Friday, 13 November 2015

Dry This For Size!

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Secchi
Risotto with Dried Porcini Mushrooms

This evenings meal was a simple risotto- but a totally delicious porcini mushroom one at that! And where, prey tell, did I find such lovely and juicy mushrooms to make it with? In my cupboard of course! Dried to perfection and sitting right there, waiting to be transformed and brought back to life!

Porcini mushrooms are wonderful- and yes indeed, they are in season! But do you know what? The intense and wonderful flavor of DRIED porcini's is so special, it really is much superior for preparing risottos with- and here is why...

The most important ingredient in any risotto is a good stock- it is what is going to make or break it for you... and nothing will give you a better stock that a dried porcini mushroom! You just can't get all of this flavor from them when they are fresh- but to make it even more wonderful, I had one more special ingredient to use in this risotto...

What madness is this, you cry!?!? Mushroom ketchup!?!?! Who has ever heard of such a thing?!?!? Well- the British (of all people!!!) have! And that since 1830! 

Basically, mushroom ketchup is a mushroom version of soy sauce- it is made from fermented mushrooms and is rich, rich, rich and a perfect booster for any mushroom recipe- it isn't essential by any means- but I have it and I like to use it!

Otherwise, all I needed for this lovely risotto, enough to make 2 servings, was: 2 handfuls of risotto rice- Vialone Nano in this case, although Arborio or Carnaroli are also excellent, 1 handful of dried porcini's, 1 shallot, a little fresh parsley, some Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, a little white wine and a little olive oil... and a healthy appetite!

People are often a little afraid to try making risotto's, but all it takes is a little patience and stirring- it really is not a difficult dish to prepare at all. but yes, you do need to be there the whole time and yes, to prepare a risotto for someone is to show them how much you love them.

Well- this evening, just as Whitney Houston once sang- "The Greatest Love of All- is Happening to Me!" - or at least it did at suppertime this evening! Haha!

I soaked the mushrooms in lukewarm water for around 15 minutes , then stirred them through and let any sediment or sand that was lodged in them soak to the bottom of the bowl, then carefully lifted them out. I then poured the water through a coffee filter to catch all of that nasty stuff, straight into a saucepan, put the mushrooms back in and boiled them for 15 minutes or so to create my stock for the risotto. I used about 3 coffee mugs of water to prepare my 2 handfuls of rice.

I started my risotto itself off by frying the finely diced shallot together with the finely chopped stalks of the parsley for 2-3 minutes until it became transparent. 

I hate throwing parsley stalks away- they have good flavor- much more than the leaves to be honest! So by all means add them!

I then added the rice and stirred it in until it all became coated by the oil and let it fry for a minute or two.

Next came the mushrooms, which I scooped out of the broth and a pinch of salt to help bring out their flavor even more whilst they briefly fried.

And then I deglazed the saucepan with a little splash of white wine, which I stirred in until it was almost evaporated away.

And then I began adding the stock and stirring it until it was absorbed by the rice, then repeating, over and over, always a label at a time. The rubbing together of the rice as you stir is what coaxes the starch out of it and that is partly what makes it so creamy and delicious- so keep stirring!

It does take a little while... but yes, after around 30 minutes, the rice will be almost ready! That is the time to add a handful of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley leaves, a little more salt, and either a knob of butter, or as I used, a drizzle of olive oil. 

Add a last label or two of broth and keep stirring... the risotto will be done, when you push back with your wooden spoon and it sloooowly flows back towards you in a gentle "wave". This is what the Italians call "al onda" or "to the wave"- a lovely, poetic way of describing the smooth creaminess you are aiming for.

Check your seasoning- should your broth and therefore your rice be wonderful and tasty- great! Should there be "a little something missing"- add some of your mushroom ketchup if you have it! Or a pinch of salt, or extra Parmesan- whatever you prefer... but DO check the seasoning! It is also possible to over-season and make the risotto too rich and salty and that would be a shame!

Serve piping hot with a little more parsley, grated Parmesan and freshly ground pepper... and enjoy!

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