Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mushroom Risotto

I think I need to improve on my food photography skills.....this mushroom risotto is mouth-wateringly good but I don't think it comes across in the photos. You'll just have to take my word for it for now, and any tips on the photography front will be gratefully received!

Many people think that making a risotto from scratch is really difficult and/or time consuming. But it is one of my go-to meals, partly as it is so easy to make it seem fresh every time by altering the ingredients, but partly as I feel so comfortable making it. Yes, you need to spend a good half hour standing over it, stirring frequently, but other than that, there's not much else required in terms of time. And it is not as complicated as you'd think. I think the trick is to keep tasting the rice as you near the end of the cooking time, until you are satisfied with the consistency - not too hard, not too mushy. You will eventually develop a feel for how long your risotto takes.

Another tip I would offer would be this: don't worry too much about how much stock you need. If you taste the rice and it seems done but you haven't used all your stock, that's fine. (I suggest preparing a litre in the recipe below, but the other night I found I only used 700ml.) Or, if it's not quite done and you've run out of stock, simply add a little boiling water instead of the stock. Bearing this in mind may help you if you have a fear of trying to make risotto.

I have been making mushroom risotto for years, but had taken a bit of a break from it for the last few months, favouring pea and mint (ever since I started growing my own mint, I have loved any excuse to use it in my cooking!) or pea and carrot versions. But now the weather's getting colder and I was looking to revisit some old favourites, the mushroom risotto came back onto the menu, and it has been a welcome return!

I am usually not very specific about quantities with this recipe - I use lots of mushrooms, as I absolutely adore them, but you can reduce the amount if you want/need to. Also, I just add as much cheese and butter at the end as I feel like (sometimes this is dictated by how much of each I have left!!), but I tried to weigh out what I was using the other night to give me an idea of what to suggest you add - these are the weights I have noted in the recipe below.

If you don't have wine, it is possible to make the recipe without it, or to substitute lemon juice (both of which I used to do), but the wine really adds the 'wow' factor to this one, so I'd highly recommend its inclusion if possible. One thing I've learned over the past couple of years is that although white wine can't be drunk after more than two or three days open in the fridge, it is still fine to use in cooking after this time. I usually have an open bottle of 'old' wine in the fridge specifically for cooking, and a couple of times I have used wine as old as two months old in my risotto - and it was still delicious and caused no problems. This makes it even easier to include wine in your risotto - there's no desperation to use up the rest of the bottle! Alternatively, you can buy those mini bottles of wine, or even small cartons of wine for a pound or two at the supermarket - ideal for cooking with.

Mushroom Risotto 

(serves two with a little left over for lunch the next day!)


3 tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
300g button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g arborio rice
150ml white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
30g butter
50g grated parmesan/vegetarian equivalent
salt and pepper, to taste


Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and fry, stirring gently until the mushrooms have softened (approximately 10 minutes). Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Now add the rice, stirring to coat each grain in the oil. Once all the grains are coated, add the wine. Stir until the wine has been fully absorbed by the rice. Now add the stock, gradually (many recipes suggest a ladleful at a time; I am not so precise, but would say about 150ml-200ml at a time). After you have added a ladleful/approximately 200ml, keep stirring until the stock has been fully absorbed by the rice. Only at this point add the next ladleful/200ml portion. At this point, it may be good to turn the heat down a touch, if the risotto seems to be boiling rather than simmering. Continue like this until the rice is cooked through - it should still retain a little bite (it should definitely not be soggy!) but it should not be so firm that it's crunchy either. I never normally time this, but I did the other night and it took approximately 20 minutes to reach this stage. At this point, take the risotto off the heat and add the butter, cheese and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Let stand for a couple of minutes, and then serve. If you have some fresh basil leaves, they make a nice garnish.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and that if you have previously been put off trying to cook risotto, that I have inspired you to try!

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