funghi porcini risotto

My brother happy snapped this little mushroom in a New Zealand forest over Easter. I loved the pic and it immediately had me craving magic mushrooms of the edible variety, like the perfect porcini, scrumptious Swiss brown and dare I say it ... Perigord black truffle.

These little red and white spotted ones, despite their pretty smurfette fantasia face are actually quite poisonous, so please don’t eat them!  Google tells me they are also considered the fungal equivalent of a weed in NZ, Tassie and Victoria. Seems I’m a blissfully ignorant queenslander when it comes to local funghi.

Some would describe this dish as simple italian peasant food. I think my mushroom risotto has the earthy creamy flavour of a classic autumn meal. One I’d happily eat any night of the week. Enjoy.

Ingredients 50 grams dried porcini Italian mushrooms (from your local deli) ❤ 4 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons olive oil ❤ 1 tablespoon butter ❤ 1 large leek, white part only and sliced finely ❤ one big bunch of freshly picked italian parsley, finely chopped, some for pot and some for finish ❤ 2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and finely sliced ❤ 2 cups arborio rice (doesn’t matter which brand, I normally buy Australian ‘Riviana’ ❤ 3 teaspoons of powdered beef stock mixed with 750ml boiling water (you don’t need to make your stock from scratch) ❤ 125 ml red wine ❤ 1 x 140 gram tin tomato paste ❤ 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese ❤ 250 grams assorted forest mushrooms; shittake, oyster, swiss brown, portobello - pick your favourites

Method + Tips - Soak the porcini in 4 cups of boiling water for at least half an hour. When lovely and soft, strain the funghi and chop coarsely.

When straining, catch all the mushroom liquid and reserve for later. This liquid should be carefully strained through a layer of cheap paper towel or muslin to remove grit before using it. Add it to the beef stock in a small pot, ready for simmering alongside the risotto pot. It’s like gold - full of flavour.

Meanwhile, chop the leek, garlic and parsley. Saute them in the olive oil and butter.   Really important not to overcook or brown them as the flavour will spoil. Add the rice and stir well. Add the red wine and keep stirring until evaporated. Add the soaked mushrooms, tomato paste and fresh sliced mixed mushrooms to the pot.

Begin adding the stock, just one ladle at a time to risotto pot and continuing stirring frequently.  When liquid is absorbed, keep adding more stock. And keep stirring. Taste your risotto to check for firmness. I prefer mine a little al dente, bitey.  Remove from heat as soon as its cooked to your liking, lovely and creamy and all of the stock has been used up. Add lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and italian parsley. Enjoy it immediately.

Top Tips: For anyone who struggles to consistently make great risotto, just follow these few key tips. Never wash your rice. Always cook your onion (and garlic/spices) until just transparent. Brown or burn your onion at this stage and the flavour of the dish is ruined. Always make sure your stock is on the stove in a small saucepan next to your risotto pot, simmering away gently and with a stainless steel ladle at hand for top-ups. Only top up your risotto with one ladle of stock at a time.  Don’t ever flood it or your final result won’t be creamy. Stir it often during cooking with a flat wooden spoon. Turn the heat off as soon as its cooked and all the stock has been used up.  Have your parmigiano and italian parsley pre-grated & chopped ready to sprinkle and serve immediately. Don’t choose risotto on your menu if guests are coming who’ll want you at the table or if it won’t be eaten immediately. Mushroom info: Cultivated mushrooms don’t need peeling. Mushrooms shouldn’t be washed before preparing them.  Brush any dirt away with a soft cloth or brush. Use a very sharp knife to slice neatly. Always store them in a paper bag that provides air circulation. Cultivated mushrooms are the fresh, immature ones we buy from the store in three sizes small to large; buttons, cups and open (or flats).  Field mushrooms come from meadows, poisonous and culinary varieties. 

Seasonal Jotting

Autumn is a terrific time for mushrooms. These calorie and fat free tasty morsels thrive in a constant temperature of between 18 and 23°C.  Grab a mushroom farm kit from your local nursery if you’d like to give growing them a good go. They grow at an amazing rate, often double in size every day.  I’ll never forget the amazing mushroom farm near our family home at Rochedale. An area still known for its rich red soil and large variety of market farm produce.  We’d often buy mushrooms and their amazing compost for our garden - still $2 a bag nowadays.

Please remember it’s absolutely not worth risking wild mushrooms unless you can identify them correctly. And that’s not always easy to do.  Italian chef Antonio Carluccio devotes over 200 pages to the humble mushroom in his complete mushroom book. His illustrated field guide of 40 different mushroom types is really helpful. His Cream of Porcini Soup is even better.  

On the top of my gotta-do list is a trip to the WA town of Manjimup.  To sniff, dig and search around the muddy jarrah and karri forests for ‘black gold‘ - Australia’s homegrown Perigord black truffle.  These pungent and unique gourmet mushrooms now grow from french imported spores on the roots of hazelnut and oak trees in several locations around Australia.  

The Manjimup growing region is 300kms south of Perth and fast becoming Australia’s largest producing region of the French black truffle. Up to 600 kilos of truffle can be dug up in one season and it’s starting in 7 weeks time!  Worth between $3,000 and $4,000 a kilo, truffle is easily the 2nd most expensive ingredient to cook with after saffron. Well worth saving up for.

Just cleaned with a brush to loosen the earth, many believe they are best eaten on their own once simmered in dry white wine. Or very thin slices added to the under-skin of chicken or turkey roasting. The white truffle (or Piedmontese) is not usually cooked and fantastic shaved on pasta or with cheese or eggs. Visit The Wine & Truffle Co if you are planning a trip to WA or would like to know more about one of Australia’s most exciting hunting harvests. They also sell other gourmet truffle products like truffle oil, honey, salt and mustard.  If you’ve already been (lucky duck) or have a favourite truffle or truffle oil recipe you’d like to share with us, thanks. We’d love to hear it... just pop in a comment below.