Mushroom & Spring Pea Risotto


Yesterday I tried to dash into the grocery store to grab five items on the way home with both kiddos in tow.  (So you know, two words that don’t fit together well into one sentence are dash and kiddos.)  Anyway, as I was almost at the checkout counter, Pretty girl’s peculiar “….err…Mom?” quickly got my attention.  Following me was Handsome, his pants and his underpants around his ankles, looking for a place to wee.  In the store.  Right there.

And that friend is a child, the true Great Leveler of anything you may hold dear like your dignity for instance, or even your first name.  Around these parts we have a few well known chefs who in their work life are famous and busy and even televised.    But, at their kiddo’s school, these giants of the culinary world are known simply as so and so’s mum or dad.

So, it is with a nod to Rachel and Ellie’s dad that I share my “Wild mushroom and spring pea risotto” with you, having enjoyed something similarly delightful at his restaurant a few summers back.  As I tried to recreate it, I was torn between being convinced that his had included truffle, and being absolutely sure that it hadn’t.  Either way, it’s a good food memory and I think you could add some truffle oil to this recipe with great results.

What you need

200g wild mixed mushrooms (e.g. button, shimenji white, shimenji brown, oyster and shitake.  Wiped clean and prepared.  Try to do a very simple chop of the mushrooms so that they retain their individual shape and contrast)
150g butter
60ml olive oil
1 lemon, rind grated and juiced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced (don’t use too much of the top green leafy section)
250g Arborio rice
± 4 cups chicken stock, hot (I use Thelma or Nomu if I don’t have fresh)
100g fresh peas
50ml cream
Grated Parmesan, fresh

Before you begin make sure that you have all the ingredients ready, prepared and easily at hand.  Once you get started on the risotto you will need to be vigilant, and being organized will be key to your success.

Firstly, melt 50g of butter and 30ml of the olive oil in a saucepan and add half of the garlic.  Do not allow to burn.  Toss in the prepared mushrooms and the lemon rind. (The combination of garlic and lemon brings out the flavour of the mushrooms) Toss the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and some of the fresh parsley and set aside.  The mushrooms should not brown tremendously, but I like to enhance their flavor which is why I like to cook them separately to the risotto to start.

The next step is to melt 50g of the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and leek and cook without colouring until softened.  Add the remaining garlic and cook out for a minute or two.  Add the rice to the pot and toss until well coated by the oil in the pan.  Fry the rice for a minute or two, you will notice it becomes beautifully glossy.

Turn your heat down to medium.  Add about ½ cup of the chicken stock and stir. Continue adding the stock ½ cup at a time.  Stir gently and continuously until the measure of stock that you have added is absorbed by the rice before you add more.  Once you are about half way through your stock, add the mushrooms and the peas to the risotto.  Continue cooking, adding stock when necessary until the rice is cooked to al dente, which means it still has a firm bite.  This will take about 15 – 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat.  Put the last blocks of butter onto the top of the risotto and pour over the cream.  Without stirring, place a lid on the pot and allow the risotto to stand for 2-3 minutes.  Stir through the risotto, season correctly and serve immediately topped with grated parmesan cheese.

The nature of the risotto is that each grain will break off at the ends as it cooks which gives risotto its natural creaminess.  Be sure not to add too much liquid at once or to continue to stir once it is completely cooked as you will end up with a bowl of mush.  This risotto is a meal on its own, but can also be served as a side to lemon roast chicken thighs, or even a lovely fresh grilled fish.

A quick read through of this recipe may be daunting, but I really think that if you go step by step and keep your wits about you, you will be really glad you did!

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