Monday 7 September 2015

Wild Mushroom and Thyme Risotto

Risotto is essentially at the essence of comfort food. Now it's September and getting towards that time of year again when the books are out and pencil cases at the ready for college, it all reminds me that Autumn is well on its way and what better way to eat than with a warm and reassuring bowl-full of all things good with this season to come. Mushrooms! 

I went out picking these bad boys  - did I heck! That was an absolute lie, I'd have no clue what I should and not be picking which is obviously a bit risk'aay. But what I can tell you is that on my visit to Chatsworth Country Fair at the weekend, I managed to bag myself  a bargain with a mushroom market trade stall. I was amazed at how many different varieties there were (I mean I knew there were loads but I'd never seen this many all together) it was like a little sweetie stall and you could pick and mix to your heart's desire...I decided on a mixed box after much deliberation. 

I wanted to keep the mushrooms flavour strong and punchy so to make them the main ingredient to my dish I kept it relatively simple with everything else.

Just a little bit of spinach, onions, garlic and thyme. For texture I fried a little parma ham till crispy for a garnish but if you're a vegetarian or want to go completely meatless for a change then leave this bit out. 

Risotto can be off putting for some people - I get it, it can be annoying to make and even disappointing when ordered in many a restaurant, so I understand that all this can be enough to knock your confidence to cook it at home when even the restaurants can't always get it right. The trick is to add the stock a little at a time when you first start making it, stick with it and don't go off doing something else like answering the phone, right now your main priority is to get it nice and creamy and to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pan (even with the best of non-stick it can happen easily!) Just keep stirring and watching it and when all the liquid is absorbed by the rice, add some more. The result will be like you've added cream, silky and inviting (but there isn't even any cream in it. Sshhh!!) 

If you have any leftover risotto, which I bet you probably won't have but just in case you do somehow manage to then why not use it up by making arancini - FYI - little balls of rice coated in breadcrumbs then fried. 

Wild  Mushroom  and  Thyme  Risotto

Adapted from Lisa Faulkner's book 'Recipes from My Mother for my Daughter'. 


Serves 4

125g unsalted butter
400g mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
300g arborio rice
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) warm vegetable stock
100g baby leaf spinach
40g parma ham, torn into small pieces
50g parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra shavings to finish
½ lemon 
good quality olive oil, for drizzling


Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan and cook the mushrooms for about 3 minutes seasoning to taste then with a slotted spoon transfer them all to a plate and keep warm. Then in the same pan, gently fry the onion and garlic for a further 5 minutes. 

Add the rice to the pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes over a low heat, stirring to get all the grains coated in butter.

Now slowly pour in a little of the stock at a time, stirring continuously. Wait until all the liquid had been absorbed by the rice and then add some more stock in. Increase the heat to high now and keep stirring until all the stock has been used. After about 15 minutes the rice will be cooked and it will be beautifully creamy. 

In a small frying pan heat a little oil and fry the parma ham pieces until crisp. Then put aside and keep warm. 

Add the spinach, half of the mushrooms and parmesan cheese and mix through the risotto until the spinach has wilted down. Season to taste. Serve the risotto in dishes topped with the rest of the mushrooms with a squeeze of lemon juice, a few crispy parma ham pieces, parmesan shavings and drizzle a little olive oil. 

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