One of the things I don't seem to stop marvelling at are the colours we get at this time of the year. I probably sound like a broken record but I cannot help myself from crying out "look at that, honestly, isn't it amazing? That is why I find really sad, almost disturbing, that shops have such little imagination that they can only think of Christmas decorations. What about all these fantastic leaves, pumpkins (of all shapes and colours), mushrooms, berries, etc, etc?
Cambridge in October blows you away. The colours are blustering. Days are still mild with not much rain. And there are not as many tourists around as in the Summer - and therefore the entrance to all the colleges is free at any time, and not just after 5pm!
So, to continue with the seasonal theme, last night I made porcini risotto. This is a dish which I would suggest if you have dinner parties and want to avoid being flustered around the kitchen dealing with multiple moving ingredients at the last minute. The joy of a risotto is that you can start preparing it and cooking it beforehand, and finishing it just before being served. If you are using good risotto rice like Arborio or Carnaroli rice, you won't risk to get a mushy pap.
Ideally you should use fresh porcini as well as dried porcini. But I know that this would be impossible, so the best types of mushrooms you can replace them with are chestnut mushrooms. They have a lovely nutty and earthy taste. Also, if you can find it in a good Italian deli, another secret ingredient is porcini stock. Added to the water, it adds a lot of flavour.
For 4 people
400g Arborio or Carnaroli rice;
300g fresh mushrooms;
100g dried porcini;
1l hot water;
2 garlic cloves;
1 porcini stock (or vegetable);
1 glass of red wine;
1 handful of parsley;
a knob of butter;
2 tbsp olive oil
1. Peel and chop into half the garlic cloves. In a pan golden up the garlic with the oil. When the oil is warm and the garlic has started getting colour, add the knob of butter and let it melt slowly.
2. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl with warm water and cover. The mushrooms will need to soak up some of the water.
3. Add the rice to the pan and toss well to ensure that all grains get coated with the butter/oil. Continue until the rice looks golden.
4. Make the stock with hot water. Add some of this water to the rice (it will fizzle a bit). Add some of the fresh mushrooms and stir well.
5. Add to the rice the water where the dried porcini had been soaking. Chop in small pieces the dried porcini and add them to the rice.
6. Continue adding the stock and porcini water to the rice. It must never be dried and the grains must cook slowly. The rice will acquire a lush glossiness. Add salt (probably 2 tsp) to taste.
7. Add the rest of the fresh mushrooms. When the rice is almost cooked, add the glass of wine and let it evaporate.
8. When the rice is practically cooked, add the chopped parsley.
9. Sprinkle the grated parmisan and mix well. Serve with a few parsley leaves and more parmisan on top.