Heston Blumenthal should be so lucky.
If I might suggest to Heston Blumenthal a menu change, perhaps he should consider serving Polenta Points with Mushroom Sauce at his pub instead of namby pamby pasta? Not that the pasta with pesto wasn't good; it was, but please, us vegans lead more exciting lives.
This was one of those dishes that left me really, really pleased. The tastes and textures blended perfectly, but I can't take all the credit: my cooking style involves very little science and a whole lot of "what if?".
Luckily, my husband (who even looks like Heston) knows a thing or two about heat transfer, so when he told me it was a good idea to saute the mushrooms over high heat, I listened. Turns out he knows how to use google, too, and when I was away he'd cooked up the mushrooms I'd left in the fridge, with a little help from the internet. He was dead right; the high heat sears the shrooms and prevents them from forming that rubbery texture most people have a vague distrust of. All that was left was to add an unscientific splash or two of white wine, some porcini stock, and a healthy chug of soy cream.
See, Heston? It's really easy to serve healthy and exciting vegan meals. No need to de-snail the snail porridge; just turn up the heat under the mushrooms.
Polenta Points with Mushrooms Sauce
1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and polenta, slowly, whisking all the while. Lower heat and stir, about 10-15 minutes until polenta is very thick. Remove from heat. Pour into a 9x13 or slightly smaller pan, treated with cooking spray. Allow to set at room temperature for an hour or so, or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons (more may be needed)
non-hydrogenated margarine, optional
1 large shallot, minced (or two smallish ones, to equal 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup porcini stock
1/2 cup soy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
shredded basil, for garnish
Cut polenta into triangles, or whatever shape fits well in your saute pan (about 2 or 3 inches in length). Saute in olive oil/margarine mixture over medium heat until dry and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside, under a towel or something to keep warm.
In same saute pan, saute shallots and garlic over medium heat, about 3 minutes. (You may need to add more oil at this point if the pan is dry.) Add mushrooms, and saute over high heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are brown and fragrant. Sprinkle with dried oregano while they're cooking.
Add wine and bring to a boil. Add mushroom stock and soy cream, stir until heated through. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour mushroom sauce over polenta points. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.
This would serve 3 people comfortably, with polenta left over. (You might try adding a piece of polenta to the top, for a more filling, stacked effect.)
Notes on ingredients: To make porcini stock, soak dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water 30 minutes. For this amount you'll only need 1/4 cup porcini and about 1/2 cup hot water. But go ahead and make extra to keep on hand for other dishes.
I used ordinary button mushrooms, called white cup mushrooms here. Soy cream is available at most supermarkets. I used Alpro, but Silk makes a nice soy cream too. Polenta is stone ground corn, exactly the same as yellow grits if you can find them. My mother used to get them at A&P; now that they're trendy check your supermarket's gourmet section.