Mushroom risotto might sound like an easy, even overdone dish- but it's one that, in all honesty, I just come back to time and time again. I make this particular version pretty much every autumn, when the fields and forests of the U.K. are brimming with wild mushrooms in their prime.
If you're a knowledgeable forager, or have access to one to help you, by all means make a day of this risotto and collect your own mushrooms to cook with. (Disclaimer: don't do this if you aren't or don't!). Fortunately most good grocers will have wild mushrooms too, and there's no shame in buying them. The best mushrooms for this are the classics- porcini or ceps and chanterelles- but, since these can carry a hefty pricetag, pad them out with some regular old white or chestnut or button mushrooms too (50/50 is a fine ratio).
This recipe might seem laborious, but such is the nature of risotto. It's a labour of love: standing, stirring, and tasting, again and again. I think (hope!) that the eating is worth the effort.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Preparation time: 1 hour 40 minutes (or about 1 hour if you skip the stock-making)
For the risotto...
6 tbsp vegan butter
3 shallots, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
About 650g assorted fresh mushrooms (e.g. chanterelle, porcini, chestnut, button), finely sliced
1.5l mushroom stock (you can make this as per the recipe below, or buy it)
500ml dry white wine
500g Carnaroli rice
125ml unsweetened vegan cream
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Ground sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Ground, dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms, to taste (optional)
20g fresh parsley, finely chopped (stalks removed)
20g fresh thyme (stalks removed)
10g fresh sage, finely chopped
Other fresh herbs, if you like
2 tbsp good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
For the mushroom stock...
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large brown or white onion, sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
10 garlic cloves
12 dried shiitake mushrooms
A handful each of fresh thyme, parsley, and/or whatever aromatic herbs you have on hand
2 tsp ground sea salt
1./ First, make the mushroom stock. You can do this in advance; it's a good thing to make in bulk (e.g. by doubling or tripling this recipe) and keep frozen for when you need it. If you don't want to make it in bulk, the quantities here should produce more than enough stock for this recipe.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup or stock pot over a high heat. When the oil is hot, add in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and let sizzle away for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Don't worry if the vegetables get brown- a bit of charring is a good thing, and will add to the stock's flavour. Add in the shiitake and 3l of boiling water. If you have any mushroom scraps knocking around (stems etc.), add those in too. Let the whole thing boil for 4-5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Leave to simmer for at least forty minutes. Pass through a fine sieve and set aside for later. If you like, you can save the boiled shiitake for later or use them as a risotto accompaniment; they're good sliced thinly and fried or pickled.
2./ Start the risotto by heating all the butter in a wide, deep pan. When it's sizzling, add in the diced shallots, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt, and fry for about 3 or 4 minutes over a medium-high heat. Add in the fresh mushrooms, and continue frying till they're nicely browned.
3./ Next, stir in the rice, then leave it to toast in the pan for a couple of minutes. Add about 100ml of the wine and simmer till it's absorbed; then do the same with 500ml of the stock, stirring all the while. Add more wine and stock alternately, about 200ml at a time, stirring constantly. Wait for the liquid to be fully absorbed before adding the next dose. You may need to turn the heat down a bit, if you find the risotto is catching.
There's no exact science here- I take each risotto as it comes. The main thing is to give it plenty of time and attention. And keep stirring! In the unlikely event that you've added all the stock and all the wine but the rice is still hard, you can simply add more stock (if you've got it) or hot water. Equally, if you test it part-way through cooking and feel it's thick enough and soft enough (it should have a wee hint of bite but not be at all chewy), feel free to skip ahead to the next step. The point is to use your instincts here, if you need to.
4./ Once all the wine and stock is absorbed, add in the cream, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice, and cook for another couple of minutes. You should have a risotto with a creamy, unctuous consistency. Season with plenty of salt and black pepper. If you like a more intense mushroom flavour, you can add some ground, dried mushroom too- don't worry if you don't have this though. Remove from the heat and stir through the olive oil and fresh herbs.
5./ Serve hot with a fresh green salad (bitter leaves like rocket or watercress are nice) and some warm crusty bread. Enjoy!
Until next time...