Having travelled and cooked my way around Italy over the last 20 years, I’ve come to realise that autumn and winter are my favourite time of year. The local markets are full of incredible produce and in Italy you can only really get seasonal ingredients. It’s not like in the UK where everything is available at all times of year. I would encourage anyone to eat as seasonally as possible as it’s this seasonality that elevates the quality, taste and freshness of the ingredients.
Fresh porcini are no exception. They’re not as easy to source in the UK but the dried ones are a great substitute and the water you use to rehydrate them makes a delicious stock. I love this recipe because it’s a real crowd pleaser and it’s easily adaptable for vegans.
Risotto has been a bit left behind in the UK and tarnished as the go-to vegetarian option for the last 10-15 years. It’s largely overshadowed by pasta, but when rice was first introduced to Italy by the Arabs in the 14th century, it was the opposite, and there was even a period when the Futurists called for the abolition of pasta, which they felt was unsuited to the speed and dynamism of modern living.
Cooked correctly, risotto is one of the most delicious, satisfying and economical dishes for a quick mid-week dinner, or even a dinner party for friends.
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
25g dried porcini mushrooms
150g chestnut or field mushrooms, roughly chopped
150g oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
200g Arborio rice
250ml white wine
1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
Small bunch of parsley, leaves only and finely chopped
100g grated parmesan cheese
Truffle oil (optional)
Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for 15-20 minutes. You need enough water to just cover the mushrooms.
Roughly chop the chestnut and oyster mushrooms so they’re approximately 1-2cm cubed, or however chunky you like your mushrooms. Fry in 1 tbsp olive oil and a knob of butter until golden brown. Set to one side until you’re ready to add them to the risotto.
Fry the finely chopped onion in 3 tbsp of olive oil for about 5 minutes on a medium heat until translucent and soft but not browned. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
Add the rice and mix until nicely coated with the oil, onions and garlic. Add the wine, turn the heat up and stir continuously. Cook until fully absorbed and turn the heat back down to medium. Add the porcini water and stir again continuously until fully absorbed. Add enough stock to just about cover the rice, stir continuously until nearly absorbed and repeat the process for about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook with the rice for the final five minutes - it should have absorbed the majority of the liquid but not be completely dry. It’s ok of you need to add a bit more stock or you don’t use it all – the most important thing is that the rice still has a bit of a bite but isn’t too crunchy.
Add a decent knob of butter, 75g of parmesan, and the parsley. Stir together and check the consistency. It should be wet but not sitting in liquid and it shouldn’t be stiff like mash potatoes. Let it sit for a minute or two before serving.
Serve in shallow bowls or plates and for those who like it extra cheesy, sprinkle the remainder of the parmesan on top. For something extra special drizzle over some truffle oil.
Vegans can easily substitute the butter for oil (although no need to add extra oil at the end of the recipe) and you can leave the cheese out too.