I love eating from bowls. What’s even better? Eating from a bowl with your hands. (This does not extend to soup. I’m not a lunatic.) Eating with your hands makes for a more tactile, sensual dining experience. The fun is in making sure there’s enough texture, subtlety and flavor to give variety to each mouthful, lest it be boring or too hard to pick up. If you insist on cutlery, no judgment.
Winter is not yet gone in northern Europe, and I’m still reaching for warming comfort food. Fresh herbs in this dish wake up the palate, white beans are creamy and the potato is gently sweet. A medley of mushrooms add complexity: oyster, shiitake, enoki, boletus or chanterelles all work here. Common brown or white button mushrooms can serve as a filler but lack flavor, so if you do use them, make sure they comprise no more than 30% of the total. Be sure to space your mushrooms properly during cooking for a lovely, seared steak quality.
Cook Time: 45-60 mins to roast sweet potato, final 15 mins to throw it all together
Prep Time: 15-20 mins total with 10 mins mise-en-place (chopping and prepping)
Make Ahead: roast sweet potato up to a day ahead to make this a 15-20 min meal!
INGREDIENTS: 200g of mushrooms: Chanterelles, Oyster, Shiitake, Porcini or a mix
300g of washed young kale (cavolo nero, bumpy kale is very nice)
150g of white beans (cannellini), cooked or canned
150g of watercress, roughly chopped
1 large sweet potato
1 medium garlic clove, minced
4 sprigs young thyme leaves
1 small handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) or flat-leaf parsley
1 stalk of a green onion (green part only), sliced thinly
4 tablespoons or 60ml of extra virgin olive oil, ghee or 50/50
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Make it Flexitarian:
3 generous pinches of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and/or
2 poached eggs Make it Vegan: 300g fermented tofu (150g per person), shaved or thinly sliced Coat in olive oil and roast alongside the mushrooms in the oven.The sour nuttiness of the tofu gives a cheesy quality and combines well.
Preheat your oven to 250C and bake your sweet potato until a knife will easily pierce it, or about 45-60 mins depending on size (check from 40 mins). Set aside to cool or lifehack that and enjoy the shortcut. If the sweet potato was roasted ahead, preheat the oven for the mushrooms. Chop the sweet potato into medium size chunks and set aside. Allow your cooked white beans to come to room temperature or drain and rinse the beans if canned.
Pick out any earth or debris from the mushrooms or brush lightly to clean. Slice them about one or two fingertips wide. Toss them in 2 tbsp of olive oil, set on baking paper and space them out on a tray so they are barely touching. Season with salt and pepper and broil until golden brown on the edges. Keep a close eye after 10 mins to avoid burning.
Once the mushrooms are in the oven, fill a pan with water up to 3-4 fingers high of water, add a dash of vinegar and set to boil for the egg poaching, if applicable. I used coconut vinegar, but any light one will do: white balsamic, white wine, or plain white.
Warm the garlic in 2 tbsps of the olive oil or ghee in a pan with half the thyme leaves on medium to low heat. Avoid smoking the oil as this degrades the good fats into not-so-good fats. Now add the chopped kale and toss in the oil. Add the eggs for poaching to the pan of simmering water.
In 3 mins, the eggs will be ready and the greens will brighten. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain. Quickly add white beans and sweet potato to the kale, and toss a bit, cooking over medium-low heat until warmed through (7-10 mins). Check on your roasting mushrooms. Season the veg with salt and pepper and finish with a squeeze of the lemon, straining any seeds in between your fingers.
Turn off the heat on your greens and veg. Remove the mushrooms from the oven: they should be golden brown and lightly crispy. Toss the watercress in with the cooked veg, top with the egg (if applicable), a handful of mushrooms, and a pinch each of fresh coriander or parsley (or both) and green onion. Sprinkle with the cheese if desired and a turn of freshly ground pepper. Enjoy from a bowl. Try it with your hands.
Lifehack: a baked sweet potato, cup of cooked, whole quinoa or rice, lentils or beans are great to have on hand as a meal starter and time saver. You can do this easily while cooking one day (I like Sundays for this). Then you have the basis for a couple days worth of 15-20 min dinners.
For more on foraging and mushrooms, have a look at Fat of the Land, Langdon Cook’s book The Mushroom Hunters, or the outstanding documentary with the amazing Paul Stamets, Fantastic Fungi, to dive deeper into the incredible world of mycelium.