Wednesday, August 11, 2010



Mushroom Risotto is the scrummiest thing to eat on a chilly night. Many people avoid risotto at all costs because they see the slightly fancy looking name and they assume that it must be impossible to make. This is absolute rubbish- all that risotto is at the end of the day is rice with a fancy outfit on. Risotto is a very simple and versatile dish that can be flavored with literally anything you have left in your fridge at the end of the month. 

Woolies often have these gorgeous little punnets of wild mushrooms that look like something from Alice in Wonderland. They are extremely delicious but also very daunting due to their fanciful shapes and very snobbish appearence. I have seen many people looking at these little beauties puzzlingly, then putting them back on the shelves because they can't think what on earth to do with them- besides maybe putting them under a bell jar and using them as some kind of strange organic living-room instillation. This recipe provides the perfect opportunity for you to get to know these interesting fellows, you will never eat a button mushroom ever again! 

Another terrifying ingredient used in this dish is the dried porcini mushroom. These little guys will not give you a high or a psychedelic out of body experience like the other dried mushroom variety so relax. All they will do is add a subtle nutty mushroomy flavor that will make you close your eyes when you chew and make a mmmmm noise.


• 1.5 litres chicken stock
• a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
• 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
• 400g risotto rice (also called Arborio rice)
• 150ml white wine
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 punnets of Woolies wild mushrooms 
  (they often do a special where you can get 2 for R20)
• a few sprigs of parsley
• juice of 1 lemon
• 25g butter
• 2 nice handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
• extra virgin olive oil

Before you get going, chuck your dried mushrooms into a glass and pour in enough hot (not boiling) stock to cover them. Leave them to soak for a few minutes, lets make it 5, then fish them out and chop them up. Keep the liquid they soaked in. In a separate jug mix 1.5 L of chicken stock and put it next to the stove with a ladle- you will need this later.

In a medium pan, heat up some butter and chuck in those wild mushrooms- not the dried ones- the fancy ones in the punnet. Flash fry these guys until they smell delicious and are shiny and soft. Fish them out and put them in a bowl. Squeeze your lemon juice in with the mushrooms, chuck in the chopped parsley as well as a pinch of salt and mix it all together.

Grab a large pan out of your cupboard (preferably one with high sides so you don't hurl rice all over your stove) chuck in a splash of olive oil along with your chopped celery and onion and leave these to fry for 10 minutes until they are soft. If they start to get all brown chuck in a little water this should stop them burning before they soften- this is a big no no in the cooking world but I don't care. Once these are done, turn up the heat, chuck in your rice and then add your wine. You might want to step back when you do this because a cloud of delicious will billow out and make your face all sweaty- very un sexy. Keep stirring until all that wine has been soaked up by the rice then add in the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms,the chopped porcini's and a ladle full of chicken stock. Turn down the heat to a simmer- the rice should be slightly bubbling not boiling wildly out of control. Wait until all that liquid is just about absorbed before you add your next ladle full of stock. Keep doing this until all your stock has been drunk by the rice, this will take upwards of 20 minutes- be patient with this process if you pour all your stock in at once and pump up the heat because you are in some kind of mad hurry, you will be left with a stodgy pot full of terrible tasting mush and mush never impressed anybody.  Once your are done with the rice, have a little taste and make sure you are happy with the seasoning. Take your risotto off the heat and stir in a large knob of butter, if your risotto is a bit stiff, add a splash of stock. Now for the best part, take those handfuls of parmesan and stir them in with the risotto until it becomes creamy and oozy and irresistible .

When you are ready to serve, spoon a dollop of risotto into a warmed bowl, cover it with a heap of grilled wild mushrooms and a veil of parmesan shavings. While you are doing this get your man to pour you each a big glass of chilled white, set the table like a good man should turn off the TV and light a candle because this meal deserves every bit of your attention.


If you are cooking for just one or two, you will have left overs. And you will be left wondering what on earth you are going to do with all this risotto. You have one of two options well you can use both options actually.

The first is perfect for lunch boxes, desk lunches and picnic baskets. Grab an old jam jar or one of those lovely Consol glass ones with the wire hinge and put a bed of rocket in the bottom. Chuck in afew dollops of Risotto along with some of the grilled wild mushrooms sprinkle in some parmesan and there you have it.


1. Take a spoon full of risotto and roll it into a ball.
2. Roll the risotto ball into some cake flour spiked with salt and pepper. 
3. Dip the ball into a bit of egg
4. Roll again in the spiked flour.
5. Repeat the above steps over and over again.
5. Put some olive oil into a pan, heat it up, drop the risotto balls into the hot pan and fry in batches until they are all golden brown and crunchy.
6. Serve piping hot risotto balls with a bit of mayo for dipping.
7. Say yes when he proposes and live happily ever after.

Option number two is a little more complex and might take a little more time but hell, it is worth the effort. Why not freeze some of your left overs from above and then put these steps into play when an unexpected dinner party springs on you and you have no fancy nibbles to serve. Risotto balls are the perfect canape, snack, delicious bite sized food there is. They also look fancy so your guests will all be secretly jealous of your culinary finesse.

* The above images are property of Durban Central. Should you wish to use them in any way, shape or form I would love you to just drop me an email and ask me first, I am very nice- I don't bite:)

Photographer: Jono Nienaber Stylist: Lexi Bechet

1 comment: