I may have already told that recently I have come to the resolution of living more seasonal and this involves among other things buying from our neighbourhood greengrocer that sells uniquely products of local farmers. This guarantees gazing at pillows of cauliflowers, sticks of leeks, and curly cabbage rather than strawberries, melons or tomatoes. I find it more and more wrong. Am I becoming too extreme? Might it be age?
Anyway, one of the consequences of the "go-with-the-seasons" resolution is to be out and about and do activities that make us feel part of the seasons. So when a friend told me about the possibility to go hunting for mushrooms with an expert guide in a near-by forest (Thetford Forest) I grabbed that opportunity and packed a flask of hot (mushrooms) soup, wicker basket, sharp knife, and husband & son!
Luckily we had a guide. Of all the wonderful looking mushrooms that we indiscriminately picked in a flurry of excitement only three of them got saved - the rest would have made us from mildly to violently sick. Not encouraging. However, they did taste good.
One of our fellow-hunters even found a huge piece of porcino to my astonishment as I didn't believe they live in England. Perhaps it didn't taste as good but it looked genuinely porcino. Having abandoned first thoughts of mugging the lucky guy I decided to go back next year and try my luck harder.
180g arborio rice (risotto rice or alternatively even long grain rice)
1 garlic clove
half a shallot
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig of thyme
100g chestnut mushrooms
a handful of wild mushrooms
a handful of dried porcini
Chop the shallot very finely and crush the garlic clove with the palm of your hand. Melt in a large frying pan the butter and add the oil. When they start sizzling add the onion and garlic and let them caramelize slowly. Discard the garlic.
Add the rice and toss it for a few minutes until it has absorbed the butter/oil thoroughly.
Soak the porcini in warm water and once they have expanded chop them into small pieces. Chop also the rest of the mushrooms and cook them in a separate pan with a bit of oil, the discarded garlic clove from the previous pan and the thyme.
Make the stock adding to 500ml of warm water the cube until it dissolves. Add the water to the rice and let it simmer keeping turning so that it doesn't stick to the pan.
Half way through cooking - you need to try the rice to be able to tell that - add the mushrooms and let it cook for a bit longer. If the water has all dried up and the rice is not cooked yet add more warm water.
The rice has to be creamy but not overcooked - the rice should retain a slight crunchiness - what we call al dente (which doesn't mean that it gets stuck in your teeth...as that would mean it is not cooked!). Once cooked sprinkle the cheese on top and if you want to be extravagant a few drops of truffle oil.