Recipe: Mushroom risotto

I WAS SURPRISED to see an Italian staple like risotto featured so frequently on menus when we visited San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain last October.  With such amazing produce on their doorstep, I have always admired the humility of the Spanish when it comes to their own food.  With that in mind, I suppose it's no surprise that you would find this humble dish so prominent in the wonderful plethora of pintxo bars that this beautiful city is famed for.

The key to achieving maximum enjoyment from this dish is to avoid buying those bland white mushrooms from the supermarket.  It's worth paying a little extra for chestnut mushrooms, or, even better, wild mushrooms if you can get them.  One of my pet peeves is seeing restaurants billing this dish as "wild mushroom risotto" when it's clearly just made with white mushrooms that pale in comparison flavour-wise.  I suppose it adds another couple of quid on to the bill... 

For me, this dish also represents where my own cooking-style is at at the moment: just simple cooking, using good ingredients and not trying to reinvent the wheel - classics are classics for a reason and some things, given the care and attention they deserve, just don't need to be tampered with.

Ingredients (serves 2)

150g arborio or carnaroli rice
100g chestnut or wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
150mls white wine
75g Grana Padano, grated
2 chicken stock cubes, dissolved in 500mls boiling water
Two tbsps creme fraiche
Bunch of chives, finely chopped
Truffle oil, to drizzle
25g butter
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, grated


1) Melt the butter and add a splash of olive oil in a saucepan.  Sweat the shallot for 6-7 mins then add the garlic and chopped mushrooms.  Cook for a further minute. Make sure you have brought the stock upto the boil at this point.

2) Add the rice to the pan and mix with a spatula.  Let it cook for 1-2 mins until you hear the rice "pop".  Add the wine and allow it to reduce right down to almost nothing.

3) Start adding the stock ladle at a time, just to cover.  Allow it to reduce, then add another ladle or two, stirring occasionally.  Repeat this process for around 15 mins until rice is cooked "al dente". 

4) Turn off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche, Grana Padano and chopped chives.  Check the seasoning (remember the cheese is salty, so it's key to do this after adding it). Allow the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes.

5) Serve in a warm bowl and drizzle a few drops of truffle oil over it.