Hale and Hearty

Last week I made the most beautiful winter warmer of a stew, a – dare I say, meaty mother of a cobbler made with mushrooms, leeks and ale.  The smell was amazing.  I got the idea from the fabulous Mildred’s vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Soho.  They make a mushroom and ale pie that’s made richer by the inclusion of Marmite and topped with buttery, flaky pastry.  It’s obscene it’s so good.  I spied the ale, the mushrooms and the Marmite and set to work.

I got the beauty in the oven and I was already toying with the title of ‘hale and hearty’ for a blog post, healthy,  hearty, a fantastically witty (!) pun on ale, wholesome and then the phone rang.  My daughter had fallen in the playground, would I pop up to the school to see her?  Oven off, coat on.  Seven hours later, following two hours observation in a minor injuries unit, a surreal ambulance ride, tests and prodding in hospital and we got  back home.  We were both shaken and stirred but nothing worse than cuts, scrapes, chipped teeth and exhaustion from running the full gamut of parental emotion.  Funnily enough I’d lost my appetite.  Hale and hearty we most definitely were not.

Fast forward to the next day; a bright little girl, still beautiful and smiling despite looking like she’d been boxing and then had her lips enhanced by a short sighted backstreet cosmetic surgeon and we’re back on the tracks.  Parenting is a lot of things – boring isn’t one of them.

(H)ale and Hearty Mushroom and Ale Cobbler

I opted for a cobbler topping here after reading an interesting article on eating well for less in the Observer Food Monthly January 2013 issue by food blogger Miss South. 
You’ll need:
Serves 4 
2 punnets of mushrooms, I used chestnut but a mixture including porcini and oyster is great
2 leeks, sliced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
6 shallots, peeled 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500ml dark ale
2 tsp Marmite
1 tbsp plain flour
Mugful of vegetable stock
vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
Butter for frying
For the cobbler:
I halved the original recipe 
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Half tsp mustard powder
1 tsp sunflower oil
75ml plain yogurt
  • Soften the mushrooms, leeks and shallots in a little butter, I used a deep sauteeing pan
  • Make a mugful of vegetable stock, I use good old Marigold
  • Pour the flour into another mug and make a paste by gradually adding some of the hot stock
  • Add this to the vegetables followed by the ale, Marmite, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and remaining stock
  • Leave to bubble and thicken for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally 
  • To make the cobbler add the flour, mustard and baking powders to a large bowl
  • Mix well and make a well in the middle
  • Pour in the yogurt and the oil and mix well to form a dough, working with your hands and adding a little more oil if necessary.  I think some strong cheddar and some chives would be amazing here and I’ll add them next time.
  • The recipe suggests using a glass to cut out the rounds, I’m slovenly so I used a tumbler to roll out the dough too.  Actually I’m not slovenly, I’m economising on the washing up. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C Fan / Gas 6
  • When the mushroom filling is thick and glossy looking transfer it into a casserole dish or ovenproof pot
  • Arrange the cobbler rounds on the top and cook until the mushrooms are bubbling and the cobbler is risen and brown on top 


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