Wild Garlic & Mushroom Risotto
Detailed cooking techniques for a perfect risotto
By excellence one of the most iconic dishes of the Italian cuisine, risotto is extremely versatile, not only as for the many ways you can serve it (as a starter, main dish, accompaniament or even for a light dinner) but also as for the broad array of ingredients which can be used to flavour it. I think that maybe this versatility could be the reason that “L’Enciclopedia della Cucina Italiana”(the Italian Cooking Enciclopedy), in the volume dedicated to rice and barley, features more than 200 risotto recipes, and another 6-700 of other rice-based recipes which are not treated as “risotto”. Personally, as a passionate for Italian food (well, passionate about everything Italian, really), I am extremely fond of all kinds of “risotti” and I trully believe that a good risotto has a certain finesse and elegance to it. I cook it very often, and most of the times I leave my imagination and the seasonal available products to inspire me in giving a special flavour to my risotto. I usually like greens, mushrooms, blue cheese, mint or even saffron, it really depends on the season and my particular mood of the moment. As per the ingredients which can be used for a risotto, I really don’t think that there are any limits. However, a single rule I think it should be noted: keep it simple, never use more than 3 or 4 ingredients and make sure that those are complementing each other – in the end, it’s all about the flavour.
Today’s recipe is a wild garlic and wild mushroom risotto. In Romania, where I was born, wild garlic is widely used in all sorts of recipes: from broths, to stews, tarts and purees. In the spring time you can find wild garlic in almost all farmers markets. In UK I rarely find it, so when I do, I treat it like the most precious gift of spring.
The “Larousse Gastronomique” states that a risotto must have a rich, creamy and moist consistency, and the rice must stay “al dente”. On the other hand, “L’Enciclopedia della Cucina Italiana” takes the technique of cooking the risotto at a state of art.
These being said, I would like to share with you the fundamental cooking techniques of a perfect risotto.
- The first, and the most important aspect is choosing the proper rice. In order to get that creamy consitency you would need a special rice, with a round grain, and a special ability of slowly releasing its starch. “L’Enciclopedia della Cucina Italiana” lists 4 types of rice which can be used in a risotto: Carnaroli, Arborio, Padano and Vialone Nano. Out of those four I have only tried the first three of them, and although Arborio seems to be the most popular, my personal favourite is Carnaroli. There is a very small difference between the Arborio rice and the Carnaroli rice, but my personal opinion is that Carnaroli holds it shape better and has a greater capacity of absorbing the liquid.
- The second aspect is that of the actual cooking. There are four basic techniques that are involved in cooking a risotto:
– “soffriggere” – the frying. As for frying you can either use butter, a mix of butter and olive oil, or only olive oil – if you are looking for a lighter risotto. Usually this part involves frying onions, shallots, spring onions or even leeks, depending on the recipe. Sometimes, a crushed clove of garlic could be added and then removed when it starts to colour. The frying should be done on a low heat, so that the onions become soft but do not burn.
– “tostare” – this is when the rice comes in. After the onions have become soft, you need to add the rice. Cook it gently, on the same low heat, for about 2 or 3 minutes, until the grains are getting opaque. This should give the rice a higher absorbtion capacity. At this moment, if the recipe asks, you should add the wine. My rule for cooking with wine is easy: If it’s not good enough for drinking, then it is not good enough for cooking! Use a good quality white wine and allow the alcohol to completely evaporate before you move to the next step.
– “cuocere” – cooking your risotto. You should only use a good quality stock for your risotto. (Try to make the stock yourself a few days ahead, and keep it in the fridge for further use). When cooking risotto, always keep the stock hot, in a pan on a low heat. Actually, the whole operation of cooking the risotto must be done at a low heat. Never rush a risotto: it needs a lot of time and attention to be perfect! Depending of the tipe of rice used, it usually takes 17 to 20 minutes to cook a risotto. Add the stock gradually (a ladlefull at a time) and allow for the liquid to be totally absorbed before adding it again. Stop the cooking process while the grain is still rather firm and the composition is quite liquid. You will get to the creamy consistency in the next step.
– “mantecatura” – it is the final operation, which would result in a rich, moist and perfectly creamy risotto, with still an “al dente” grain of rice. Add some butter and the famous Parmigiano Reggiano at the end, and give your risotto a good and gentle stir, untill all the butter has melted. Leave your risotto to rest for a few minutes before you serve it, so that all the flavours would come together nicely.
- The last, but still very important aspect is serving the risotto. Risotto should be served hot and “a’ll onda”, therefore the name of “risotto a’ll onda”. The term originates from Lombardy and it means that when it is served, the risotto should not be too liquid nor too stiff, so that when you’re gently shaking the plate, a small wave should be formed.
I really hope that you will find all those information helpful and you will use them in order to get the most rich and creamy risotto.
Wild garlic & wild mushroom risotto
- 80 grams unsalted butter (30 grams for frying and 50 grams for the final step)
- 30 ml olive oil - one bunch (aproximatively 15 stems) of wild garlic
- 4 spring onions
- one garlic clove
- 160 grams Carnaroli rice
- 100 ml white wine
- 100 grams wild mushrooms
- 300 ml vegetable stock
- pink Himalayan salt (or sea salt)
- 20 grams Parmigiano Reggiano
- black pepper
- Boil the vegetable stock and keep it warm in a pan on a low heat.
- Chop the spring onions and the white part of the wild garlic. (Keep the buds and the green leaves apart). Crush the unpeeled garlic clove. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms.
- Heat 30 grams of butter and the olive oil in a pan, then add the spring onions, the garlic, mushrooms and white parts of the wild garlic. Fry on a low heat for a few minutes, until they get soft. Remove the garlic clove.
- Add the rice, and keep cooking and stiring for 2-3 minutes, until the rice becomes opaque. Add the wine and continue to cook until it evaporates.
- Add a pinch of salt, and then gradually add the stock following the instructions presented above. After aproximately 15 minutes, roughly chop the green leaves of wild garlic and add them to the risotto.
- Finish cooking, take the pan off the hob, add the wild garlic buds (keep a few for decorating), add the butter and the parmesan and stir together until you get a creamy consistency. Cover the pan and leave the risotto to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.
- For serving, place the risotto on a plate, and decorate with a few parmesan shavings and some wild garlic buds.
- Add some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.