Ixta Belfrage’s vegan recipe for oyster mushrooms and polenta with tomato and chipotle butter sauce

Oyster mushrooms have the power to turn into incredibly crisp, meaty versions of themselves when fried or roasted. I love them, but I’m aware that many people don’t, and even more aware that mushrooms are all too often used as a substitute for meat. With that in mind, I urge you not to skip over this recipe if you don’t like mushrooms: roasted aubergine cubes are a great alternative, and go just as well with the tomato and chipotle butter sauce and creamy polenta.

Both the fresh chilli and the chipotle chilli flakes are optional, so omit them, or just use less, if you prefer. For the aubergine version of this dish, cut 500g aubergines into 3cm cubes, toss with four tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of salt, spread out on a flat, lined oven tray and roast in a 230C (210C fan)/450F/gas 8 oven for half an hour, stirring once halfway, until deeply golden brown.

Prep 10 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4

For the mushrooms
500g oyster mushrooms, torn in half or, if large, in quarters
3 tbsp olive oil
Fine salt and black pepper

For the tomato chipotle sauce
4 tbsp olive oil
30g plant-based butter
4 garlic cloves
, peeled and very finely chopped
1 mild red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped (or less, to taste)
150g sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes (such as datterini), very finely chopped
1 tsp tomato puree
¾ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chipotle chilli flakes
(or less, to taste)

For the polenta
200ml plant-based single cream or full-fat tinned coconut milk (at least 70% coconut extract)
100g quick-cook polenta
60g white miso paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried onion

To serve
tbsp (5g) finely chopped chives
1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat the oven to 210C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Line a large, flat oven tray with greaseproof paper. Top with the torn mushrooms, oil, salt and plenty of pepper, toss to coat, then spread out evenly and roast for 20 minutes. Stir, roast for another five to 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown, then remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the oil and butter in a medium, nonstick frying pan on a low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic, chilli and half a teaspoon of fine salt and fry very gently, stirring often, for three to four minutes, until the garlic is soft and golden (you don’t want it to brown or go crisp, so keep the heat very low). Take off the heat and immediately stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, chipotle and plenty of black pepper, then set aside.

Put all the ingredients for the polenta in a medium saucepan, add 350ml water and whisk to combine. Put on a medium heat and cook, whisking continuously, for about six minutes, until smooth and thickened (if at any point the polenta starts to spit, turn the heat down).

Spoon the polenta on to a platter or four individual plates, then spoon over the sauce, followed by the mushrooms. Drizzle over some more oil, scatter the chives on top and serve with the lime wedges alongside.

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