Yotam Ottolenghi loves vegetables, can’t get enough. Big, big, big fan. You just have to peruse his collection of cookbooks and his Instagram feed to see his veggie devotion. Which is why the Jerusalem-born, London-based chef, author and restaurateur is not much into using meat analogies to describe his dishes.

“We’re not mad about calling vegetables a ‘steak’ or ‘burger’ or ‘schnitzel’, because it feels like you are trying to pass them off as something else, something superior. Vegetables are great simply as they are. In fact, they are 
the best,” he writes in Flavour, which he co-wrote with chef and author Ixta Belfrage.

That said, he’s decided to go with one of those descriptions for this recipe. “Sometimes, though, using a meaty name helps you understand what’s going on and how delicious it is. Our portobellos aren’t trying to be a steak, they are simply as good as any steak (with mash), if not better.”

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Ottolenghi reckons the secret to this recipe is the oil. “What gives the mushrooms their verve is the chillies and spices and all the flavoured oil that coats them. You’ll make more oil than you need here; keep it refrigerated in a sealed container to spoon over grilled vegetables, noodles, meat or fish.”

And to serve? He suggests sauteing greens to go with it.

Portobello steaks and butter-bean mash
Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes

For the steaks:
8 medium to large portobello mushrooms (about 650g), stems removed
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges (150g)
1½ tbsp chipotle chilli flakes

1 red chilli (15g)
4 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar
1 tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar

2 tbsp tomato paste
400ml olive oil

For the butter-bean mash
1 700g jar of good-quality cooked large butter beans, drained (500g) (we use Brindisa Navarrico large butter beans, but you can, of course, use tinned or cook your own)

1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Flaked sea salt

Preheat the oven to 150°C fan. Put all the ingredients for the steaks and 1 tablespoon of flaked salt into a large ovenproof saucepan, for which you have a lid. Arrange the mushrooms so they are domed side up, then top with a piece of parchment paper, pushing it down to cover all the ingredients. Cover with the lid, then transfer to the oven for 1 hour.

Turn the mushrooms over, replacing the paper and lid, and return to the oven for 20 minutes more, or until the mushrooms are very tender but not falling apart. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the mushrooms to a chopping board, then cut them in half and set aside.

Use a spoon to remove the onion, garlic and chilli (discarding the stem) – don’t worry if you scoop up some of the spices and oil. Put them into the small bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Return the blitzed onion mixture to the saucepan, along with the mushroom halves, and place on a medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, for all the flavours to come together.

While the mushrooms are cooking, make the mash by putting the beans into a food processor along with the lemon juice, olive oil, ½ tsp flaked salt and 2 tbsp of water. Blitz until completely smooth. Transfer to
a medium saucepan and cook on a medium–high heat for about 3 minutes, stirring, until warmed through.

To serve, divide the butter bean mash between four plates. Top with four mushroom halves per plate and spoon over a generous amount of the oil
and its accompanying aromatics (you won’t need all of it, though).

Extract from Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Penguin Random House, $55). Photography by Jonathan Lovekin. You can buy it here.

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