Cooking with verjuice, 151pp.
compiled by Maggie Beer
Penguin Group, Melbourne, 2001
Cooking on page 32
Maggie Beer is one of Australia’s best-known food personalities. She’s a self-taught cook who has worked tirelessly to increase and promote the wonderful produce available in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.
Her enthusiasm—in books and on television—has drawn people into their kitchens. And she’s introduced a wide range of interesting food products to domestic and international markets. For starters, she’s big on quinces, pheasants and verjuice.
I’m thrilled to have this book, which is a compilation of verjuice recipes from Aussie chefs. My friend, Marion, gave it to me as a thank-you gift for minding Tash and Merlin, her schnauzers, while she and her hubby holidayed in South Australia. On their way back to Canberra, they paid a visit to Maggie’s shop in the Barossa. So not only is the book signed by Maggie herself, it came with a lovely bottle of verjuice.
The day this book arrived, I had everything I needed to tackle page-32, with a recipe contributed by Victorian chef, Stefano de Pieri.
400 g field mushrooms
400 g Swiss brown mushrooms
175 ml verjuice
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley stalks
1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut all the mushrooms into quarters and transfer to a large, shallow baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients except the extra parsley and the olive oil and pour over the mushrooms.
Roast the mushrooms until cooked through, this may take up to an hour. Transfer dish to the stovetop and reduce the cooking liquid by three-quarters. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a little olive oil to moisten the dish, if required. Serves 6.
How it played out
I had 375 grams each of the two mushrooms and plenty of fresh parsley and oregano in the garden, so this was a snap to make. The roasting did take almost an hour.
Although the instructions didn’t say so, I removed the mushrooms from the pan before reducing the liquid. I think that was the right thing to do. By the way, the reduction went very quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye on it. I then poured the reduced liquid over the mushrooms.
These mushrooms are a great introduction to verjuice, and inspire me to find more ways to use this little-known ingredient, which is made from unripe grapes.
Chef Stefano says he uses verjuice in cooking instead of white white, which he finds too acerbic. He says it goes well with fish and poultry, and is his signature ingredient in all risotto bases, instead of wine.
It’s got a great flavour, but I have to tell you—the verjuice reduction is sensational.
P.S. For clarity, I made a few minor changes to the method instructions.