Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vegetarian Stifatho (stew)
with Swiss Brown and Oyster Mushrooms


I have a lot of love for mushrooms. Especially portabella or Swiss brown mushrooms. Did you know Swiss browns (or creminis) are just small portabellas? I only found this out a few weeks ago. I know, I'm so unworldly. But no matter how uneducated I may be about mushrooms, I do know something, and that is that I do not like oyster mushrooms. Definitely NOT a lot of love for those rubbery things let me tell you.

Admittedly, my exposure to oyster mushrooms has been limited to the way they are prepared in Greek restaurants. Namely Limnian Greek restaurants. You may know about the family connections I have in Limnos and the annual pilgrimage Tony and I make to the island to get away from Melbourne's bitter winter, if only for a few weeks. We are counting down the days to our next trip over there in August – for the warm days, the time spent with family and the wonderful food.

In Limnos lunch is usually enjoyed with the family out on the shady terrace of the old house, but dinner time is when Tony and I venture out to explore the local tavernas.

When ordering something from a Limnian menu that is accompanied vegetables, you will indeed receive a side serve of very lovely stewed or baked vegetables ... but be prepared to find that your vegetables will also be sharing space with a good pile of dreadful oyster mushrooms. I kid you not. Every side serve of stewed vegetables I've received at a Limnian taverna has contained oyster mushrooms. All I can say is this: Oyster mushrooms. Yuck.

Come on, let's be honest here. They're rubbery, slimy and chewy – I reckon that's the real reason why they call them oyster mushrooms. Surely it's not just because they look like an oyster shell.

Every year in Limnos I try my darnedest to warm to these peculiar morsels. I keep trying to convince myself that I'm just culinarily immature and that one day I'll learn to appreciate the rubbery, sea-kelp texture of oyster mushrooms. But is it really just a matter of an acquired taste or have the Limnians just been cooking them the wrong way?

The flavours of a classic Greek Stifatho (stew, usually made with rabbit or chicken) are strong and aromatic. Cinnamon, cloves, garlic, sweet onions ... robust flavours that dominate the dish. These flavours could easily mask the taste of the mildly-flavoured oyster mushroom. But what about the texture? Stifatho is slowly cooked for almost two hours. Could slow cooking oyster mushrooms soften and tenderise them? I couldn't wait to find out.

The innocent oyster mushroom stood a real chance in my kitchen yesterday. Paired with a bunch of Swiss browns I was sure I could produce the most delicious Vegetarian Stifatho AND make a hero of the poor old oyster mushroom.


It's amazing what you discover when you least expect it and cooking often presents the most unexpected surprises. Now we all know that mushrooms release liquid when they're sautéed, but these oyster mushrooms were absolutely gushing it out. So much so, the mushrooms themselves almost completely disappeared, leaving nothing but a pot full of liquid and a few stems! I was fascinated. Where did all those fins and big floppy bits go?

The other thing I discovered was that stewing oyster mushrooms for nearly two hours doesn't change their texture. They stay exactly how you left them at the end of the sautéing stage (as sparse as their remains may have been). Rubbery oyster mushroom stems were still rubbery oyster mushroom stems.

But in all honesty, this dish had all the flavours of a delicious Greek Stifatho that you would expect, without the meat. It really was quite lovely. I think the bizarre disappearing act of the oyster mushrooms when sautéing saved this dish as far as my textural issues go. And the few oyster mushrooms that were left actually made the stew a little more dynamic than it might have been with just Swiss brown mushrooms. I love serendipity!

Vegetarian Stifatho with Swiss Brown and Oyster Mushrooms


Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 20 small pickling onions, peeled and left whole
  • 400g Swiss brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 300g oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 can of peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large, heavy-based pot, sauté the onions in olive oil, browning on all sides. Remove onions from pot.
  2. Add mushrooms to pot and sauté until copious amounts of liquid is released and oyster mushrooms almost disappear. Allow to simmer until liquid is almost all gone.
  3. Add garlic to mushrooms and sauté for around 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add wine to the mushroom mixture and simmer for a few minutes.
  5. In a small cup, place whole cloves and 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Allow to steep for a few minutes, discard cloves, and add clove water to mushroom mixture.
  6. Add onions, tomatoes, cinnamon and bay leaves to pot and stir until well combined. If there is not enough liquid to just cover all the ingredients in the pot, add a little water or vegetable stock.
  7. Cover and simmer on very low heat for around 1 hour, without stirring.
  8. After the hour, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir gently, being careful not to break up the onions, and leave to simmer, covered, for another 30–45 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  9. Remove bay leaves and serve over rice or mashed potato.



