Wet, windy Wednesday’s tropical storm (apparently the tail end of Hurricane Nadine) was the herald that Summer was over. Cloudless, cerulean blue skies turning to ghostly grey and the drop in temperature were the clues to make everyone assume that Autumn was on its way.
Patio furniture and BBQ sets have been hidden away until next year.
Our food naturally changes with the seasons. When I think of Autumn, I don’t just think of the obvious gourd. Not that there is anything wrong with a bright orange pumpkin or a seasonal butternut squash used in soups or roasted with maple syrup but characteristically they tend to be associated with Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.
To me Autumn is more than just this; it is about a return to the food of the forest. Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colour of the earth. Foraging for the last remaining edible scraps that will eventually be wiped out by the onslaught of cold and rain.
Mushrooms are the ultimate autumnal feast. I know we can get several varieties of white mushroom throughout the year thanks to supermarkets capitalising on our greed, but these tend to be bland and tasteless with a very short storage life.
Truffles, Cepes, Morels, Chanterelles, Portobello
My neighbours recently (or maybe not that recently, I can’t remember) gave me a packet of dried porcini mushrooms that they had brought back from Rome for me. So what best to cook with these than Mushroom Risotto!
- Dried mushrooms
- Button/chestnut mushrooms
- Risotto Rice
- Chicken stock
- olive oil
- dry white wine
- salt & pepper
1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use either a cube or those new stock pots. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I most certainly don’t make my own stock as have neither the incling nor the need to have to make everything from scratch!
2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.
3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a finely chopped medium onion or if you prefer to use shallots do so (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.
4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry white wine. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.
5th: Chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the mixture.
6th: Now you can start adding ladelfuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladelful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins unitl all the stock is absorbed but do not let this faze you; remain calm and relaxed.
I tend to find the repetitive stirring very reassuring and almost lulling.
7th: Drain the porcini mushrooms and add to the risotto. Take off the heat and mix in some more butter and parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for at least 2mins before serving. Serve with a ribbon of olive oil and chopped parsely to add another level of taste as well as colour.
If you want to be extravagant but not show-offy, replace the olive oil at the end for truffle oil! A tiny bottle costs around £10 but a little goes a very long way.
NB The risotto should be one homogenous mixture. The liquid should not be oozing away from the rice. Neither should the risotto be so dry that a spoonful remains stoic in the centre of your plate!