A risotto is gratifying and terrifying in the same instance. I never made one until I was thirty. Not sure whether I liked it too. But back in 2008, I had overheard two schoolgirls on the train go on and on about how they had made a risotto in their home economics class and OMG it was so awesome and OMG it was LIKE the best thing evah and OMG it was SOOO easy, it wasn't even frickin' funny! Their words, not mine.
Nevertheless, I was sold. I wanted to add this frickin' awesome and simple dish to my cooking repertoire. So I made a porcini risotto. I loved the flavour but needed to come to terms with the texture. Looking back now, I realise that the texture was perfect. I just wasn't ready for it. Over the years, I neither cooked nor ate another risotto until last week when a beautiful risotto recipe in the August 2013 issue of Real Living magazine caught my eye. Call it the power of photography, but I wanted to be consumed by what was on that plate. It looked creamy and rich and rustic. It looked warm and hearty and delicious. So I adapted the recipe to what I had on hand and was consumed by a mushroom laden hearty dish that night. This time my more mature (this does not refer to my age, mind you!) palate was absolutely delighted by the textural play and burst of flavours in the dish.
This recipe serves four and is ready in under an hour. Try it. It is frickin' simple!
MUSHROOM AND ROASTED GARLIC RISOTTO
A beautiful almost vegetarian dinner dish that brims with robust and earthy flavours of mushrooms and roasted garlic. Served with plenty of herbs and shavings of good cheese.
Makes - To Serve 4
250g brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
10g porcini mushrooms (dry)
1 tablespoon butter
1 head of garlic, top sliced off and roasted whole in oven for 30 mins
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup merlot or shiraz
7-8 cups boiling stock (I used chicken stock)
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 cup baby Tuscan kale leaves (or silver beet leaves chopped)
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Place dry porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Cover with one cup of boiling water and set aside.
Preheat oven to 200C. Combine sliced brown mushrooms with 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Spray with cooking oil. Roast in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Heat butter in a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron enamelware on low. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes until grains are glazed with butter. Remove garlic skin and mash garlic flesh gently. Add to the pan with rice and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant. Increase heat to medium. Add merlot wine and cook stirring constantly till wine evaporates. Add porcini mushroom and the water they were soaking in. Continue cooking, stirring constantly.
As the water starts evaporating, add the stock cubes, rosemary and thyme leaves and 1 cup of hot water. Cook stirring gently over the next 10-15 minutes, adding another cup of water when liquid has evaporated. Do this till you have used up all the boiling water.
Remove from heat, cover and rest risotto for 10 minutes. When ready to serve, stir through the oven roasted mushrooms and Tuscan kale leaves. Top with parmesan. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
The rice is meant to have a bite. In fact when I was over at Casa Barilla for a cooking class last weekend, Chef Luca Ciano said that we tend to overcook it. If we were to eat an authentic risotto in Italy we wouldn't even consider it cooked completely, the rice would be just about al-dente. As long as there is just a bite but not the powdered graininess from "biting into" it, I think it is cooked perfectly. I hope that makes sense
PS - A note about the pictures. All of them except the garlic shot were taken at 7:30pm in Sydney's winter in natural light! How crazy is that? Because anyone knows that 7:30pm in winter is quite literally pitch dark. In fact it was so dark that I couldn't see what I was shooting through the viewfinder. I knew my distance from the subject and I knew approximately how many turns of the lens would produce the right focus. So I shot blind just by feel and I was quite happy with the shots. I love my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens.