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.