Mushroom risotto

It’s cold. It’s windy. When these conditions prevail, our bodies are programmed to do something rather special. They are programmed to crave stodge.

One organism, the mushroom, does better than we do in the cold, leafy months. The supermarket shelves are overflowing with punnets upon punnets of mushrooms, and they’re quite reasonably priced. On top of this, almost everybody I know seems to have a cold at the moment, and I think some garlic, said to have a mild antibiotic effect, is in order. Stodge, mushrooms and garlic. This is a perfect excuse for some mushroom risotto.

Carnaroli is my favourite risotto rice. It’s a fat, short grain which will absorb more than its own weight in stock, and cooks to a fluffy, swollen, creamy risotto. If you can find carnaroli rice, do try using it instead of arborio, which is more often sold as a risotto rice in supermarkets.

For six people, I use:

500g fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small handful dried cepes (porcini), soaked, the soaking water reserved
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 large handful parsley, chopped
1/2 a teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 pints of stock
5 shallots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
400g carnaroli rice
1 glass marsala
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
4 heaped tablespoons grated parmesan
3 large knobs of butter
Olive oil
Seasoning

I used shitake mushrooms (meaty, robust little beasts which keep a good, toothsome texture; they don’t melt to a slime) and oyster mushrooms (less good, honestly, but still pretty darn nice). I don’t wash them, but wipe them instead with kitchen towel so that they don’t absorb unwanted water. I fried all the mushrooms (including the cepes) with two of the cloves of garlic and half the thyme in a mixture of butter and olive oil, and when they were cooked, stirred in the parsley, squeezed over the lemon and sprinkled over a little salt and some cayenne pepper.

While the mushrooms were frying, I made the risotto base. The celery, shallots, the rest of the garlic and the rest of the thyme were sauteed in oil and butter, and when soft the rice was added, and then fried gently, without changing colour, for a couple of minutes until transluscent.

I added the marsala, and stirred until it was all absorbed. Then I added the soaking liquid from the cepes and stirred until that was all absorbed. The two pints of stock were then added a ladle at a time, each time stirring and stirring until all the liquid had gone before adding another ladle.

After about twenty minutes, the liquid was all absorbed, and the rice creamy and tender. I stirred in the mushrooms, cheese and creme fraiche. Serve this quickly, while it’s still hot and moist. I have managed to convert at least one mushroom-hater with this risotto – try it yourself, and open your arms and welcome winter.

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