Risotto is not a dish I’ve particularly warmed to in the past. I’ve always found it a bit stodgy and samey, but then I tried the saffron and bone marrow risotto at Ristorante Semplice in Mayfair…wow! It was stunning. But then I didn’t want to order risotto from anywhere else as I didn’t think anywhere else could match Semplice. However, I was glad I’d finally opened up to the idea of risotto and so I bought myself a bag of Vialone Nano rice.
Anyway, the other day I opened my kitchen cupboard and the bag of rice actually fell out and hit me on the head…I think it was trying to tell me something! So I decided to make a wild mushroom risotto since I had some dried porcini in the cupboard too.
This recipe serves 4 modest portions, and personally I find risotto really filling so I don’t like a huge portion, or 2 very generous portions. The measurements of mushrooms, parmesan and cheese are rough estimates. You can add more if you so wish, its all to your personal taste.
25g dried porcini
175g fresh mushrooms – I’ve used a mix of shiitake and white closed cup mushroom
750ml vegetable stock
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic glove, bruised
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
1 generous glass of white wine
175g Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice *
* Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered to be the best varieties of risotto rice, with different users preferring one over the other. They have slightly different properties. For example, Carnaroli is a larger grain and is less likely to get overcooked than Vialone Nano. It also gives a slightly creamier risotto. Vialone Nano, being smaller, cooks faster and gives you a slightly lighter risotto. This is often seen as a better rice for a mushroom risotto. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a huge difference. They are both very good. In this instance, I opted for Vialone Nano.
Begin by soaking the dried porcini in boiling water for 20 minutes.
Saute the onion and garlic in some olive oil over a gentle heat in a medium saucepan for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop or slice the fresh mushrooms, whichever you prefer, just don’t make them too small, as they shrink down quite a bit in the cooking. Then add the fresh mushrooms, stir well and leave on one side while you deal with the porcini.
When the porcini have had their half-hour soak, place a sieve over a bowl, line the sieve with a double sheet of kitchen paper and strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid.
Squeeze any excess liquid out of them, then chop them finely and transfer to the pan to join the other mushrooms and the onion.
Keep the heat low and let the onions, garlic and mushrooms sweat gently to release their juices – which will take about 20 minutes.
Add the wine, stir and simmer until it reduces.
Add the raw rice and stir.
Add a ladle of the strained mushroom soaking liquid. Stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid.
Keep doing this until its gone then start with the vegetable stock. Continue to simmer and stir – it should start to become creamy, plump and tender. By the time you get to the end of the stock, the rice should be almost cooked.
Continue stirring until the rice is cooked. If the rice is still undercooked, add a splash of water. If it’s still a little chalky in the centre, it needs a little more cooking.
Take the pan off the heat, add the butter and scatter over half the cheese and the parsley.
Season with good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve straight away with some shavings of fresh parmesan.
You don’t have to do this of course, but the very lovely Joe Curtis suggested I add a poached egg yolk to the top of my risotto and what a good suggestion it was! When you mix it into the risotto it adds a wonderful richness and glossiness to the dish.
I really enjoyed this risotto – both the making of it, and the eating of it. Yes, it takes some time to prepare and it demands your full attention in the form of stirring, gradually adding the stock, feeling the texture change as the rice swells, tasting…but I actually really liked that part of it. I stood stirring whilst drinking wine and chatting to my lovely friend Jan who I‘d invited over, so it didn’t feel like much of a chore.
There’s something incredibly pleasurable about seeing a group of ingredients on your kitchen worktop being turned into a delicious plate of food, that I find so satisfying.