Bloody Marvellous Mushroom Risotto

These three little mothers will make your dish kick some serious butt.
These three little mothers will make your dish kick some serious butt.

What I have finally learned after years of making mediocre risottos is that the recipe books simply cannot be trusted. The thing is, what you’re cooking is white rice which tastes like a whole bunch of nothing. So, forget all that talk about texture and timing – it’s actually pretty forgiving in both those departments – the most important thing about this dish is that you need to add serious amounts of flavour. Roughly speaking, what I’ve figured out is that whatever they tell you to add, double it. Two gloves of garlic? Use four. A handful of herbs? At least two. And make your stock nice and salty. You shouldn’t have to add salt later.

And then, on top of that, if you really want to blow people’s socks off, you want to come up with some tricks. Without a doubt, the best for mushroom risotto are lemon rind, truffle oil and enough garlic to scare a Sicilian. The lemon gives it the most beautiful lift, while a drizzle of truffle oil adds a whole new flavour dimension (it’s called umami, by the way, but never mind that, you mouth will like it). So, here it is – the yummiest risotto that’s ever come out of my kitchen.

Ingredients:

Risotto rice
Large white onion
Three carrots
Two celery stalks
Five cloves of garlic
A glass of white wine
Punnet of mushrooms (doesn’t matter what kind)
Chicken stock (powdered is fine, but make sure it’s strong enough)
Plenty of fresh herbs like basil, thyme and origanum
Rind of a lemon
Butter
Truffle-flavoured olive oil (or real truffle oil if you’re fancy)
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and black pepper

Method:

– Finely chop your onion, carrots, celery, four cloves of garlic and most of the herbs. Fry them in a large pot in a few lugs of olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt (Maldon really is better).
– Add a small bag of risotto rice and fry it up a bit, moving it around with a wooden spoon. In a separate pot, warm your stock. Turn the heat up high on your risotto, add your glass of wine (if you’ve already drunk it, you’re my kind of cook – pour another) and let the alcohol cook away.
– Start ladling your stock into the risotto, stirring regularly, one ladle at a time.
– In a frying pan, fry your sliced mushrooms on high. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper. When they’re almost done, add a chopped clove of garlic, a pat of butter and the remainder of the herbs.
– Keep adding stock and stirring your risotto
– Taste it – when it seems cooked but still has a bit of a bite, you’re pretty much there. Add your cooked mushrooms with the juices from the pan and stir them in along with the rind of a lemon.
– Add a bit of black pepper and about two cups of finely grated parmesan cheese.
– Serve it with an extra twist of pepper, a drizzle of truffle oil and more parmesan cheese. Heaven.

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War of the Rice and Other Stupid Things Married People Fight About

My husband is a good cook and I’ve learnt a few tricks from Jamie Oliver over the years, and if we were on TV this would translate to a happy, busy kitchen where he and I wear matching aprons and amazing dishes get churned out like on a little cartoon conveyor belt. Except, the fact that we are married and this is real life means that it’s not quite the case. What we learnt early on in our relationship (as in, the first time we ever cooked dinner together) is that as we both have strong opinions on how things should be done, it’s better for everyone if, at any given time, there is one designated chef, while the other one stays the hell out of the kitchen. Or, at least maintains a safe and respectful distance. And, if one has an opinion on what’s going on in the other one’s pan they do not, under any circumstances, offer it. And we stick to this agreement, and therefore stay married.

But sometimes something happens which throws a spanner in the works of our domestic solution, and that thing is being in someone else’s house who has asked us, as a couple, to perform some sort of culinary task. In this particular instance, that task was to cook the rice which was to accompany a very delicious lamb potjie. Now rice, of all things, should be child’s play, and is – except for the fact that my husband insists on cooking it this really weird way. He boils it and then turns off the heat with the notion that it will stay hot long enough to absorb the remaining water and be perfect when served. Which is great in theory, but anyone who knows anything KNOWS that rice is to be cooked gently on a low heat till all the water is gone. Because that’s the way my mom did it and therefore it must be right.

So, I break the golden rule and point this out to him because our friends have spent the whole day cooking this nice dish and now it’s going to be ruined by silly rice. When it becomes obvious that our little disagreement is not going to reach resolution anytime soon, I elicit the help of the other guests to explain to him the error of his ways. Unfortunately, the person standing closest happens to be another guy and, in accordance with Guy Law, there is no way this dude – while he agrees with me TOTALLY, I can see it in his eyes – is going to backstab another dude and let me, the chick, win.

So, the guy pretends to agree with him which naturally makes my husband very pleased. And though I try to pull my girlfriends into our little tiff, they’re being all diplomatic and not wanting to take sides. So, I take it upon myself, when nobody is looking, to turn the rice back on and try and salvage his swampy carb. Unfortunately, by this stage I have put away a good portion of Shiraz and when my girlfriends start sharing rude stories about their sex lives, I kind of get distracted and forget I’ve turned the gas on high. Nothing terrible happens – I don’t destroy the kitchen or anything – but the bottom of the pot is a little black by the time I stop shrieking and notice something is burning. Which kind of messes up my smug sense of righteousness.

ANYHOW, the food was all delicious and even if it hadn’t been, nobody would have noticed because we were laughing so hard and having so much fun that night, and I felt a bit silly the next day for going on and on about it. It’s weird how combative you can get when you’re married and how being right can become the most important thing. I wish I could say I’d learnt a lesson, and that the next time I don’t agree with something trivial he does – like cook rice the wrong way – I’ll shut the hell up and mind my manners. But, what are the chances of that?