Posts Tagged ‘mushroom risotto’

Out of sheer convenience (and the aptitude for a bit of alliteration!) my Monday night dinners have ended up being meat free.  And whereas there have been some articles/recipes I’ve written heralding the vegetable as the star of the meal – the mantra behind this article is not about abandoning meat altogether but about the need to moderate meat consumption. 

Why am I trying to convince you not to eat meat every day? I hear you say.  Well I’m not trying to convince you – eat as you wish;

food should be relished and not merely fuel for our bodies.

Unfortunately, our busy working days have made a proper lunch a thing of the past as we literally grab something on the go to keep our hunger pangs at bay; it is the evening meal that is the focus of my culinary attention.

So where does the Meat-free-Monday-malarkey come from?

Are our bodies designed to eat red meat?  Of course they are – we chased woolly mammoth over Siberian plains and feasted on its bountiful flesh.  And if it hadn’t been for our ancestors who survived due to this nutrient rich food source, we perhaps might not have evolved at the rate we did or at all!  The need to feed made us great hunters.  But let’s be realistic, woolly mammoth was a treasured luxury food item during cavemen times – Bronto burgers and Dino ribs a la Bedrock were not a regular feature on the prehistoric menu.  After feasting on this mammoth meat – long periods of time were then spent foraging for fruit and edible vegetation.  If meat were eaten as regularly as we do at present, we would have eaten our way into extinction long before the invention of the wheel!

Throughout history eating meat was a reflection of affluence.  The poor were relegated to using cheap, gristly cuts of meat that required long, slow cooking as a means to tenderise and extract flavour but their diet was primarily cereal and vegetable based.  Meat was and still is expensive.  The rich could purchase any meat and poultry they wished and employed cooks and chefs to create elaborate creations with these.

Western affluence has, over time, changed our diets so that we are eating much more meat on a daily basis than before.  Fast food chains in major cities dedicated to the sale of chicken spew out thousands of whole chickens to their customers on a daily basis; whereas burger chains have had to destroy land to create grazing ground for cattle.  The impact this has on the environment is a huge but saddening reality of our modern society.  We plead ignorance but there is no denying that the casual attitude with which we accept the taking of an animal’s life makes us very comfortable in wasting parts of the animal that wouldn’t previously have gone uneaten.  This perpetual cycle of waste is a total injustice to the animals we rear as food.

These canines were not designed to tear through celery

Even though our teeth are clearly meant to cut, rip and tear through meat, eating a diet that is heavy in red meat has been scientifically proven to be detrimental to your health.  Other than the well reported cases of increased cases of colorectal cancers amongst meat eaters in comparison to vegetarians, there are now increasing studies suggesting that consumption of red meat can increase the risk of developing type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

In nations such as Switzerland it is good practice for children to dine on fish or vegetable dishes at dinnertime as meat can be very heavy on the stomach and takes a long time to digest.  Most evenings we become sedentary in front of the TV immediately after dinner; we all know the problems of going to bed on a full stomach.

So with a more informed outlook on the value of the animal, a seasonal ideology and a firm will to improve my health (as well as a cheaper shopping trolley) I feel I must equip you with meat free recipes for four meat-free Mondays in the month.

So after the Sunday Roast and all the trimmings why not give your stomach a rest with a meat-free monday dish? Click on any of the links to take you to the recipe.

Have you got any personal favourites?

Enjoy

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

Wild mushrooms are packed full of flavour but are found scant in the wild. Therefore, drying these is the perfect way of extending their shelf life.

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!

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Onions/shallots
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry white wine
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

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!

Buon Appetito!