A hearty lentil and mushroom stew made with a not-so-secret ingredient that really ramps up the flavour!
Another hearty recipe today, for those of you who have welcomed the cold weather with open arms! This lentil and mushroom stew is rich and filling, with heaps of goodness - just the sort of thing that makes me think that perhaps the winter isn't so bad after all. Plus, it has a secret ingredient (well, not so secret really - I did put it in the title of the blog post) that will be my new go-to addition to stews and casseroles - Branston pickle!
This mushroom stew starts simply - tiny button mushrooms fried up with garlic and a chopped leek. Is there anything better than the smell of mushrooms cooking with garlic? They should bottle it up and call it perfume - I would totally buy it.
Next up, the lentils! I often use tinned lentils, but for a stew, dried brown lentils are perfect. They don't need soaking or any other irritating extra steps - just chuck them in the pan and let them simmer away. You do need to give them a bit of time to let them really cook down - you want a thick, rich stew after all - but as long as you stir them once in a while, you can pretty much just leave them to do their thing.
Finally, that secret ingredient: Branston pickle!
Branston Smooth Pickle
Obviously all Brits know what Branston pickle is, but just in case anyone from further afield is reading this, I'll do my best to describe it briefly. The classic Branston pickle is a chunky pickle that's usually served in a dollop as part of a ploughman's, or as a spread in sandwiches - you'd be hard pushed to find a British supermarket that didn't have a cheese and pickle sandwich on the shelf somewhere.
It's one of those flavours you know so well, but can't really find the words to describe - it's rich and savoury, slightly tangy, ever so slightly sweet. Very delicious.
For this lentil and mushroom stew, I used Branston Smooth, which is very similar to the classic Branston, except (you guessed it) it's smooth. The flavour is the same, but somehow the smooth texture makes it feel like an entirely different product. I wouldn't dollop it on a ploughman's (you definitely need the chunky version for that!), but I would instead use it for something like this - stirring it through a stew or casserole to add lots of that gorgeous rich flavour.
Cheese and pickle
As I mentioned, this lentil and mushroom stew is entirely vegan - but we all know that Branston pickle's best friend is cheddar cheese, so I did serve my stew alongside some super cheesy mashed potato. Of course you can omit the cheese if you prefer, but the combination is wonderful.
Stew + mashed potato <-- best friends
Cheese + pickle <-- best friends
It's a match made in heaven.
How else could I use Branston Smooth in my cooking?
I'm not one to buy an ingredient for a single recipe, only to let it linger in the fridge for evermore, untouched - I'm too much of a cheapskate for that! So I'll be making sure I use the rest of the jar of Branston Smooth in as many other ways as I can think of (and then probably buying several more...).
The smooth texture would make it perfect for:
- mixing into a marinade (maybe for tofu bacon!)
- adding to a stir fry sauce
- a simple salad dressing (I'm picturing the fanciest ploughman's ever...)
- making a simple, tasty vegetarian gravy
- stirring through a vegetarian stew to amp up the flavour
...and any number of other things.
You can check out the Pickle Pioneers page on Branston’s website for other ideas. I'd love to hear if you have any other suggestions!
Healthy comfort food
I seem to be on a healthy comfort food kick lately, which I'm very much enjoying! I've always been a comfort food kind of girl (there's a reason I've only posted two salad recipes in the past 18 months!), but as the years go by I am becoming a bit more conscious of how much goodness I'm putting into my body. A recipe like this is win-win - not only is it hearty and warming, it's also packed with protein and iron, and all sorts of other good stuff. Happy happy!
Will you join the #PicklePioneers by trying the Branston Smooth Pickle?
More Mushroom Recipes
Lentil and mushroom stew with Branston pickle
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- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 leek, halved lengthwise then sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 200 g (~ 2 cups) button mushrooms, halved
- 150 g (~ 1 ½ cups) baby chestnut mushrooms, halved
- 150 g (~ ⅔ cup) dried brown lentils
- 750 ml (~ 3 cups) vegetable stock (plus a little extra if needed)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoon Branston Smooth Pickle
- Black pepper
- To serve: cheesy mashed potato (optional)
- Heat a dash of oil in a large saucepan, and add the leek, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the leek is soft and the mushrooms have cooked down.
- Add the dried lentils, vegetable stock, dried thyme, and Branston Smooth Pickle, and mix to combine. Bring to a simmer, and leave it to cook until the lentils are completely soft - around 30 minutes. You may need to add a little more water or stock if the mixture starts to dry up. Continue to cook until the stew reaches your desired consistency.
- Just before serving, season to taste, and serve with cheesy mashed potato.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.