A good risotto is made with love, and takes all your attention. Don’t be tempted to rush it by adding too much liquid at a time. Add the liquid ladle by ladle, just enough to make the mixture “sloppy” again. The final consistency you’re aiming for is soft, creamy and quite wet, with the dressing of parmesan having formed a thick sauce or mantecare with the remaining stock and what little starch is released from the rice. Use only genuine risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano); its high protein content means it won’t turn to mush like other rices; it is cooked when al dente, that is to say still slightly firm and rubbery. For special occasions, you may like to fry some chopped fresh parsley in butter and a little olive oil for a few minutes, and pour this over the risotto together with a further sprinkling of parmesan.
Porcini mushrooms are so named because the Romans thought they tasted like pork – actually they were probably right, but more like wild pork/wild boar than today’s supermarket pork. They come dried and are very tasty. As an alternative, slice large portobello or flat mushrooms and fast-fry them, reducing the liquid until you have fairly dry, tasty slices of mushroom.
Make it vegan by leaving out the parmesan (which may be considered a crime in some circles) and using just oil instead of butter.
350g risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1 cup dried ceps (porcini) mushrooms
1/3 bottle white wine
1 litre hot stock
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped
Olive oil and butter
Salt & pepper
5 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Soak the porcini in boiling water. Heat a few tablespoons full of olive oil with a large knob of butter in a large saucepan. Fry the onion & garlic for ten minutes until soft. Add the uncooked rice and stir-fry for five minutes to toast the rice, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, keep the stock hot and simmering in a separate pan. Add a few ladlefuls of stock to the rice and reduce the heat, stirring well. When the stock has nearly been completely absorbed, add a ladle or two more. Strain the mushrooms to remove grit & sand, and add mushrooms & soaking liquid along with the wine to the rice when it is about half-cooked, and stir well. When the wine has been absorbed, carry on adding stock ladle by ladle and stirring well. When cooked, add the parmesan and stir in well until completely melted.