Mushroom and saffron risotto
Preparation time – l5 mins
Cooking time – less than 30 mins
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter
Credit for this delicious risotto recipe and the insider tips goes to Head Chef Stefano Borella from one of my favourite Italian restaurants Caldesi in Campagna in Bray, Berkshire. Eating out is definitely one of the things I have missed in 2020/21, so when GianCarlo and the Caldesi team moved their cookery school online, I jumped at the chance to join the Art of Risotto Masterclass and pick up a few tips.
For the risotto
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, (make sure the stock is hot, *this is important*)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 60g shallots or yellow onion
- 150g mixed mushrooms, roughly sliced (I used 100g of Natoora Wild Mushroom Mix with 50g of rehydrated Porcini mushrooms)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small pinch dried, red chilli (if you don’t like chilli you can leave this out but I like the little bit of warmth it gives)
- A good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 50g butter – cubed (this will make it easier to mix into the risotto)
- 200g risotto rice, Arborio or Carnaroli (I used Arborio)
- 100ml white wine
- A pinch of good-quality saffron mixed with 3 tablespoons of the hot stock
- 50g Parmesan
- Large pot for stock
- Medium/large frying pan for the mushrooms
- Large frying pan or saucepan with long handle for risotto – the longer handle on the saucepan will make it easier to tip the pan and mix the risotto to get the creamy texture
- Wooden spoon
Make up the stock, cover and keep it hot (simmering) on the stove near the risotto pan. It’s important that the stock is hot because that helps to break down the starch in the rice and will give the risotto its creamy texture. If you’re using stock cubes then go easy on the salt later on.
If using, soak the dried Porcini mushroom in a cup of hot water for around 30minutes. Drain, rinse and roughly chop.
Tip: Put the saffron strands in 2-3 tablespoons of the hot stock, that’ll help to dissolve the strands and will give you an amazing, vibrant yellow risotto
Put olive oil, onion and ½ teaspoon salt in the pan to make the risotto. Heat over a medium heat and stir the onions for around 7–9 minutes, until softened. You’re waiting for the onions to become translucent and soft but avoiding getting colour and be careful not to burn them, that will give the risotto an unpleasant bitter taste.
In another pan, add half of the butter, mushrooms, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper and fry until softened. Keep them over a high heat and stir frequently until all the water has come out of the mushrooms. Keep the mushrooms warm until ready to serve.
Add the rice to the onions and ‘toast’ it for a few minutes so that it absorbs the flavours of the other ingredients and starts to become translucent. Keep stirring with a large wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn and wait until the grains make a clicking sound, this should take about 2 minutes or so.
When the rice is toasted, pour in the wine and keep stirring for another couple of minutes to allow all of the alcohol to evaporate. You should smell a strong aroma of alcohol as it evaporates.
Tip: If you’re not sure what wine to use, a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink it then don’t cook with it. You want the risotto to take on the flavours of the wine (minus the alcohol) so it needs to be of drinkable quality but doesn’t need to be expensive.
Add the saffron-infused stock. Hold the pan with one hand and stir the rice with a folding action, as if making a cake. As the rice cooks, this stirring will break down the outer shell of the rice grains and create a creamy risotto. Make sure you scrape any grains of rice from the sides of the pan down into the risotto or you will have the odd hard, uncooked grain of rice in your finished risotto.
Tip: I wasn’t sure what pan to use so I went for a frying pan which worked but in hindsight a deeper saucepan with a long handle would have worked better because the frying pan was a bit too shallow and things got a little messy when mixing in the butter and cheese.
When the stock is almost completely absorbed and you can see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir, add another ladle of stock.
Keep repeating this process and after about 15 minutes taste the rice, checking for seasoning and texture. Continue adding stock ladle by ladle until you think the rice is done – it will take between 20–25 minutes and you may not need to add all the stock.
The risotto is perfectly cooked when it is both al dente and creamy. Al dente meaning “to the tooth” and means that there is still a slight firmness to the rice. Once the rice has been cooked for around 15 minutes and there isn’t any chalkiness to the grains, its really a matter of personal preference as to how you want your risotto. So keep tasting and seasoning as needed.
Once done, remove from the heat and immediately add the butter. Stir vigorously to mix the risotto. This final step of adding butter to the risotto is known as mantecare in Italian and is the process of adding butter to give a dish its deliciously creamy texture.
Mix in the parmesan.
Cover the pan while you prepare warmed serving bowls and serve straight away by spooning in a portion of the risotto rice and adding a generous topping of the mushroom mix.
Tip: The risotto will cool down quickly so whilst it might seem like a faff, I’d definitely recommend warming your serving bowls.
Monfiore Gavi 2018
Gavi is a crisp, Italian white wine made from the Cortese grape. Grown in vineyards surrounding the town of Gavi in Italy’s Piedmont region, in the north west of the country, it’s a deliciously dry wine with crisp white peach and citrus flavours and a creamy smooth finish. A chilled glass of Gavi is perfect with this risotto.