Monday, 17 September 2012

Risotto ai funghi

To my mind, mushroom risotto heralds the start of autumn and although there are a still a few days to go until summer officially ends, the crisp, bright mornings, the dark evenings and the golden leaves falling from my silver birch tree have instilled in me a 'mists and mellow fruitfulness' kind of mood. It was either risotto-making or putting away my summer clothes and I don't feel quite ready to take that step yet.

Risotto ai funghi is an Italian classic. The best versions are made with the king of mushrooms, fresh porcini, which are coming into season right now. They have an incredibly rich, aromatic, almost meaty flavour that is vigorous enough to withstand a fair amount of cooking. However, while I would love to be able to say that this risotto was made with porcini that I picked on a walk in the woods yesterday, it would not be true. I have never yet found any in this area but I am convinced that they do grow here as conditions are surely perfect. There is no need to despair however as a delicious risotto can be made with a combination of dried porcini (which you can fortunately buy everywhere) and some fresh chestnut mushrooms added towards the end of the cooking time.

I always have a packet of dried porcini in the larder as their intense mushroomy flavour not only makes a fantastic risotto but also adds instant 'umami' to a whole variety of sauces and stews. The other ingredient that turns this risotto into something special is a porcini stock cube. I hardly ever use stock cubes but I make an exception for these (dadi Star ai Funghi Porcini) as they add a real punchy flavour. I usually stock up when I'm in Italy because they are not easy to find in the UK but happily, Carluccio's has recently started selling them.

I'm sending this to Katie Bryson from the lovely blog Feeding boys and a firefighter, who is this month's host of the Simple and In Season challenge, the brainchild of Ren at Fabulicious Food.

Serves 2 generously

1 shallot (or half an onion), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
30g dried porcini mushrooms
50g butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 glass dry white wine
1 litre mushroom stock (made with porcini stock cube, see above)
250g carnaroli or arborio rice
200-250g chestnut mushrooms
generous grating of fresh parmesan
Put the dried mushrooms to soften in a jug of warm water for about half an hour.

Take the mushrooms out of the water (but make sure you don't throw it away as you will need it later on) and rinse them well, making sure there are no tiny particles of grit or soil left lurking in any crevasses. Chop them roughly but don't make them too small. Filter the mushroom water by pouring it through a sieve lined with a sheet of kitchen towel. You can add this to the stock.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and the knob of butter in a pan and add the finely chopped shallot and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat until soft, making sure they do not start to burn. Add the dried porcini mushrooms and carry on cooking for a few minutes.
Tip in the rice and stir well so that all the grains are coated in the buttery juices. Turn up the heat to medium and pour in the wine. Keep stirring until it is absorbed.

Start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, making sure it is all absorbed before adding the next, stirring all the while to make sure the rice doesn't start to stick.
In the meantime, roughly chop the chestnut mushrooms and fry in a separate pan with a little oil until golden brown.

The rice should be cooked after about 18-20 minutes (it should still have a slight 'bite' to it). You might not need all the stock or you may need a little more (you could just add boiling water). Stir in the cooked chestnut mushrooms at this point.

Add a generous knob of butter, stirring all the time so that it melts into the risotto and the texture becomes creamy. You can also beat in the parmesan at this point or you can sprinkle it over just before eating if you prefer.


  1. Perfect! One of my favourite risotti!!I use very often dry funghi porcini and just like you I mix them with chestnut mushrooms. I miss fresh porcini mushrooms...good to know that Carluccio's sell porcini stock!! Ciao

    1. Thanks Rita, it's my favourite risotto too. I was so pleased when I saw the porcini stock cubes at Carluccio's - their finocchiona is good as well.

  2. Yum, a delicious family meal x

    1. Yes, I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it!

  3. Perfect comfort food for this time of year when it's bucketing down outside. I love stirring a risotto of an evening - really therapeutic. Thanks for linking up :-)

    1. It is perfect comfort food - rich, savoury and warming!