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It was Tanmoy’s birthday last week, so I was in a celebratory mood. After all, his birthday means that for the next 11 months, we can both quote the same age when asked (yes, I am whole month older than him… GASP!) Just to be contrary, he was in as non-celebratory a mood as anyone could possibly be for their own birthday. So I was having a tough time figuring out how to celebrate without really celebrating.

My Ma-in-law made the decision making slightly easier by saying I should make Payesh (a lip-smacking-spoon-licking-inducing rice pudding very well liked by the Bengalis and indeed by anyone who ever gets to eat it). Then Tanmoy asked for a Strawberry Cake (and warned me not to tell anyone because sweet pink cakes are for little girls but I am telling anyway because I think everyone has a right to like pink cakes), so the sweets were take care of. But I still needed to figure out what the main dish would be – it had to special and sumptuous, something that would warm your belly and make you smile for sometime after you’d finished eating, something that inherently made you feel good about being alive, something that would make even a husband in the most non-celebratory mood (silently) thank his stars that his wife was of a different opinion.

After rejecting many recipes already in my repertoire (I wasn’t experimenting for this occassion) I suddenly remembered this one. I had made it for the first time in the dead of winter, on a cold cold night. Then I went to India and forgot all about it. But my taste buds and my belly remembered and once they did, would settle for nothing else. So even it was ostensibly for Tanmoy’s birthday dinner, it was really for me, but I can assure you that was very pleased with it. Its a hearty stew of mushrooms, onions and carrots simmered for a long time in a wine sauce. There’s something very grown-up about cooking with wine, don’t you think?

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Prep Time : 60-70 minutes
Serves : 4

WHAT YOU NEED:

4 large Portabella Mushrooms
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 cup diced Carrots
10-12 Spring Onions
1 Tomato, pureed
1 cup full-bodied Red Wine
2 cups Vegetable Broth
3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp White Flour / Maida
1 tsp Oregano
3-4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup Coriander, chopped
Salt, Sugar and Pepper to taste

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Slice the mushrooms into 1/2 cm thick slices. Do not use the stems for this recipe, keep them for some other use.
  2. In a deep frying pan or thick bottomed pot, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter on high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and saute over high heat until the mushrooms start to cook – 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
  3. Add another tbsp of olive oil to what remains in the pan. Lower the heat and saute the onions for a few minutes. Then add the carrots, some salt, coarsly ground black pepper and oregano and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add the garlic.
  4. When the onions start to brown a little, mix in a cup of your chosen red wine, and stir. Scrape up any bits that might be sticking to the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat all the way up and reduce the wine to half.
  5. Add the tomato puree and vegetable broth, the mushrooms and any liquid that may have collected, mix well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar to round off the taste.
  6. Cut off the tops of the spring onions and add them to the stew. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the chopped coriander and combine the flour and 1 tbsp softened butter and add it to the pot to thicken up the sauce. Simmer until the sauce is the right consistency.
  7. Ladle on to a bowl of noodles, garnish with some more coriander, and serve hot with a glass of red wine. Feel completely satisfied with life.

MY NOTES:

Don’t use regular white mushrooms as they cook very fast and will disintegrate very quickly with all that simmering. The secret is to choose a ‘meaty’ variety of mushroom like portabella or cremini and simmer it in a wine that you would enjoy drinking.

The stew can also be served with warm buttered rice instead of noodles.

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