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What’s cooking today: Mushroom Risotto

Tony Jackman’s mushroom risotto. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

This recipe is written in honour of the superb mushroom risotto at Societi Bistro in Gardens, Cape Town, which is always an inspiration. It’s my own recipe, but I hope this does it justice.

 

There are three parts to making this recipe: cooking the risotto with stock, wine and Parmesan; cooking the mushrooms separately before combining half of the cooked mushrooms with the risotto, and finally adding the remaining cooked mushrooms to the finished dish. This is not written in stone; it’s just the way I like to do it so that there are mushrooms cooked separately with the intensity of flavour that they get when done that way, and more cooked in the risotto. I think it adds depth to the finished dish.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

500 g arborio rice

Olive oil (generous, enough to coat every grain of rice; if it doesn’t seem enough, drizzle more over)

1 large onion, chopped finely

3 cloves garlic, crushed and then chopped

Dry white wine (quantity is irrelevant, it’s right when it’s right, so have plenty to hand; I probably used 2 cups or so)

Port, to your taste (no, not 2 cups!)

1 litre chicken stock

3 sprigs thyme

800 g button mushrooms

Masses of finely grated Parmesan (go on, break the bank)

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Have your wine, heated stock and Port to hand, and a ladle. Add half of the juice of the lemon to the stock (the rest is for the mushrooms).

First cook the onions: In a large frying pan (not the one you’ll be using for the risotto), sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil with the thyme sprigs until softened. Remove them to a container and keep aside.

Slice the mushrooms and, in the pan in which you cooked the onions, cook them on a high heat, stirring continuously until they are beautifully browned and nutty. Season with salt and pepper and the remainder of the lemon juice.

Pour a handsome glug of olive oil into the risotto pan and add to it all the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat it and, if it is not well coated, add more olive oil until the rice has a lovely pale golden sheen all over. Now turn the heat on and stir it gently on a low heat for a few minutes to get the rice on its way. The heat remains low throughout this cook.

Add the cooked onions and half of the cooked mushrooms (I repeat, half of the mushrooms) to the risotto along with some of the stock and cook very gently, stirring to stop the rice from catching (which it does, easily, so you have to keep it moving, but gentle is the word here).

Every time the liquid has almost cooked away, alternately add more stock or wine, and occasionally Port, and now and then also grate some Parmesan into it, until the rice is just al dente; it needs to retain a gentle crunch. Season to taste with salt and pepper along the way and taste to see if you’re happy with it.

Cook’s note: In the end, it’s not about using up all the stock or wine: it’s ready when it’s right, and that’s when to stop adding more. A risotto’s liquid ingredients cannot be measured precisely: it needs the art of the cook and your palate and instinct.

By now I had a very generous hand with the grated Parmesan as the risotto neared perfection. I recommend you do too.

Once it’s done, add the remaining cooked mushrooms and grate yet more Parmesan over. DM/TGIFood

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]

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