Porcini mushroom risotto

The way I make mushroom risotto doesn’t just flirt with the unique flavour of the shroom – it pushes it to its limits.

Porcini-mushroom-risotto-1.jpg

The way I make mushroom risotto doesn’t just flirt with the unique flavour of the shroom – it pushes it to its limits, celebrating it on every level.

It starts with a simple stock made from dried porcini mushrooms which infuses the rice itself. The porcini themselves go into the pot, too. While the finished risotto rests, I quickly sauté some little, fresh mushrooms in butter and serve them on top.

A splash of truffle oil goes in, too, bringing with it the deep, dappled darkness of the forest floor. Truffle oil comes in many forms. White truffle oil is usually not made with truffles at all, but with a chemical which mimics their flavour. I use an olive oil infused by a real black truffle sitting in the bottle – it’s beyond delicious and fantastically versatile (and, strangely, it's less expensive than than the imitation stuff). There’s also a bottle of precious truffle liqueur in my cupboard, a gift from a friend, and it’s a sensationally powerful ingredient – to the point that I have to dispense it with an eyedropper.

It’s difficult to pin down an exact amount to use, as truffle oils vary so much. I’ve suggested half a teaspoon of white truffle oil below, but I recommend you start with less, stirring and tasting to get it right for you. It’s also optional, although I have to encourage you in the direction of using it to experience the full effect of this risotto’s magic.

Unusually, perhaps, I don’t add any cheese. I think it’s a distraction and unnecessary. Instead, just a blob of sour cream that brings a tangy note, pointing up the shroominess rather than overwhelming it.

My go-tos for the fresh mushrooms, important for flavour, texture and appearance here, are shiitake or Swiss browns. When I spot pine mushrooms – which is rare – with their bright orange gills, I pounce on them. I transport them home with great care, gently wipe them clean and eat them gratefully. Adding them to this risotto turns them into them the stars they are and, in my mind, makes the very picture of autumnal bliss.


PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Serves 2.

10g (¼ cup) dried porcini mushrooms
25g (1½ tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
125g (1 cup) arborio or vialone nano rice
½ teaspoon dried thyme
65ml (¼ cup) white wine (or white vermouth)
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon truffle oil
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
50g (2 oz) fresh mushrooms

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 500ml (2 cups) recently boiled water for 30 minutes. Strain into a small saucepan and place on the stove over low heat to keep it warm. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the porcini, chop them finely and set aside.

Put the butter, oil and shallot into a heavy-based pan. Turn on medium heat and cook gently until the onion is soft and translucent, without letting it colour.

Stir in the rice until the grains are thoroughly coated. Add the thyme, white wine and chopped porcini, turn the heat up to medium-high and stir until no liquid remains.

Ladle in about a third of the hot stock and simmer, insistently, until it has been absorbed. Stir often enough to stop it sticking. Add another third, wait for it to be absorbed, and the final third. It should take about 20 minutes.

Taste: the rice should be cooked and slightly al dente but without any chalkiness. If you need to extend the cooking time, add a little water from the kettle.

Stir in the sour cream and truffle oil (see note above) and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat, cover and leave to rest for a few minutes.

While the risotto rests, melt a generous knob of butter, a tablespoon or two, in the pan you were using for the stock over medium-high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms and stir until they have softened and are just starting to give up their own liquid.

Spoon the risotto into two warmed, shallow bowls, topping with the buttery mushrooms.