Toscano's family table

<i>Toscano's family table</i>, Slattery Media, $50.
Toscano's family table, Slattery Media, $50. Photo: Supplied

Toscano's family table
Joanne Toscano, Slattery Media, $50.

For: the fresh-produce loving cook.

Who better to hold your hand when it comes to peeling a chestnut, or prepping an artichoke than an heiress-apparent to a Victorian greengrocer dynasty? There's a wonderfully detailed seasonal glossary up-back; everything you need to know about vegetable, nut and fruit varieties. But even better are the Italian recipes from the Toscano family knowledge bank.

Video: Joanne Toscano demonstrates how to prepare chestnuts and artichokes.

Mushroom ragu on sloppy polenta

I love mushrooms. I love their meaty texture and pungent scent, and a meal of Swiss brown mushrooms which have been simply cooked in butter and thyme and served on a piece of toasted sourdough really floats my boat. For something a bit fancier, a mushroom ragu on polenta is easy to do and sure to warm you up on a winter’s night.

These days, we are spoilt by the range of mushrooms available. You can use a variety of mushrooms for this dish, depending on your taste and budget, but the taste and texture will benefit from a selection of different types. If you can afford it, include Swiss browns because they are full of flavour and have a nice meaty texture that stays firm when cooked. Fresh shiitakes also work well, as they, too, are meaty with an intense flavour.

For me, this dish really comes into its own in autumn, when the sublime field mushrooms are available. Slippery jack or pine mushrooms will lift the dish to a higher plane, as these truly wild varieties have a taste and scent that can’t be replicated in a farm environment.

The roux in this recipe is optional; your dish will have a slightly more pure taste without it, but the ragu will seep into the polenta rather than glide on top.

Mushroom ragu recipe from <i>Toscano's Family Table</i>.
Mushroom ragu recipe from Toscano's Family TablePhoto: Dean Cambray

60ml olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 sticks fresh thyme
500g mixed mushrooms, sliced
100ml dry white wine
2 litres vegetable or chicken stock
salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper
250g polenta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped
fresh parsley, to garnish

Roux (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon plain flour

To make the roux
Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat and whisk in the flour until dissolved. Cook for a few minutes, making sure the butter does not burn. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

To make the mushroom ragu and polenta
Heat olive oil in a heavy-based saute pan over medium heat and saute the garlic and thyme for a minute. Add mushrooms and saute until they start to caramelise.

Pour in wine and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half.

Pour in 1 litre of the stock.

Bring ragu back to the boil, and cook until mushrooms are tender. Season.

Stir in the roux, if using.

Meanwhile, use remaining 1 litre of stock to cook the polenta according to the instructions on the packet. When cooked, stir through the grated parmesan.

Serve the mushroom ragu on top of the polenta, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Serves 4