Basing a sauce on English mustard always makes me think of Stoppard’s Arcadia. Frankly, I’d recommend seeing it regardless of what you do or do not propose to do with the ground seeds of sinapis alba, but in particular I remember Thomasina’s exhortation:
“When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again.”
This is an extraordinarily round-about way of saying that you can proper fuck up balance with mustard, and you won’t be able to stir it back out again. Too little and it’s mild heat and boredom. Too much, and it’s an acrid horrorshow, like a mouthful of hops and wasabi.
For all that, I love devilled kidneys. My dad used to make them as a breakfast treat, quick and dirty the way he picked up in the army. He’d thicken with breadcrumbs and dump in a bucket of ketchup. The sauce was pulpy and fiery, perfect for the savoury of the offal.
Veguary precludes that a bit, but here’s a fine brunch of spicy mushrooms.
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”.
Accordingly, I like to use Veguary to do two things: explore exciting vegetable flavours, and work up veggie hacks of meat dishes to see what I can get away with. This is the latter.
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.
Happening to have emmental, gnocchi, and Portobello mushrooms lying around probably marks me out as if not first against the wall when the revolution comes, then not too far behind people with small wheelie luggage, or those twats who call themselves “creative” without further elaboration.
But have them lying around I did, so I cooked them.
Again, there’s no real recipe here. I just sweated down the mushrooms in some oil with a little garlic, and melted in the cheese with a splash of milk, then tossed it all over gnocchi: