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Shiitake bliss – lentil and vege casserole

February 8, 2010

For my 21st birthday a good friend of mine gave me two classic casserole dishes. The first time I used it I made the most delicious stew/casserole thing, with shiitakes, potatoes, carrots and onions, and I ate it all up without bothering to photograph it. Well. You shall finally be enlightened, as I made this the other night (although not in my pretty casserole dishes because I may have made enough to feed four. Of course, if you’re not as lucky on the casserole dish front, there’s always the good old pot on the cooktop on low heat.

Now, this is possibly the easiest thing to make ever, but there are a few things you need to do in advance. Soak lentils and mushrooms in the morning, but other than that, it’s chop, chuck, cook and er…I’ve run out of “C” words for devour-like-a-hungry-kid-who-has-been-standing-outside-a-candy-shop-all-day. One thing you must must do though, is use shiitake mushrooms. They are the meat of this. If you want to save money and time, head down to your nearest asian supermarket and ask for the nicest shiitake mushrooms (try “dried” mushrooms) they have. They may not even be the most expensive. Will got ours from the fruit and vege shop in upper Riccarton, called full season. They’re not cheap, but they’ll last ages because they double in size once soaked, and the flavour is rather strong.

Let’s go!

Lentil Shiitake Casserole

serves 4 as a one pot dinner

1/2 c dry lentils,* soaked for at least 8 hours
handful dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for at least 8 hours**
1-2 onions, sliced thinly along the lines
2 small carrots, cut into strips/slices 2cm thick
about 2c other veges (I used portobellos, cauliflower florets and broccoli florets)
about 2c cubed potatoes (cut into 3cm/1″ chunks)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 c light soy sauce
50g butter sliced or 1/3 c oil to veganise
handful of fresh wintery herbs like sage, rosemary and/or thyme, or 1 tsp each dried
freshly ground black pepper

*brown or french lentils that keep their shape are best)
**immerse in a glass of water (but only just – don’t use too much water), then place another cup on top of the mushrooms in the glass of water. This will keep the top mushrooms from floating on the surface of the water and not soaking properly.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Rinse lentils by placing under the tap in a sieve and place at the bottom of the casserole dish. Remove shiitakes from the water, and squeeze water out over the lentils. Halve shiitakes and place all other veges and herbs in the dish with the shiitakes, and mix to distribute herbs. Pour shiitake soaking water and soy sauce over the whole lot. Top with the butter (see first picture for an illustration).

Place casserole dish in the centre of your oven for about an hour, taking it out and stirring once or twice in between (when stirring the point is to get those juices at the bottom all over your veges and to move the veges that have been parboiling at the bottom to the top). Or leave on your stovetop on medium low heat for an hour, stirring three or four times in between. Then you should get something that looks like this:

Now, I know it doesn’t look appealing, so maybe skip this for the guests, but it’s the sort of thing that makes me happy without steak and lamb. And I like lamb.

This keeps quite well for leftovers, and to reheat without a microwave you just need to add a cm of water to the bottom of a saucepan, dump in leftovers and cover, heating for about 5 minutes. Perfect for the crappy summer we’ve been having! Sigh. It’s ok, my next post will be a lot more optimistic. I may have made my first batch of swiss buttercream. Can you guess what I made with them?

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