One lazy Sunday while lying in bed, Priya and I decided to cook up a risotto. We searched recipes online and decided on a mushroom risotto with a flavoured olive oil to liven it up. With ingredients in mind we headed to the shops. We purchased Arborio rice, Swiss brown mushrooms, lemons, thyme, a block of parmesan cheese (a good one, of course) and as we had no time or left-overs to make a stock, we bought a couple of litres of home-made chicken stock from the local butcher. And in the green grocer we found some dried porcini mushrooms, which we knew would give the risotto that real mushroomy kick. The remaining ingredients we had lying around the house. We also recruited in a friend, Mike, who brought with him some Vermouth (a flavoured wine, great for risottos). With all the ingredients and manpower we needed, we began. Preparation involved dicing onions, mincing garlic, peeling lemon zest, cutting mushrooms, placing the stock on the stove to simmer and an important one, steeping the dried porcinis in a cup of boiling water. Priya took control of the flavoured oil: putting a small frying pan over a low heat, she added a glug of olive oil and lightly fried sliced garlic. Before the garlic had changed colour she added lemon zest, thyme sprigs, sage leaves and some salt and pepper, and then promptly switched off the heat, leaving the oil to infuse.
Meanwhile, I had added a generous amount of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat, thrown in two chopped leeks, several cloves of diced garlic, finely diced shiitake and oyster mushrooms and sautéed until translucent.
After the porcini mushrooms had steeped for fifteen minutes Mike removed and diced them finely, reserving the steeping liquid to later add to the risotto. I then added the Arborio rice (around two cups) into the onion and garlic mixture, tossing the rice to coat. After several minutes I turned up the heat, added the porcini liquid, a generous slosh of Vermouth and allowed it to reduce slightly.
Priya took over at this point, turning the heat back down to medium and adding some of the simmering chicken stock to the pan, waiting for it to incorporate before adding more, stirring all the time. This went on for around forty minutes, until almost all of the stock was used and the rice had swelled and become tender.
During this process, I sliced the Swiss-brown mushrooms and sautéed them in some butter with salt and pepper: these would be used as a garnish at the end. I also dropped some sage leaves into a pan of olive oil at a low heat and fried until golden to add a nice crisp texture to the final dish. The rice was cooked al dente, so we added handfuls of Parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley to the pan with the heat off and stirred to incorporate, and then seasoned to taste. This gave the risotto its creamy and unctuous texture. Finally, we plated up, topping the risotto with the sautéed Swiss-browns, fried sage leaves and finished with a drizzle of the tangy olive oil. Delish!
– Must steep the porcinis (unless you are lucky enough to find fresh ones) and don’t waste that flavour packed lquid.
– Don’t be stingy, lots of olive oil and lots of Parmesan cheese are a must (because hey, that’s what they do in the restaurants)
– Season right at the end to taste as the stock and Parmesan cheese are both very salty
– Experiment! Risotto is a good base and can take many different flavours (see Bistro C review, for a Thai flavoured risotto).