Jan 22, 2015

Hangouttitude in South London

Have I talked about the holy trilogy of South London pubs? I live near the Camberwell Arms, work near the Anchor & Hope, and make solemn pilgrimages whenever I can to the Canton Arms. All under the same loose ownership, each of these pubs has their own signature style, and bucketloads of hangoutittude. One icy-cold winter night early in December, I had a pumpkin ribollita at the Camberwell Arms’ bar, laced with chilli oil and washed down with a hearty Gamay (all 3 pubs have excellently priced and interesting wines by the carafe) which makes me feel warm all over just thinking about it.


So WTF is ribollita anyway? As far as I can tell, it’s a stew. The pumpkin was slightly mashed but still retained some shape and its own texture, not quite a puree. So as the weather has been once again presenting its worst the last couple weeks, a warming stew is just what’s required and I set out to re-create the Camberwell Arms’ genius. The cheese rinds are a Nigel tip from way back. They add something special to a stew like this, just take my word for it.

Butternut squash ribollita with pickled shiitakes and chilli oil

  1. First, roast the squash. Turn your oven on at about 180C/375F, slice the squash in half lengthwise and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle salt and chilli flakes on top, (You can also throw in some whole, unpeeled garlic cloves) then bung in the oven until you can stick a sharp knife through the flesh, but it’s not totally putty (about 30 mins to 1 hr). Remove from the oven and leave to cool (this will make peeling it much easier).
  2. While the squash is roasting, pickle your shiitakes. This is one of my favourite David Chang pickles from the Momofuku cookbook.
  3. In a large, heavy based saucepan, heat some olive oil and sautee the onion and garlic (if you haven’t roasted the garlic already) until soft and just starting to colour. Now that the squash has cooled, peel off the skin with either your hands or a knife and roughly chop into 5cm ish chunks, then add it to the onion along with the thyme and rosemary, and roasted garlic (now peeled) if using.
  4. Add some vegetable stock so that the squash is immersed but not covered, and the cheese rinds if using. Semi-cover the pan, and leave the dish to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the components have started to marry together nicely.
  5. At this point, you can leave the dish covered on the side until you’re ready to eat, then gently re-heat before serving. To serve, remove the cheese rinds and herbs and check the seasoning. Spoon into shallow bowls and generously drizzle chilli oil on top, then sprinkle some shiitake slices. I served it on a bed of braised sprout top greens, which was a nice foil to the richness of the squash.

Pickled shiitakes

  • Take 2 cups/large handfuls of whole, dried shiitakes and soak them in boiled or very hot water until soft (about 15 min). Strain them but reserve the liquid.
  • Meanwhile, put 225ml sherry vinegar, 225ml light soy sauce, 200g sugar, a large peeled knob of ginger (about 8cm) and 450ml of the mushroom juice in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • De-stalk the mushrooms and cut into 2mm slices. Add them to the pickling liquids and let simmer for 30 mins. Take off the heat and once cooled, transfer to a heatproof container such as a mason jar. These are ready to eat straight away and will be good for about a month if you can make them last that long.

Serves: 2-3 people

Cooking/Prep time: 1 hour


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3-4 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 medium onions, cut in 4mm slices
  • a sprig of fresh thyme, rosemary or both
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • (optional) rind from a hard cheese such as parmesan, pecorino
  • olive oil for cooking
  • turkish chilli flakes
  • to serve: chilli oil, pickled shiitakes (see recipe in post), greens


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