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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Mushroom Risotto

A true classic, the mushroom risotto! And like with all the classics, using good quality ingredients and following a few simple steps to the letter is the key to achieving great results. I'd say this is one of my signature dishes, and an all time Italian food lovers favourite.

INGREDIENTS (for four people as a main course)
  • 350 gr of risotto rice (such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
  • 250 gr chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • A large handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 litre of chicken stock 
  • One glass of dry white wine
  • Two tablespoons of parsley
  • One medium white onion
  • One stick of celery
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Tip n.1: use the largest saucepan you own to cook the risotto, as it needs room to be lovingly massaged and to comfortably expand during the cooking process.

Tip n.2: soak your porcini mushrooms in a mug of hot water for about 10 minutes. Fish them out, chop them finely and set them aside, reserving the soaking liquid for later.

Start by chopping the onion and celery very finely. Add them to the saucepan, together with two tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter. Let them cook gently, until soft and translucent, but not browned. Next, add in the chestnut mushrooms, chopped porcini mushrooms and the parsley, season them with salt and pepper and turn the heat up a little. Allow them to cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Then, pour in the white wine, letting it bubble away for a couple of minutes. It's now time to add your risotto rice! Tip n.3: do not wash your risotto rice before cooking it, as that would remove the lovely starch in it, and compromise the creaminess of its texture.

Stir in the rice with the rest of the ingredients, letting it "toast" for a couple of minutes. Add the soaking liquid from the porcini mushrooms (strain it first through some kitchen paper, or pour 2/3 of it slowly leaving the sediments at the bottom of the mug; doing this will prevent any soil residues to end up in your risotto!) and a ladleful of chicken stock, that you will have slowly simmering in a small saucepan next to the risotto pan. Tip n. 4: good quality chicken stock, better if home-made, will make a huge difference to the flavour of your finished dish. If you are vegetarian, you can by all means substitute it with vegetable stock; however if you eat meat definitely go for the chicken one, as I am afraid I find that the vegetarian version is not quite as delicious!

Now patiently add one ladleful of stock at the time, allowing the rice to simmer gently and absorb all the liquid in the pan before adding more. Help it by gently stirring the rice, going around the edges of the pan with a wooden spoon as opposed to right in the centre, to avoid breaking the grains of rice. It takes some patience, but you will definitely be rewarded with the perfect risotto. If you run out of stock before the risotto is cooked (it will take about 20 minutes), then add a little hot water.

Tip n. 5: when the rice is soft, but still retaining its shape, turn the heat off and add a knob of butter, two large handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir them all in. This is called "mantecare" the risotto and it will guarantee the most delicious creamy texture.

Taste and if necessary, adjust the seasoning. Serve it immediately, together with some more Parmesan cheese for your guests to help themselves if they like it extra cheesy (like my fiancé!).

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