Mushroom & lentil ragu for all occasions


Our farmers’ market has the most delicious mushrooms – oyster, shitake, Japanese of several varieties – like Japanese jumping mushrooms – and I’m always looking for things to do with them. As we eat very little meat they do make a wonderful substitute: one of my favourites is a  spicy mushroom laab made with rice noodles  (Ottolenghi Flavour) which I make every 10 days or so. Anyway, here’s a simple recipe for a mushroom and lentil  ragu which you can eat with pasta, on its own with salad, or with anything really. Depsite the long-looking list of ingredients it’s very easy as you pulse the first six ingredients then add the rest after the initial bake! The miso, harissa and soy combine to make a real umami flavour.  You can by the way use any lentils – i ah some delicious and nutritious urud dal, most commonly sued in dal makhani, so i used that. All I needed to do was soak the beans in boiling water (changing it when it cooled) for a couple of hours – no pre-cooking required. This makes a substantial amount, so keep some and freeze some. If you don’t have porcini, just use more ordinary mushrooms, as I did. And what with mushrooms and lentils this is a super healthy immunity-boosting combo.

Serves 4-6

3 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
300 g of mixed mushrooms, chopped
60g dried porcini mushrooms, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 tin of tomatoes 
120 ml olive oil
70g miso paste
40 g rose harissa
4 tbsp tomato paste
90 ml soy sauce
2 tsp cumin seeds
180g lentils – green, brown or even urud dal
100g pearl barley
1 litres stock or water
160 g coconut cream
100ml red wine
salt & pepper


Put the first six ingredients in a food processor, in batches if necessary. Pulse until you have a rough paste.

Then add the harissa, oil, miso, tomato puree, soy sauce and cumin seeds, and mix well. Then place in a large, high-sided ovenproof dish and bake at 190C for 30-40 minutes. Stir half way through and remove when edges are brown and it is bubbling.

Remove from the oven, reduce heat to 180 C, and add all the remaining ingredients plus 1 litre of stock or water (I always use water – there is quite enough flavour in everything that’s been added and stock cubes are not quite natural in my opinion). Season well with salt and pepper, cover tightly with foil and bake for another 40 minutes. Remove the foil and let it brown nicely before removing and letting it rest for 5 minutes or so. It should be gloopy and unctuous, will spoon beautifully over your pasta,  or polenta. Or simply mop up with crispy bread and salad.


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