I spent the whole weekend working at home but I made it, I finished the book translation. When last night I was stuck in the traffic on the freeway clogged up by the renewal works I was happy, jammed, lit by the red shades of the cars stop lights, but happy. I was done. A strange sense of lightness mixed with the anxiety due to the unknown future made me euphoric. And then I finally ate a great risotto with porcini mushrooms to celebrate the moment…
Grandma, dad and the mushrooms
When autumn comes my grandmother becomes restless, she looks at the sky, at the forest, listening to the stories of the other inhabitants of our village. She begins to get the right tools ready: comfortable shoes, long trousers, long-sleeved shirt, a walking cane and a wicker basket. I do not know how many times during my primary school she would make me a good lunch and she would run away, she had to get into the woods before dark, searching for mushrooms.
She always loved to venture herself into the woods or in the pine forest, silent, examining with her expert eyes every corner under the oaks or bushes of sorghum. Then Grazia and Maura, my grandmother’s friends, came into our family and the wood and the mushrooms became a unmissable appointment in autumn, a chance to spend some time with friends. Now Grazia, Maura and grandma are well-known for venturing deep into the woods, getting lost a few times and every time coming back home by a different route, but always bringing something interesting and good in their baskets.
Dad has an extraordinary eye for mushrooms, too. He rarely ventures himself into the wood searching for mushrooms, but when he takes the basket and goes, he has always something interesting for us. During my university years we went to visit a friend with the whole family in the woods around Montieri. We were walking along a forest path to digest a generous lunch of grilled meat and sausages, when my dad left the group, went into the brush and shortly after came out with a porcini. This happened several times, leaving all the group amazed and filling with pride the heart of his daughter.
Last Friday grandma, dad and Claudia went searching for mushrooms again and came back home with a few porcini. Time had come to make my grandma’s porcini mushroom risotto…
This is how we usually make risotto at home, classic for us, heretic for the real tradition of risotto, let’s face it. No butter but good extra virgin olive oil, plus the risotto creaminess is due to an energetic stirring of the rice throughout the cooking, as to naturally massage the creamy starch out of the rice. If you prefer, you can still use butter instead of olive oil and add a knob of butter and a good handful of Parmigiano at the end, out of the stove, to cream the risotto.
If you do not have fresh porcini mushrooms you can still use frozen ones, even though the risotto won’t have the same intensity, or a sachet of good quality dried porcini. I admit I used often frozen porcini, nobody’s perfect.
You can also find this porcini mushroom risotto in my upcoming book, it is almost ready. Let’s say this is a sneak preview all for you!
Porcini mushroom risotto
- 1.5 l water
- 1 bunch fresh herbs, sage, rosemary, calamint
- 500 g porcini mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 dried chilli
- 1 white onion
- 400 g Carnaroli rice
- Grated Parmigiano
- Fresh parsley
- Make the broth to cook the mushroom risotto: it is not a common vegetable broth, it is made just with a bunch of fresh herbs that are traditionally paired to mushrooms, especially the calamint.
- Boil the water with a good pinch of salt and the bunch of fresh herbs for 5 minutes, then strain it and leave it aside.
- Clean the fresh mushrooms and chop them fresh roughly.
- Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan with two cloves of garlic. When the garlic turns golden add the mushrooms. If you use frozen mushroom, add them into the pan without thawing them first.
- Cook the mushrooms for about 10 minutes until soft and reduce the liquid that they will produce.
- Season with salt and set them aside.
- In a large pot sauté the thinly sliced onion with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive over low heat, until it softens.
- Pour in the rice and let it toast, stirring often, until translucent.
- Add a ladleful of broth and stir the rice until absorbed.
- Keep adding ladlefuls of herb stock, stirring vigorously and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.
- Now add the mushrooms, stir thoroughly to mix all the flavours and cook for another 5 minutes, adding more broth if necessary.
- When the rice is al dente, remove it from the heat, add a few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano and cream the rice with a wooden spoon. Serve with fresh chopped parsley.
When in London, in my beloved English kitchen (I mean, it is not mine, but I feel at home there) I followed the same process used to make this risotto with porcini mushrooms to make a risotto with fresh chanterelles bought at Borough Market for Sarka and Regula. So, once you have a method, use it for the mushrooms you prefer and let me know!
Here’s list of other favourite mushroom recipes to bookmark for your lucky days, when someone will gift you with a basked crammed of underwood scented mushrooms.
- Green Kitchen Stories – Portobello and peach burger, vegetarian and mouthwatering, unusual to surprise you dear ones.
- What Katie ate – Rustic mushroom toasts, who wouldn’t be woken up by such a delicious looking toast for breakfast?
- Katie at the kitchen door – Mushroom and farro soup, healthy and warming for the first autumn evenings.
- Tartelette – Scrambled egg tartines with parsley and garlic mushrooms and Creamy polenta with Russian kale and Shitake mushrooms… I just couldn’t choose just one recipe, tartines or polenta? both!