I recently got back from a fantastic trip to Tuscany. Autumn is the most exciting time to visit the area as the wild mushroom and truffle season is in full swing. I stayed at the stunning Castiglion del Bosco hotel near Florence. It’s perched on a hill overlooking its vineyards and surrounded by woods.
On arrival, a few friends and I got straight into our Tuscan foodie experience by making fresh pasta with its chef, and we devoured our labour of love with fresh truffles shaved on top. The next morning we got up early to go on a truffle hunt in the woods.
We followed the dogs, which are weaned on truffle-infused milk as pups (lucky them) as they nuzzled their way around the woods. We managed to find white and black truffles; the white ones are more pungent and therefore the more expensive of the two.
Before I left Tuscany, I bought a bag of dried wild mushrooms, a mix of ceps and porcini, to make this delicious mushroom risotto. The most important thing about making a risotto is that you use a good stock, and that you add it slowly, making sure that each ladle is absorbed before you add the next.
Also, the quality of the rice is key and, in my opinion, the best variety is carnaroli. The second best is baldo, and the most common – which is a good brand – is arborio.
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a fresh truffle, then add a few shavings before you serve. Enjoy with a delicious bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany.
Wild mushroom risotto
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serve with: Brunello di Montalcino
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300g risotto rice
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
150g mixed wild mushrooms
100ml dry white wine
700ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tbsp crème fraîche
50g fresh Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place a large saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat and add 50g butter, followed by the shallots and garlic. Cover and lower the heat to allow the shallots to soften (but not brown). This will take about two minutes. Then add the rice, coat it with the butter and stir for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Pour in the white wine, stir, and allow the alcohol to evaporate, which should take about three minutes.
3. Slowly pour in the hot stock, ladle by ladle, until it is all absorbed, stirring all the time. It should take between 15 to 20 minutes for the rice to cook. But taste it as you go.
4. While the rice is cooking, rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms by covering them with hot water and leaving them for five minutes. Then place a frying pan over a high heat and add the remaining butter and the sliced chestnut mushrooms. Cook for three minutes, tossing as you cook the mushrooms. At the last minute, tip in the hydrated wild mushrooms and place the liquid in the risotto as it is full of mushroom flavour.
5. About five minutes before the rice is cooked, stir in the mushrooms and fresh thyme, and about a minute before you serve the risotto, add in the crème fraîche and Parmesan.
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