Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto – simple ingredients, so it should be easy, yes? But my experience is that all too often, it is just not quite right, and the worst offenders are often restaurants. I’m looking for good flavour and nice texture, not porridge made with rice.

After lots of practice, I think I’ve nailed it. Here are my tips. If you disagree, let me know, but I think this works well: first, make sure you use arborio rice. I shudder when I think of my early student attempts using plain long-grain white rice! Second, actually follow the recipe and make sure you add the stock a little at a time – it makes a real difference. Third – cheat and keep it “dry” towards the end, then add a couple of spoons of cream at the end for a luxurious, creamy result.

For the risotto:

• 150g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 100g mushrooms
• 100g asparagus
• 2 tablespoons cream

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes. We want the onion to be lightly coloured. Once ready, add the garlic and cook for another minutes.

Now add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time (if you don’t, the rice will burn). Add the wine, and it will bubble up. Reduce the heat, and allow most of the liquid to evaporate – you know it is gone when it looks “oily”. Now add to stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, and allowing the risotto to cook and, in each case, only add more stock when most of the liquid has evaporated. This should yield a creamy risotto with defined grains of rice, rather than a rice “porridge”. Check the rice – it should be almost cooked (firm, but yields when you bite it and no hard centre).

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms and the asparagus. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated (you will find a lot of liquid comes out from the mushrooms). Add the Parmesan cheese, and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat, stir through the cream, cover the pot and allow to sit for two minutes.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

Alternatives: this recipe is quite adaptable. You can add anything you want in place of the mushrooms and asparagus – truffle oil works well, as do peas and mint, or just a good measure of saffron for a brilliant sunset yellow risotto.

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