some peas (frozen – cooked by putting them in a bowl and pouring over boiling hot water for 3/4 minutes!) and of course, some Coleman’s mustard.
This makes a really cool Sunday dinner when you can’t be arsed for the full kit and caboodle and ticks all the boxes. And guess what I do with leftovers? If there’s gravy leftover and some pudding leftover, I snap some pudding out of the pan with my fingers, dunk it right into the cold gravy, give it two shakes and eat it.