Mushroom Steak & Lima Bean Stew (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

This stew is positively meaty. From a vegan perspective that is. Large slabs of seared oyster mushroom paired with creamy super-sized lima beans in a silky gravy. Browned onions and a bright burst of carrot complete the picture of perfection. Serve it straight with a slice of crusty bread if you like; or spoon it over a mash of millet and cauliflower or polenta for a more substantial meal. However you offer it to those you love, plant-based personalities or ominvores of your entourage, it will be a hit.

Yield: 4 servings

What you need to get the beans ready :

  • 1 cup extra-large dry lima beans (or regular sized if you prefer)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 rib of celery, finely diced

What you need for the strong mushroom stock :

  • 3 dried maitake or shitake mushrooms
  • 6 wood ear mushrooms (or more maitake or shitake)
  • a 2” piece of kombu seaweed
  • 1/2 package (about 7g) of dried mushrooms
  • a stick of astragalus (optional)
  • half a slice of reishi mushroom (optional)

What you need for the stew (in addition to the beans) :

  • 1 package (200g) baby king oyster mushrooms, sliced in half lengthwise (you could also use halved cremini or button mushrooms, it just won’t be quite as chewy when you bite into it)
  • Montreal steak spice or any steak spice you like (preferably home-made so it doesn’t have salt, oil and weird-ass fake-food ingredients in it…)
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion cut lengthwise into dainty 1/2” wedges
  • 1 large carrot, roll-cut (you can see how to do that here or here)
  • 4 cups strong mushroom stock (see above)
  • 2 teaspoons kuzu (or arrowroot, or cornstarch)
  • salt
  • tamari
  • chopped fresh parsley to serve (optional)
  • chopped toasted walnuts to serve (optional)

What you do:

  1. Soak the dry beans overnight in fresh water to cover by 3” to 4”. (For added flavour, if you have time, try soaking the beans in a cooled rosemary and bay leaf tea.)
  2. Drain the soaked beans and place them in a thick-bottomed (roughtly 2 quart) pot. Cover with fresh water again, this time to cover the beans by an inch or so. Add the bay leaves and halved clove of garlic. Bring to a boil. Hard boil the beans for 5 minutes or so, skimming off any scum that forms on top.
  3. Add the diced onion and celery and check the water level to make sure the beans are submerged. Add extra boiling water if necessary. Lower the heat and simmer the beans, covered but with the cover slightly ajar so things don’t boil over, until the beans are tender – an hour or so. It will be quicker if using smaller lima beans, so check them regularly past the 35 minute mark.
  4. When the beans are done, turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. While the beans are cooking, prepare the mushroom stock. Place all the ingredients in a large quart-sized measuring cup. Pour boiling water over everything up to a bit past the 4 cup mark so that the dried ingredients can sop up some of the liquid. Cover with a plate and set aside to steep at least 1/2 an hour. Strain when ready. Compost the kombu, reishi and astragalus. Cut the rest of the mushrooms into bite sized pieces and set them aside to add to the stew later on.
  6. When you’re ready to make the stew, start by searing the mushrooms. Heat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is stupid hot, add the oyster mushrooms in a single layer, cut side down. No need to oil the pan, the mushrooms will generate liquid and the heat will sear them so they don’t stick. Sprinkle lightly with steak spice and place a second cast-iron pan on top. Sear on the first side until grilled nicely and reduced in size, 3-5 minutes. Using tongs, turn the slices over and sear another couple of minutes on the second side, weighting them with the second cast iron pan while they cook. Do all the oyster mushrooms this way, setting them aside to a plate when ready, until needed for the stew.
  7. As you sear the mushrooms, heat another heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. When hot, add olive oil in the quantity you like. I usually use a teaspoon or two, but if you want things rich and decadent, feel free to add a tablespoon or two! Next add the large onion wedges and stir to coat in the oil. Cook the onion, stirring now and again, until browing. Lower the heat as necessary so things don’t burn, but you do want lots of dark and roasty bits on the bottom.
  8. Add 1 cup of the mushroom stock and the carrot pieces. Scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the yummy bits up and into the stock.
  9. Raise the heat back to medium if you lowered it and bring to a boil. Boil lightly, uncovered, until the cup of stock is reduced to almost nothing and the onions are nice and moist.
  10. Sprinkle the mixture with Montreal steak spice to taste. I use about a teaspoon, but go with what your taste buds enjoy. Stir well before adding the remaining 3 cups of mushroom stock to the pot.
  11. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans, spices and diced vegetables to the stew pot. The remaining bean cooking liquid can be discarded.
  12. Add the chopped mushrooms from making the stock and the pan-seared oyster mushrooms to the stew pot. Stir well.
  13. Salt the stew to desired level and bring back to a simmer. Simmer covered 10 to 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
  14. While the stew is simmering, dilute the kuzu (or arrowroot, or cornstarch) in 2 tablespoons of cold water. When the stew is ready, remove from the burner and add the diluted thickener, stirring constantly. Return to the burner and simmer and bubble until the sauce becomes silky and looses the starchy taste, 2-5 minutes.
  15. Stir in a teaspoon of tamari (or more) if desired and serve with the optional garnishes, if you like.

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