:: I was having friends over for dinner and with the weather turning cool and rainy, indulgent comfort food was in order. After thumbing through my cookbooks and magazines I decided on this relatively simple but flavoursome ragu, from the May 2012 issue of delicious.
Polenta is something I quite enjoy but had never tried my hand at – and in fact this recipe far surpasses many blander versions I’ve eaten. The original recipe also calls for for Swiss brown mushrooms only, but I’m a huge fan of mixing the textures and flavours of different varieties, and this combination worked wonderfully here.
We drank a lovely drop of Coonawarra Estate 2009 cabernet sauvignon, a rich, fruity red which at first I found a little over-sweet but which soon mellowed into a smooth, almost creamy finish. The bottle disappeared before we knew it.
20g dried porcini mushrooms
800g sausages, casings removed, broken into pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
150ml dry white wine
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 fresh bay leaves
450g mixed mushrooms (enoki, oyster, portobello etc.)
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
1.5L chicken stock
1 1/2 cups instant polenta
2 cups finely grated parmesan
Soak porcini in one cup boiling water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the sausage meat in two batches, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add one tablespoon of oil to the saucepan. Add the onion, cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes or until soft and lightly golden.
Drain the porcini, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Add the porcini to the saucepan with the garlic, fennel seeds and chilli, then cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until almost evaporated. Return sausage meat to the pan with the tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ragu is reduced and thickened.
Place remaining oil in a large frypan over high heat. Add mushrooms, season, then cook for about 3 minutes or until golden and starting to brown. Stir mushrooms into the ragu, cover, then simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste.
Meanwile, place stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, then pour in the polenta in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes until thick and stir in the parmesan. Taste and season accordingly.
Spoon the polenta into bowls, top with ragu and chopped parsley.