Uli Yeomans shares a delicious recipe for another Veganuary treat

[New City Magazine – January 2021, page 22]

It seems a very long time since the days when we could have guests for dinner and enjoy spending time together in our homes. In fact it was just about a year ago that we last met up with friends of ours, former work colleagues. After retirement we had started getting together occasionally for lunch and that wintery January day it was our turn: we were cooking and tidying up to welcome them.

I had got the slow cooker out and prepared the ingredients for a vegan recipe I’d had an eye on for a while. The aroma filled the kitchen and the gourmet dish was ready early, just keeping hot, when we received a telephone call from our friends. With profuse apologies they explained that the windscreen wipers had been frozen up and were now completely dead; the rescue service would take two hours to come, and wet from the sleet they had gone inside again and felt they would have to cancel. Their home is up on a hill and a good 40-minute ride away – but hey, the main dish was in the slow cooker so wouldn’t mind the wait!

Our friends, usually quite independent, graciously accepted the invitation to be chauffeured. It had actually started snowing and together with the lights of the slow-moving traffic on the motorway this served as a perfect backdrop to our small company chatting about this unexpected winter adventure. It was quite late when we sat down to enjoy our meal, but what a good time we had! Ensuing conversations lingered into the early evening, and after a relaxed drive back under a starry sky, with our friendship renewed we said our good-byes.

The casserole had also graciously survived the extended stewing and reheating. The vegetables were possibly on the soft side, the sauce perhaps a little too reduced and maybe slightly intense in flavour. But the reunion with our friends had turned out just perfect.

New Year’s resolution: embrace the unexpected!

Mushroom and fennel casserole

Ingredients

▶ 25g dried mushrooms

▶ 2 small heads of fennel, trimmed and sliced

▶ 15 or so shallots, peeled

▶ 225g button mushrooms

▶ 250ml dry cider

▶ 25g sun-dried tomatoes

▶ 2tbsp tomato paste, 2 bay leaves

▶ salt, pepper, olive oil

▶ chopped parsley/chives for garnish

Method

Cover the dried mushrooms with hot water, leave for 20 minutes. Lightly sauté the shallots in a little oil, then the button mushrooms, last the fennel. Transfer vegetables to the preheated slow cooker. Heat the cider, add the re-constituted mushrooms plus three tablespoons of the soaking liquid (use the rest in a soup), tomatoes, paste and bay leaves. Heat through but avoid boiling, add to the slow cooker, season, cover and cook on high for four hours. Garnish liberally to offset the earthiness of the vegetables. Serves four as a starter or side dish, or two as a main course.

 [See the article in full PDF edition on page 22]

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