Mushroom Risotto

This is a classic dish but a fabulous one – gooey and full of rich flavours, and straightforward to make. It’s a great vegetarian standby, although if you’re not cooking for non-meat-eaters, I’d suggest using chicken stock instead of vegetable, just to add an extra bit of depth to the flavour.

One onion
Two sticks of celery
A couple of cloves of garlic
Five or six fat closed-cup mushrooms
200g risotto rice
A generous glass of white wine
Two pints of vegetable or chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and white pepper
Fresh rocket, to serve

Serves 2.

Start out by making your soffrito – this is one of the secrets of a good risotto and consists of dicing the onion, celery and garlic very finely and frying them gently in plenty of olive oil and butter. Personally I think you can never have too much butter in a risotto, so if in doubt at any point, add a bit more. Keep the heat low as you stir the vegetables and let them gradually soften without taking on any colour. While they’re quietly sizzling, slice the mushrooms thinly. Put a small pan on the heat and add a generous dab of butter, then add the mushrooms and a good sprinkling of white pepper. I like to use white pepper for this because I think mushrooms and white pepper are a match made in heaven – somehow the rich, almost buttery spiciness goes beautifully with the earthy taste of the mushrooms. Stir a little more until the mushrooms are starting to turn golden and slippery, then tip them and their juices in with the soffrito.

Next, add the risotto rice, and stir around for a minute or two until it starts to turn slightly translucent. Pour in the wine – there should be a good sizzle and a lovely smell rising from the pan. Stir until most of the liquid has disappeared, so that the alcohol disappears to leave only a delicious taste.

Boil the kettle and make up your stock, then turn down the heat under the risotto and start adding the water one ladleful at a time. Don’t add any more until the liquid has all been absorbed.

After you’ve used up about two thirds of your stock, have a quick taste to see if the rice is cooked to your satisfaction, then keep adding as required. Once the rice is done, take the pan off the heat, season well and add a bit more butter and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan, then pop the lid on and leave it all to melt together while you lay the table. Finally, serve up a couple of gooey spoonfuls with a big handful of peppery rocket and a glass of white wine – fabulous.