Foraged Mushrooms and Polenta

This is the story of a girl who went on a hike in her backyard.

Last weekend was our Canadian Thanksgiving. I ended up being a rare situation where I had 4 days off in a row with no classes to teach, and because my son went off to his gramma’s for turkey, I also had no reason to be home.

Spur-of-the-momently, I got a last-minute invite to go to Vancouver Island to celebrate a friend’s birthday. As part of the birthday celebrations (which also included a decadent vegan chocolate cake), the birthday boy, his sister and I ended up at Horne Lake to go on a three hour caving tour.

It was hard to get good photos inside, but on the rainforest hike on the way up to the caves, I took plenty. The other thing that there were plenty of were mushrooms. Now, I like to leave the mushroom foraging to the professionals, but I did spot bright, flushed lobster mushrooms, and many others that I couldn’t identify.

I wasn’t brave enough to pick them and bring them home to cook, but I did the next best thing. I went to the farmer’s market on Sunday and bought some. A rainy walk in the woods was the inspiration for this post.

I served this as a vegetarian component to a Thanksgiving dinner we attended later that weekend. It’s warm and comforting and meaty, without needing any meat. It got many, many compliments, and the bonus is, it’s incredibly simple to make. This version is vegetarian, but making it vegan only requires a few simple tweaks, which I will include.

mushrooms and polenta ottolenghi

Foraged Mushrooms and Polenta

(recipe from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi)

Ingredients for the mushrooms:

  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp truffle oil
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients for the polenta:

  • 2 ¼ c vegetable stock
  • ½ cup #1 Semolina flour (you can use cornmeal, but the finer grain gives a creamier polenta
  • 3 oz Parmesan, grated (omit if making vegan, or use vegan sub)
  • 2 ½ tsp butter (or non-dairy butter sub if making vegan)
  • 1 tsp chopped fine fresh rosemary


  1. In a large cast-iron pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat. Add half the mushrooms, and stir around a bit, but then allow them to sit in the same spot without moving for a few minutes, to pick up some caramelization on the edges. Carefully flip them and repeat on the other side. The entire process will take only about 5 minutes. Remove them to a bowl to keep warm, and repeat with the other half of the mushrooms.
  2. Turn the head down to as low as it will go, and place all the mushrooms back in it. Add the garlic, tarragon thyme, truffle oil and salt and pepper, stir well, and keep warm while you make the polenta.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, bring the veg stock to a boil.
  4. Slowly, whisking all the time, pour a steady stream of the semolina flour into the boiling water. If chunks of it go in, it will make your polenta lumpy and not smooth! Once all the semolina is added, continue to whisk until thick and pulling away from the pan. This will happen almost immediately. Remove from the heat, and add the butter and rosemary. Stir well.
  5. To serve: pour the polenta onto a large platter and top with the mushrooms. Finish with gratings of Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

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