Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto

It is always exciting when the wild garlic first appears. I have a particular spot in Cannizaro Park, although I am not telling you exactly where, that I always can rely on at this time of year to produce a small harvest. If you are out walking at this time of year and get a whiff of garlic, follow your nose and you are sure to find some. The leaves are luscious green and they have a delicate, pretty white flower in the centre of each bunch. They actually give off a stronger garlic smell than taste and are best just wilted into dishes right at the end of cooking. If they are not in your box, be sure to add them as an extra as they are not around for long. They are particularly good in risotto.

Wild Garlic

Risotto is really simple and versatile supper. Such a different verity of  vegetables can be used and it requires just a few store cupboard ingredients. It is great if you make your own stocks, but don’t be put off if you don’t, good stock cubes are fine. I prefer chicken but you can use vegetable instead. I know the recipe tells you to stir all the time, and so you should. It is nice to take time and stand still for once, but personally I rarely find I have 20 minutes to stand in one place, so if you need to add two ladles of stock at a time and stir a little less, it will still be delicious.

Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto 2

Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto

Serves 2

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced

20g dried Porcini

1 litre of stock (or 1 litre of water and 2 stock cubes)

50g butter

200g risotto rice (Aborio or Carnaroni)

100mls white wine

freshly ground black pepper

50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

A large handful of garlic greens, washed and roughly chopped

Heat the stock or dissolve the stock cubes in boiling water and keep simmering. Pour a ladle of boiling stock over the dried Porcini and allow to sit. In a separate pan, heat 2/3 of the butter, add the onions and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. Next add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has cooked away and they begin to fry. Drain the Porcini adding the liquid, minus any grit, to the stock. Roughly chop the Porcini and add to the mushrooms. Stir for a minute more and add the rice and turn up the heat. The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, and keep stirring to encourage the rice to release its starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will result in a creamy risotto and will take around 15 – 20 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite but not chalky. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and Parmesan. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Finally stir in the wild garlic leaves and eat it as soon as possible.

Mushrooms

Spring Risotto in Summer!

Having dealt with the Kohl Rabi, next I turned my attention to the peas and broad beans and “Risotto” immediately sprang to mind. This is a popular choice in my house as it is one of the few dishes that the whole family can agree upon as liking unanimously without an argument – which is always a relief.

It was only when I started to grow my own vegetables that it occurred to me that what I thought as Spring vegetables where not actually ready until early Summer. Although asparagus and broad beans are the  first, closely followed by peas, without poly-tunnels and greenhouses you would be lucky to have any to hand by the end of April! Risotto however is of course an Italian dish and clearly Spring in Italy is somewhat warmer and more reliable than our own!

There are so many varieties you can make but here are a few key points to making it always delicious.

• You do not have to stir constantly for 20 minutes but remember that in stirring you are banging the grains of rice together which is what releases the starch and makes your risotto creamy.
• Always use a good quality rice – Arborio or Carnaroli
• Fry the bacon until really crispy – no one wants gristly bits of bacon in their Risotto
• Use good quality stock – homemade is best but it is fine to use bought stock (Riverford make their own) or good stock cubes like Kallo Organic.
• Always use butter, not olive oil. Risotto traditionally comes from the North of Italy where butter is readily available. (There are exceptions such as Artichoke risotto which is a Southern Italian dish and uses olive oil instead.)
• Everyone is always worried about overcooking risotto and making it mushy but an undercooked, chalky risotto is even worse!
• Add enough stock – it should be creamy, not stodgy.
• Season during cooking so that the rice absorbs the salt and it does not just coat the outside.
• Always add hot stock during cooking.

Pea, Broad Bean and Bacon Risotto

Pea, Broad Bean and Bacon Risotto
This is based on a Risotto Primavera, which means Spring Risotto and any spring vegetables can be used. Remember that Spring in Italy is more like Summer in England!
Serves 4
200g shelled broad beans
200g shelled peas
250g /16 rashers smoked streaky bacon cut into lardons (optional)
1 large onions (chopped very small)
1.5 – 2  pints good quality chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade or stock cube
100g butter
300g Risotto rice
100 mls dry white wine
100g Parmesan, finely grated

Drop the broad beans into boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, then drain and cool under cold water. Peel off the skins. Pour the stock into a pan and bring to a simmer.

Heat 3/4 the butter in a heavy, wide pan and add the bacon and fry cook until crisp. Tip in the onions and cook very slowly for 10 minutes until soft and see-through, but not brown, stirring often. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes so it gets coated, but not coloured. Pour in the wine. Keep stirring for about a minute until the wine has evaporated. Now add 1-2 ladles of stock at a time stirring until all the liquid is absorbed, scraping the sides of the pan to catch any stray bits of rice. Continue to stir and add a ladleful of stock once the previous amount has been absorbed. The rice tells you when it needs more stock. Check for seasoning. Homemade stock has no salt – stock cubes are full of it, so season to taste but add early on so that the salt absorbs into the rice.

After about 15 minutes add the peas to the rice. Check seasoning. The rice should take another 5 minutes or so. Try the rice every few minutes – when done it should be softened, but with a bit of bite, almost chewy, and the risotto creamy – overcooking just makes it mushy but make sure your rice is not still chalky. Continue adding stock and stirring until done. Add the broad beans. Take the pan off the heat, add 3/4 of the parmesan and the rest of the butter. Put the lid on the pan and leave for 3 minutes to rest. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.

Broad beand shelled

Wet and Wild

 Wet and Wild

I was particularly excited about the first of the season’s wet garlic. I love this fresh garlic which has not yet been dried, especially as there is no need to even peel it. The internal skins have not yet formed so the whole head can be chopped. I love just baking them whole and spreading the creamy cooked garlic on a piece of toast.

Wet Garlic Cooked

When the stalks are fresh and green they can be cooked like leeks or finely sliced and used in soups, omelettes or even salads.

If you don’t get round to using it all up, just hang it up to dry in your kitchen and it will last up to nine months.

Wild garlic leaves are around now too, so keep your eyes peeled. I spotted a lovely patch in Cannizaro Park at the weekend, but obviously I am not telling you exactly where. If you manage to find some you could give the fantastically named “Wet and Wild Risotto” a go. And don’t forget to throw in some pretty garlic flowers too.

Wild Garlic

I decided to use mine simply sautéed with the delicious new potatoes in my box, but it would have been equally good with the mushrooms, just simply served up on a piece of sourdough toast.

Sautted Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Pan

Sautéed New Potatoes with Wet Garlic

Give your new potatoes a good wash and put in a pan covered with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until a blunt knife will insert easily into the middle. Drain and leave to cool a little. Cut the potatoes in half, or quarters if particularly big. Heat some good olive oil in large frying pan and sauté the potatoes until golden brown. Thinly slice your wet garlic using the bulb and the stem and add to the pan with a scattering of sea salt. Sauté just until the wet garlic starts to wilt. Serve hot.

Sauteed Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Bowl