Mushrooms, Truffles and Polenta – an Italian Autumn Recipe:
It is a few years now since I visited Tuscany. November hardly seems like the most logical time of year to go sightseeing in Europe, but for any food lover, Tuscany is treasure trove that shouldn’t be missed and that is when we visited. We managed to catch the San Miniato Truffle Festival – specifically focussed on the finest and rarest of truffles, the white truffle. But, as we discovered there’s a lot more to see there – exhibitors from Tuscany and all around Italy descend on this small Medieval village to showcase their goods.
There are demonstrations by local artisans – and a general party atmosphere with a hog roast and artisan demonstrations followed later in the evening by dancing and yet more feasting on all kinds of local produce. I defy anyone to leave feeling hungry!
I’ve been trying my hand at recreating some of the flavours of an Autumnal Tuscany: Mushrooms, Truffles, Olio Nuevo and wild boar sausages. In particular, I wanted to make that mushroom ragu which is used on bruschetta at this time of year or served with polenta perhaps to accompany some wild boar sausages or other game. And, because I’m somewhat obsessed with truffles, I’ve added just a little black truffle carpaccio to mine. Perfect as it came, I really didn’t want any meat, though if I’d been able to get hold of some authentic Tuscan sausages I might very well have given in.
Feeling hungry yet? This is a very simple dish to prepare and, you can make up the mushroom mixture well in advance (though don’t add the truffle carpaccio till just before you are ready to serve). If I had fresh truffle, I’d have sliced a little on top…but since I don’t I’ve made do with some fresh parsley (you could use sage if you prefer the taste).
- 350 g Mixed mushrooms Try to include both porcini and dark field mushrooms
- 15 ml Olive Oil
- 1 Shallot
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar Optional, because unless you can find that authentic aged balsamico, you are better off leaving this out. The real thing is a thick, almost sweet mixture with very little taste of vinegar.
- 250 g Polenta I use the quick variety
- 100 g Butter
- 500 ml Stock
- 50 g Grana Padano Cheese
- 1 teaspoon Black Truffle Carpaccio You can substitute truffle oil if no carpaccio is available
- 1 handful Flat leaf parsley chopped
Dice the shallot and garlic finely
Clean the mushrooms carefully with a brush or just damp cloth, trim and dice
Add the mushrooms to the saute pan and stir through for a few minutes. Now add most of the butter and the balsamic and season well with salt and pepper
Cover the pan with a lid and cook over a low heat for around 20 minutes
Meanwhile make up the polenta with the stock according to the packet instruction. I use quick polenta which most Italians would discourage, but I find it works very well.
Stir the remaining butter and parmesan into the polenta.
Stir the truffle carpaccio into the mushroom mixture
Serve the dish by piling the mushroom mixture into the centre of a serving of polenta and garnishing with a little freshly chopped parsley or sage
It’s a dish that really brings back some of the tastes of Tuscany for me. The Olive Oil…in particular the peppery Olio Nuevo which you’ll only find in season and locally.
The Pecorino a Latte Crudo which I saw being made in the hills just outside Pistoia.
The unique, dark and rich fish stew which you can find only in Livorno, The wonderful chocolate that you’ll find if you visit Siena, the Buccellato from Luca – the list is endless. The markets are full of wonderful seasonal produce – from a whole range of mushrooms to chestnuts, cavolo nero, onions, fennel and fresh tomatoes
And of course, the wines of the region, the Chianti, the Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano
I’ve spent more time exploring the foods of Northern Tuscany – around Florence and Pistoia. But I know there’s more in the Chianti region and To Tuscany, the Tuscan Villa company is currently running a competition to win a week at Montebuoni, Lecce in Chianti. I’d love to visit and so I am entering my recipe for truffled mushroom polenta because I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas