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.

Advertisements

Les Lentilles (yes, you guessed it – this dish is awfully very French)

Really, really good for wintry weather
Really, really good for wintry weather. Even if you only live in Cape Town.

Even though I don’t speak a word of the language (that’s not true, I know ‘les’) and I’ve only been to France once in my life for five minutes, I just know, deep down, that I’m French. Sometimes I’m also Italian, but mainly I’m more French. I get them, those people, with their fabulous dishes of cream and bone marrow and not caring when their husbands have affairs. Well, that part I don’t really get, but the rest I totally do.

My amazing friend Paul who owns Nomu came up with this recipe using fancy puy lentils and fish, but since I wouldn’t know a puy lentil if it had a tantrum on my head, I just use those brown ones you buy at Pick ‘n Pay. And because there wasn’t any fresh fish in my fridge that day or ever, I also substituted that for chorizo because I saw that someone once used that in another lentil dish. But the rest is totally, completely sort of Paul’s recipe.

When I make this dish it’s almost like I become Edith Piaf singing about having no regrets. You kind of want to put on a boa and swan about with a cigarette holder and say things that shock your children. But then you remember you’re actually just a mom cooking Thursday night supper, so you have to settle down and be content with a glass of red. And anyway, once I cooked in a boa and the feathers got in everything. This dish is easy, seriously tasty and quite stylish, actually. You wouldn’t be amiss serving it to guests with a nice ciabatta and a bottle of something dusky. Here’s how to access your inner grande dame:

Ingredients:

Brown lentils (they might be called green, but they are most definitely brown)
An onion (the red ones are bit sweeter, I find)
A clove of garlic (okay, three)
A carrot
Celery
Chorizo
Vegetable stock
Dried or fresh tarragon and whatever other herbs you have bumming around. Oreganum and thyme work nicely.
A bay leaf or two

Method:

Chop your onion, garlic, carrots and celery as finely as you can be bothered and fry them in a bit of olive oil. When the onion goes see-through, add your chopped chorizo and fry it up a bit. Add two cups of lentils, four cups of water, your veggie stock cube or powder, your bay leaf and your chopped up herbs. Put the lid on and let it simmer gently. Keep checking that you have enough water in your pot. If it gets too dry, add more. When the lentils are almost done (they should have a bit of a bite), take the lid off and let the rest of the water cook away. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Serve it in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. SO very yum-ois.