31 comments:

  1. Hi,dear Lisa!I am so glad I discovered your wonderful blog!I am a greek vegetarian as well. I own an "almost" vegetarian blog (you see my sister and co-owner still eats meat).
    Your stifado is delicious! I go crazy for mushrooms!Hope to hear from you!
    Φιλάκια Πολλά από Ελλάδα!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Lenia and welcome! Lovely to meet another Greek vegetarian! I hope you try the mushroom stifatho recipe, it really is quite delicious. Your blog is lovely - thank you for introducing me!

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  2. This dish looks absolutely delicious Lisa. I must say, I am a huge fan of mushrooms especially oyster mushrooms. I find they really shine in asian dishes. Looking forward to trying this out.:-)

    Nancy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Nancy - I think you will love this dish. It has a very strong aromatic flavour, much like Moroccan cuisine.

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  3. Not a fan of oyster mushrooms either, in fact I can only handle button/swiss brown and that's it. I know the other versions sold in supermarkets are safe to eat but they look too much like weird space food for me. Your recipe looks great and I will definitely be trying it!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, space food! I put dried TVP in that category too. I reckon this stifatho will taste just as amazing using only swiss browns.

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  4. i LOVE oyster mushrooms! i'm glad you gave them another chance and put them in this dish. i absolutely cannot wait to make this! xo.

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    1. It's funny how people either love them or hate them. If you're a fan of mushrooms generally you could use a variety of wild mushrooms in this dish. I'd love to hear how you go with it :)

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  5. I am a big fan of oyster mushrooms. They create great flavor in dishes. This looks delicious!

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    1. Thanks Ann! Great to hear there's another fan of the oyster mushroom! I think I gave them a bit of a hard time in my post - sorry oyster mushrooms!

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  6. I'm exactly the same with oyster mushrooms Lisa! I dislike them with passion until a few years ago, whene taste them in a tavern. Grilled with honey and balsamic vinegar. May not completely lost their rubber texture but transformed. Maybe you should try this way.

    The stew looks great and although without meat, rather the texture of the oyster, deceiving. I would like to try a dish as I see it in photos, with this fantastic white rice! Excellent!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grilled with honey and balsamic sounds amazing! I will definitely try this.

      Yes, the oyster mushroom does look like meat. This is one reason I think they are often used in vegetarian cooking. It actually puts me off a bit, the fact that is looks like meat, so I was glad to see most of it disappearing as I was cooking it!!

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  7. Beautiful stifatho Lisa, but I don't like oyster mushrooms either. I love the meatless stifatho idea, maybe I'll try it with just brown mushrooms.

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    1. Another strike for oyster mushrooms! Yes, the stew would still be lovely with just Swiss brown mushrooms.

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  8. This looks amazing. I actually love all mushrooms so this stifatho looks right up my alley. I can never find pickling onions though what would you suggest instead, french shallots?

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    1. French shallots would work beautifully in this dish Elizabeth. Their extra sweetness would enhance the spice flavours really well. The only reason I haven't used them in this dish is because they're about $14 a kilo here and a one kilo bag of pickling onions is only $2 :)

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  9. Replies
    1. sorry forgot to mention my name

      this is Mahmood from Saudi Arabia. Trying to cook your recipe.
      also wishing u all the luck.

      thnaks for sharing.

      Delete
    2. Hi Mahmood! I'm glad you're trying this recipe :) I hope it works out well for you. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you here again soon!

      Delete
  10. Mm, they look delicious! :) I'll look for these mushrooms at the market.

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    1. Thanks Miachel! I'm sure you'll have no problem finding these mushrooms at the market.

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  11. Oh I'm exactly the same! Can't do oyster mushrooms - in fact, I can barely do mushrooms at all! Which is particularly sad as currently my housemate is growing bags of them at our house, so there is an abundance of fresh mushrooms if I wanted, but I just can't do it!

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    1. Oh what a shame you don't like mushrooms, especially with a plentiful supply on your doorstep! You know what? This stew would work just as well with plain old potatoes, carrots and parsnip. The aromatic spices would complement those vegetables beautifully.

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  12. This looks fabulous. Onions and mushrooms in just about anything are delicious!

    xx Kait

    ChickadeeSays
    ChickadeeSays Bloglovin

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks Kait! I think this would make a great pie filling too.

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  13. Hi! I like your blog so I wanted to give you this: http://mammituokkonen.blogspot.fi/2013/06/q.html

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lisa, will any mushrooms do? We dont have swiss brown mushrooms and I rarely find oysters. it usually portabella and white button

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    1. Hi Barbara! Yes, any mushrooms will work with this recipe. In fact, I definitely recommend portabella mushrooms – they will give this dish a lovely rich flavour (and just quietly, I think will be a much nicer dish than my oyster mushrooms version!). Please let me know how it turns out for you :)

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