Revisiting an old standard – mushroom risotto

Not wanting meat or fish I wondered the aisles of the supermarket in search of inspiration.   Nothing. And then it came to me:  risotto.  But what kind?  The vegetables were uninspiring but I spied some lovely Portobello mushrooms and remembered I had a packet of dried wild mushrooms in my pantry.  Sorted.

It’s been a while since I made a mushroom risotto.  I think it’s one of those dishes that has gone out of fashion (risotto in general).  But it’s such an easy and tasty dish to make.  All you need to do is soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for a couple of hours.  The longer you soak them the stronger the flavour.  I soak them in about 2 cups of water and then I use the liquid as the basis of my stock for the risotto.

This time I finely chopped the Portobello mushrooms and also added some sliced dried shiitake (also soaked in some hot water) so that I had a variety of sizes, textures and of course, flavours.

The recipe is easy – in fact there is no recipe.  All you need to do is chop a brown onion and saute in some olive oil then add 1 cup aborio rice and stir to coat.  Add a handful of chopped Portobello and  pour in some warm stock (I had some vegetable stock I had made on the go).

Meanwhile I heat some olive oil and sauté the rest of the Portobello mushrooms with some thyme and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, just to brown and soften.  Remove these from the heat to add toward the end when the risotto is almost cooked.

Back to the risotto:  keep adding stock (which includes the wild mushroom liquid) and stir risotto occasionally and gently until it’s al dente.  Then add the soaked fungi, shiitake and browned Portobello. Stir in some butter, extra olive oil and you’re done.  Finally, add very finely shaved parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper.  So easy.  It’s a very rich dish so a good accompaniment is a salad of greens including rocket, beetroot leaves and radicchio.  Perfecto.

Jar full of pickles

Pickles – who doesn’t love pickles? I’ve been a pickle fan ever since I was a kid. My pickles of choice back then were GeeVee sweet & sour pickles. I would consume these by the jarful and even drink the juice. Since then I have evolved in my taste for a preference for good dill pickles and am constantly on a search for the perfect dills.

More recently I have started to make my own and now have become something of a pickling queen.  What began with classic dill-style cucumbers has now developed to pickling just about everything – no vegetable is exempt.

There’s always a jar of some sort of pickles in my fridge. They’re a delicious addition to salads and smoked or raw fish and are quick and easy to make.  Even better, they can be ready to eat in just half an hour. I first tried my hand at finely sliced radishes and then moved on to baby onions and button mushrooms and fennel. Inspiration hit me when I encountered pickled grapes served with pate; they were a revelation and I thought I could easily make them.  I now have a jar in my fridge which is always on the go. They’re delicious and hard to resist popping into your mouth. More recently I have pickled baby beetroot, finely sliced on a mandolin, these too are ready in no time.

The great thing about pickling your own vegetables is that you can make up just one jar at a time and you don’t need to do it days in advance – just an hour before hand is fine. The other day I bought some lovely cherries with the idea of pickling them. Alas, before I could decide on an appropriate flavour profile I ate my way through all the cherries.

Today I bought a lovely piece of sashimi quality tuna and decided that it would go well with some pickled radish, fennel and beetroot.  On my bench now are two jars:  one with the fennel and radish, the other with beetroot.  Now I just have to wait until it’s time to slice the tuna and serve.   Continue reading Jar full of pickles