One of the few times I was seriously ill during my teenage years was when I got food poisoning from eating some risotto, bought in a tub from the supermarket and reheated at home. If you’ve ever had severe food poisoning, you will know that it is absolutely horrific, and actually feels even worse than it sounds.

That experience spooked me, and I couldn’t quite face risotto again for at least three years afterwards – genuinely. I am quite happy to eat all sorts of weird things that lots of people wouldn’t touch, but the mere thought of risotto made me feel a bit ill.

When three years had passed, I gingerly ordered risotto as a starter at some restaurant and, remarkably, survived. I am sure they will be optioning the film rights any day now.

Anyway, I am now wholeheartedly over my risotto aversion and trying to make up for lost time. Risotto has many things in its favour. It’s very easy to make, and very forgiving. It’s cheap (or at least, it can be). It multiplies easily to feed a crowd. It’s wonderfully adaptable. It can be made to feel summery or wintery. I feel quite bad that I neglected it for so long.

This was actually the first risotto recipe I made myself a few years back – after I got over my phobia – and though it’s very simple and there are far fancier things you can do, it’s still one of my favourites.

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Source: This has been fairly minimally adapted from BBC Good Food: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2364/mushroom-risotto. I’ll do another post on why I bloody love BBC Good Food and why they’re excellent another time, but their site is often my first port of call when I am totally stuck for dinner ideas. Anyway, most risotto recipes are pretty forgiving and will happily accept anything else chucked in there, so once you have the hang of the basics then the world is your oyster. Make oyster risotto.

Notes: This will serve four, or three hungry people as a main, or more as a side – I’ve served it with roasted broccoli and crispy chicken before.

Ingredients:

50g dried porcini mushrooms – you can get them in little packs from the supermarket
1 chicken stock cube (or vegetable if you’re vegetarian)
decent knob of butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g pack mixed mushrooms, sliced and washed (you can use whatever mushrooms you like – cheap and cheerful will be delicious – but I think mushroom risotto is a good excuse to use some interesting fungi if you fancy it, since they’re the star of the show here)
300g arborio risotto rice
1 large-ish glass white wine (and one for the cook)
handful parsley leaves, chopped
handful of grated parmesan, or whatever cheese you have lying about (I’ve made this successfully with gouda and cheddar)

Method:

  1. Boil about a litre of water, and tip it over the dried porcini in a bowl. Leave it to soak for about twenty minutes. In the meantime, melt the butter in your biggest frying pan – or a wok – until melted and bubbly, then chuck your onions and garlic in and fry them off gently until they’re soft.
  2. Drain your mushroom liquid into another bowl (keeping it), then squeeze the last of the liquid out of the porcini mushrooms and chop them. Crumble the chicken stock cube into the liquid and set aside. Add the chopped fresh and dry mushrooms to the pan, and stir them around a bit. Let the mushrooms soften – it will take around ten minutes. Season.
  3. Add the rice and mix that around too to get it all covered in mushroom goodness. Cook it for about a minute, and then add the wine to the hot pan. Let it bubble and evaporate, and then add about a quarter of the mushroom liquid. Keep stirring the rice until it has absorbed all the liquid and started to plump. Keep adding the stock gradually, simmering, and stirring. The rice will get fat and creamy.
  4. Taste the rice. Is it done? I like my risotto to still have a tiny bit of a bite to it, rather than being completely mushy, but cook it to your liking. Take the pan off the stove, then add a knob of butter and about half the cheese and parsley and give it a stir. Cover the risotto and leave it for five minutes to cool and rest. Pop the rest of the cheese and parsley on top, and serve.