January 22, 2012

mushroom risotto heaven

This is fast turning into a diary of what we eat, but beyond looking after our boys, the grind of work and keeping house, enjoying the food we eat is what life seems to be about at the moment.  I've always been enthusiastic about only making what we want to eat and sometimes it can be a but cumbersome choosing to make what takes more effort than beans on toast (which is sometimes just what we fancy) but when we really feel like eating something, and in the absence of the long languorous dinners we used to enjoy, I think it's worth the extra effort to get it just right rather than settling for what'll do.  We have many pleasures in life at the moment, but for someone that eats every day, often three times or more a day, food is what fuels my every sense and I don't have the time or the inclination to eat anything except that which is cooked with love and enthusiasm.

So, I make no apology for this turning into a food diary.  And this next recipe is something else.  I love a good mushroom risotto but in all the years I've been cooking it, I've never managed to replicate that full-on, earthy, almost meaty flavour that you get in the restaurants.  Until now.

We had more field mushrooms than we knew what to do with, so I decided it was time to learn how to make a decent risotto, the oozy kind that you don't want to stop eating.  Even before finding the recipe I wanted to try, I knew I needed good stock, so I started with the homemade chicken variety, a few organic chicken wings, carrots, onions, fresh bay, thyme, parsnips, parsley, peppercorns, celery, plenty of water, simmered gently for a couple of hours.  This may seem like a lot of work but it's truly the easiest thing to make and having home made stock means you don't have to use the over-salted supermarket kind, which I fear is made with unhappy chickens and no love whatsoever.  I'm no chef but I know that home made stock, and you can make litres of it at a time, is probably one of the most useful things to have on hand, frozen into 250ml or 500ml tubs. (That, and frozen breadcrumbs made from fresh bread.)

So, stock made, I then searched for a recipe that came with a picture that looked like what I wanted to eat.  I found this one.  I followed it pretty much to the letter except I only had those big portobello mushrooms - none of the fancy kind - and more than the recipe needed, but I threw them all in (about double what was needed) and used plenty of stock, butter and salt (my stock was unsalted), parmesan and parsley and in 40 minutes, we had the perfect mushroom risotto.  (My only criticism of the recipe is that it said 'serves 4'.  Well I did 1.5 times the quantities suggested by the recipe which was enough for a big meal for two.  The original recipe would never have been enough for four.)

The key?  I'm no expert but I'm sure using good stock is important, and plenty of it too.  I reckon you want the risotto nice and oozy, so you probably need more stock than you realise (and this recipe was almost spot on with how much you'd need but I still used a tad more), don't skimp on butter and salt (good general rules for life, I think).  Keep stirring (it's not that big a deal to stand at a stove for 30 minutes), apparently the stirring is what makes the starch ooze from the rice, and don't let it get dry at any point.  Eat big platefuls, off your lap, in front of the tv while turning to your husband every few minutes and saying 'mmmm. best. risotto. ever'.

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