For some reason it's been risotto month and I have been ordering risotto at restaurants with reckless abandon. The result is usually that I am disappointed and end up complaining about it. This may have something to do with the fact that my last two attempts were at French restaurants, which, again, would be my fault. My main complaint is that the rice is not the right rice and is two long and grainy rather than short and silky. Now there is always the chance that this was all in my head but I decided to put my money where my mouth was and try it out. I had recently seen some fresh porcini mushrooms for sale at the Portobello Market and saw no better opportunity than to start with that (this recipe will include only dried porcini, for the sake of availability, any fresh ones can be added to it as a bonus).
In my humble, and by no means expert, opinion (my roots are very far from Italy), a good risotto is comprised of four main components: the right rice, good stock, a good parmesan and patience. As for the rice, I have been using Antica e Rinomata Riseria Ferron but any good risotto rice or Arborio will do. For the stock, I used some chicken stock that I had on end from a previous adventure but if you don’t have any on hand then you will probably be able to pick some up from your butcher. It’s usually fresh and well made and makes a huge difference when compared with the canned stuff. If you are London based, Star Stock Cubes are a pretty good cheat. The type of stock is up to you; usually you would match the ingredients to the stock, chicken risotto to chicken stock, seafood to fish, etc. For porcini a beef or vegetable are both good options, however, chicken will work too. The parmesan should be relatively easy to sort out from any good cheese shop. As for the patience, well you are pretty much on your own. Risotto is an amazing dish in that you can use almost any ingredients to vary the dish; below you’ll find Risotto ai Porcini complete with tips from, Lavinia, my resident Italian.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 cup risotto rice (200 g)
30g dried porcini
1 cup grated parmesan (100 g) plus extra for serving
½ cup dry white wine (125 ml)
5 cups stock (500 ml)
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Step 1: To reconstitute the dried porcini, let them soak in a bowl of water until the mushrooms are soft. Once they are softened, strain and reserve the liquid and chop coarsely. At the same time put the stock in a saucepan on low heat and combine 2:1 with the reserved porcini liquid (keeping the excess porcini liquid to the side).
Step 2: Finely chop the onion and the garlic and sauté with a mix of 2 tbsp of butter and oil each in a pan until softened and golden then add the rice. Continue sautéing until the rice is has soaked up the butter and oil (about 3-4) minutes.
Step 3: Add the white wine and stir on a high heat to evaporate until it has been completely absorbed and the smell coming off the rice is no longer alcoholic. Once fully incorporated lower the heat, begin adding the stock mixture one ladle at a time and stir continuously until the rice reaches a creamy consistency (roughly 20 minutes) but is still al dente as the rice will continue to cook after it is off the heat.
Step 4: Remove the risotto from the heat and add 1 tbsp of butter and stir in to bring together all the ingredients thus far, then stir in the porcini, the parmesan and the parsley. Serve immediately.
Note: Risotto ai Porcini is a rather rustic risotto where the texture of the onions add to the robustness of the dish, for more subtle flavoured risotto grating the onion is preferred and the recipe might not require garlic at all.