Mushroom risotto

The way to my heart is through a marriage of mushrooms and thyme, with a splash of white wine, a hearty serve of gloopy arborio rice, and a generous grind of black pepper.

Did I mention I like mushroom? And risotto? With thyme? And wine? And pepper?

OK, you got the memo…! This is what I want most in the world after a hard day at work when I’m too tired to think of anything other than foot-rubs, kitty-cuddles, and couch-time…

A proper Italian mushroom risotto would be a porcini risotto, but that’s not on the everyday menu for most people, as porcinis are a pretty expensive gourmet item, and for most people (myself included) it’s like tossing pearls before swine. For us mere mortals a medley of lower-budget mushroom options will do just fine!

For this I generally prefer to use two different kinds of mushrooms: Swiss browns and oyster mushrooms. I do this for the flavour and texture combination. While Swiss browns have a lovely earthy flavour, they’re soft and melt in your mouth when cooked. Oyster mushrooms, on the other hand, have a more subtle flavour but a chewier texture. The two together in this strikes the perfect balance for a mushroom lover, and married with thyme and white wine, well, if you’re not salivating by now, you just don’t get it 😛

Here’s how to knock up a failsafe mushroom risotto that will knock the socks off any mushroom lover… ❤

Flavour: Savoury & moreish – comfort-foody, yet elegant

Serves: 4 as a main meal (and if you have any left over, just chuck it in the fridge and make arancini with it the next day!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (see here for a from-scratch recipe that will see to it that your risotto tastes perfect)
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt – add more to taste if you like it salty
  • 1 tablespoon sugar – I use rapadura or palm sugar, but raw cane sugar would do just fine
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 8 large Swiss brown mushrooms, coarsely chopped
    • Amateur tip: cut off the stems of the mushrooms and chop these finely, while chopping the caps coarsely – this will give you good depth of flavour while balancing textures
  • 200g package oyster mushrooms, torn into coarse strips
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme
  • Half cup of white wine – don’t skip this unless you’re teetotal (if it’s good wine, save it for drinking – you can cook with a bottom shelf wine, so long as it’s dry wine, not sweet wine – I’d use a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, riesling, or classic dry white)
  • 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast – this gives it a slightly cheesy flavour, so use as much or as little as you like the taste of
  • Generous grind of black pepper – to your own taste
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy spread (I use nuttelex)

Directions: 

  1. Finely slice your onion, and sautee it in a large frying pan (I actually use a wok, and it works great even for risotto) on a high heat with the olive oil until it turns translucent
  2. Pop your stock on the stove on a high heat while you’re cooking those onions off
    • Amateur tip: make your own stock – here’s a recipe that’ll turn out great stock every time 😉
  3. Turn the heat on your onions down to medium and add half of the salt – sautee until slightly browned
  4. Mince your garlic, and stir it into your onions
    • Amateur tip: see here for how to mince your garlic to a fine paste – it’s so simple, you’ll never go back to chunky chopped garlic!
  5. Add the sugar to your onions, stir well, and turn heat down to low – sautee until a deep brown colour
  6. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, and continue to sautee on the lowest heat possible for another 5 minutes while you prepare and assemble the rest of the ingredients
  7. Toss in your chopped Swiss brown mushrooms and sweat them down until they start to brown
  8. Add your oyster mushrooms and thyme, stir well, and cook until the mushrooms have started to brown slightly and are leeching that gorgeous mushroomy juice into the pan :-p
  9. Stir the arborio rice into your caramelised onion and mushroom mixture, whack the heat back up high again, and pour in a cup of stock and your half cup of white wine, stir gently
  10. Once the liquid has reduced to next to nothing and the alcohol smell has gone, now you’re cooking – you need to stand beside your risotto as it cooks like a loyal guardian, stirring it regularly, and adding the stock a cup at a time (no need to be precise with this – just make sure you do actually do it gradually) until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through
    • You’ll find the dedication to constant stirring a meditative act for sure 😛 (no, seriously – if you struggle to meditate, take this as your cue!) Your risotto will take 15-20 minutes to cook to perfection (use your discretion and don’t follow dogmatics who tell you “16 minutes; no more, no less”, because they don’t know your stove and the quality of your temperature control like you do 😉 )
  11. Once your rice is cooked through but still al dente, turn the heat down to low and stir in your nutritional yeast and basil
  12. Take off the heat and sprinkle your butter over the top of your resting risotto in small blobs; grind as much black pepper over the top as you like (though seriously, don’t overdo it as the flavours in this are subtle), and leave it for a minute
  13. When that minute is up, stir it all well in and you’ll be ready to serve
  14. Your risotto should be creamy in texture, with a silky-smooth mouthfeel, and it should be wet enough to spread across your plate when you serve it up, but not so wet that it’s soupy – enjoy! ❤

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