This creamy vegetarian bake is proof that comfort food need not be bad for you. I replaced dairy cream with almond cream (available from health stores) which makes this dish suitable for vegans or those following a plant-based, dairy-free lifestyle. I did include some parmesan cheese to serve, but you can leave it out or sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts for some additional texture or some nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” flavour.
We can be so used to the ‘meat & two veg’ formula that we tend to consider vegetables on their own, as an insufficient main meal. But adding shiitake mushrooms (or brown / portobello / chestnut mushrooms) provides a meaty texture and the addition of almond cream makes this dish more satisfying than you might think.
Mushrooms like shiitake can be hard to find but they’re incredibly nutritious and have been used for centuries in eastern traditions for their medicinal qualities. Shiitake mushrooms have been scientifically proven to help fight obesity1, support immune function2, inhibit the growth of cancer cells3 and support cardiovascular health4. They also provide vitamin D (something we are severely lacking in the northern hemisphere at this time of year!) and have antimicrobial qualities that can help to fight infection.
The recipe serves two people as a main course but you can stretch it to four servings if you want to use it as a side dish served with either Puy lentils or some roast chicken.
(serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish)
- 1 small-medium squash (I used a coquina squash)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp extra virgin raw coconut oil* or olive oil
- 125g shiitake mushrooms (or chestnut / brown mushrooms)
- 150g rainbow chard, stalks removed and chopped finely, leaves torn in half
- 300ml almond cream (I used Ecomil Cuisine)
- 1 organic low-salt stock cube (I used Kallo Organic Mushroom Stock Cube)
- 3/4 pint boiling water
- 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
- 2 sage leaves, chopped finely
- Sea salt & black pepper
- Optional: 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan to serve
- Preheat oven to 200C / Gas Mark 4 / 400F.
- Peel the squash, cut in half and then slice into half moon shapes, removing the seeds. Arrange the squash onto a roasting tray, add the garlic cloves (you don’t need to peel them) and drizzle with a teaspoon of oil. Season and transfer to the oven. Cook until tender (about 25 minutes).
- While the squash is in the oven heat the remaining oil in a cast iron skillet or pan over a medium heat. Brush any excess dirt from the mushrooms, and slice them into chunky pieces and lay them into the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes before turning and then add the rosemary, thyme and sage. Cook for another minute.
- Pour the boiling water and 200ml of the almond cream into the pan with the mushrooms, add the stock cube and stir. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes.
- When the squash is ready, remove the roasting tray from the oven and leave aside to cool slightly. Remove the garlic cloves and gently squeeze the softened garlic bulbs into the pan with the mushrooms and almond cream (be careful that the skin from the garlic does not fall into the pan). Discard the skins.
- Take a lasagne or pie dish and arrange the chard stalks and some of the leaves on the bottom. Arrange a third of the squash on top of the chard and then pour half the creamy mushroom sauce over the top. Repeat 2 more times and then pour the remaining 100ml of almond cream over the top.
- Transfer to the oven and cook for about 30 minutes until bubbling and slightly browned on top.
- If adding parmesan cheese, remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle over the grated parmesan and place back into the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted slightly. Remove from the oven and spoon the bake onto serving plates. Enjoy!
|Per half serving as a main course||439||24.6g||7g||40g||11g||4g|
|Per 1/4 serving as a side dish||110||6.2g||1.8g||10g||2.8g||1g|
- Handayani, D., Chen, J., Meyer, B.J. and Huang, X.F. (2011) ‘Dietary Shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes) prevents fat deposition and lowers Triglyceride in rats fed a high-fat diet’, Journal of Obesity, 2011, pp. 1– doi: 10.1155/2011/258051.
- Dai, X., Stanilka, J.M., Rowe, C.A., Esteves, E.A., Nieves, C., Spaiser, S.J., Christman, M.C., Langkamp-Henken, B. and Percival, S.S. (2015) ‘Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: A Randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults’, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34(6), pp. 478– doi: 10.1080/07315724.2014.950391.
- Fang, N., Li, Q., Yu, S., Zhang, J., He, L., Ronis, M.J.J. and Badger, T.M. (2006) ‘Inhibition of growth and induction of Apoptosis in human cancer cell lines by an ethyl acetate fraction from Shiitake mushrooms’, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(2), pp. 125–132. doi: 10.1089/acm.2006.12.125.
- KABIR, Y., YAMAGUCHI, M. and KIMURA, S. (1987) ‘Effect of shiitake(Lentinus edodes) and maitake(Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids of spontaneously hypertensive rats’, Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 33(5), pp. 341–346. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.33.341.
PAMELA RYAN | NUTRITIONIST | CORPORATE NUTRITION + YOGA
*Available in LloydsPharmacy Stores