So, I’m doing “Veguary” again. It’s what it sounds like: a horrifying portmanteau, and 28 days off the meat. It’s great fun, more about shaking up my cooking habits than any kind of health-nut hand-wringing. I am, as a friend put it, “in it for the pies not the piety”.
Peposo is a Tuscan beef stew I first had cooked from Jamie’s Italy years ago by a friend. It’s stuck with me – feisty and warming, and so satisfying. It takes balck pepper, and punches it up to curry levels of spicy impact.
But at its core, it’s a simple stew. You can do it with just wine, beef, pepper, and about four hours. There’s a pretty good recipe here. For the mushroom version, I’ve had to cheat a bit and nudge some flavors around for body.
My first attempt at this was with mushrooms and aubergines. It works, and I actually marginally prefer the flavour, but the aubergine does go disconcertingly mushy, and makes it all a bit grey. If you fancy it, add aubergine chunks at the same time as the mushrooms.
- Mixed mushrooms – portobello and chestnut work nicely, 350-400g
- Wild mushrooms (mixed), 150g
- Onions, 2
- Red wine – I used most of a bottle of Chianti, but at least 500ml
- Veg stock, 300ml
- Garlic, a small bulb
- Rosemary, a big sprig
- Black pepper, 2tbsp ground (a mix of rough and fine is nice)
- Flour, 2tsp
- Dried porcini mushrooms, a few strips
- Redcurrant jelly, 1tbsp
- Parsley, big pinch
Serves 3-4, but you’ll want some bread or mash or otherwise aggressive stodge on the side.
Thickly slice the mixed mushrooms. Break the wild mushrooms into useful chunks. Peel the garlic. Shaking vigorously it in a jar works well to loosen the skins for this kind of quantity. Roughly dice the onion.
Combine the wine, stock, pepper, garlic, redcurrant jelly, and herbs. Tear or crumble in the porcini strips.
Simmer this slowly for at at least 30 mins, reducing it to at least half volume, and cooking out the pepper and garlic.
In a heavy casserole pan, fry the onion at a medium-low heat in oil (or ideally plenty of butter) until soft and golden. This probably wants 15-20 minutes; we’re shooting for the early stages of caramelized here.
Raise the heat a little, and add the sliced mushrooms. Fry for 7 or 8 minutes until softened, then add the flour, and stir until everything’s coated. Work it round for a minute or two, and add the liquid. Add the wild mushrooms, amalgamate everything, and simmer for at least 15 minutes until it reduces a bit. You may want to add more liquid if the wine mix cooked down a lot, and you may want more cooking time if the pepper flavour is too harsh. But remember a pepper hit is part of the point.
Serve with something carbtacular to mop it all up. I like to go with bread, and greens on the side. The original isn’t thickened, and I’ve gone in light on the flour here. You want plenty of sauce, but not thin and sloppy. The garlic cooks out and thickens somewhat – by the end it’s there for background body as much as anything, which is why you get away with the whole bulb.
This is dark and savoury and unusually spicy. Black pepper is really front and centre. The mushrooms have succulent body, and while it may not replace beef that’s been cooked fall-apart-tender over four hours, it is bloody tasty.
I actually prefer this made with Rioja to Chianti, and since any shred of authenticity has been diddled beyond all recognition by this point, I reckon that’s fair game.