The humble mushroom can be a polarising fungus. My ‘Drette’ housemate, Tockley would recoil in horror at both the thought and sight of a rogue shroom in his nightly meal. Another mate, Dodgy Rogers, was all too fond of the funghi, and indulged in every variety. I recall the time at a friend’s sharehouse bash where Rogers, shroomed, goat bearded and for some reason wearing a braided red Pippi Longstocking wig, relished in grinding an entire Tim Tam biscuit into Goon’s $200 suit pants. Goon, distracted by an adjacent conversation and still wearing the pants, was less than impressed by his art.
Some shrooms are good for the grinding, others more suited to the kitchen. Porcinis, aka Boletus edulis, are one such variety—earthy, rich, meaty, full of character, highly sought after, sometime rare-to-find. Hon and I would rejoice with glee whenever our local market had not run out of them. Like Rogers’ Tim Tam funghi, they too come in small, sealed plastic bags, but from the Carlton Alimentari, not Nick the dealer in Preston. In Berlin, we now buy them fresh and whole from the Turkish market by the canal along the Maybachufer, a luxury.
Porcinis are delicate, delicious, things and marry into a risotto like a loving, dedicated Mediterranean. Hon and I used to whip this creamy, rich trademark dish together weekly at the Prince Albert Mansion, ideal and so easy, the rice you cannot ruin, no matter what kind of shroom you’re on.
sh.k Porcini Risotto. Not magic—magical.
- 1.5L of chicken stock
- 400g arborio rice
- 2 Tbls of olive oil
- 1 Tbls of unsalted butter
- 1 Brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 350g of mushrooms (combination of Swiss brown and porcini)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 100g of Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Prepare (either home made or store bought) chicken stock in a saucepan. Heat on medium and keep hot without simmering.
- Heat olive oil in a pot on medium, add onion, garlic and fry gently until transparent. Add all of the mushrooms and fry until lightly coloured and fragrant.
- Add the rice, stirring continually. Once the rice has begun to look transparent (approx. 1 minute), add one ladle of hot stock.
- Stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed, then add another ladleful. Repeat this procedure until rice is just over al dente and easy to bite into. Season to taste.
- Add a handful of the Parmesan, stir well and remove from heat.
- Separate into bowls, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan, crispy pancetta, sprig of thyme and serve immediately.
This recipe is delicious with a selection of different mushrooms. We often use whatever is in season at the local market; wild mushrooms such as porcini and chanterelles are particularly delicious in risotto.
If you cannot find fresh porcini, the dried variety is readily available. Just soak in some boiling water and add to the risotto. The remaining porcini liquid can also be used with the stock for extra flavour.