Caramelized Leek Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

While risotto is far from difficult, it is possibly one of the trickiest pasta dishes to master. But, when done right, a plate of silky risotto that ripples on a tilt, is a beautiful thing. Some might argue that risotto is simple. It’s just rice, isn’t it? Often though, simple is the trickiest to get just right. Much like the sourdough saga, you need to read the unspoken language of food, instinctual nuances and clues that suggest either more or less of a particular ingredient or time. Constant tasting, texture and consistency are our best guides, and this is true for most cooking, but especially so when making risotto.

A beautiful risotto needs good rice. Arborio, which contains the highest level of surface starch, results in a denser risotto. Carnaroli is slightly thinner, with less starch, yielding a creamier, more elegant consistency. This is the one I use most often. Follow the technique of one ladle hot stock at a time. Don’t be over-hasty. Once al dente – check by eating a spoonful – rest for one minute, with the lid on – before adding the butter and cheese. If the risotto needs loosening up, add a little hot water, not stock, to achieve a velvety, loose consistency. Always use an authentic Parmigiano Reggiano.

Risotto flavourings

When cooking with porcini, the accompanying flavours should be simple. Over-complication can often distract from the flavours of the mushrooms. The supporting flavour contributors here, apart from mushrooms, are leeks, Parmesan and a luxurious Truffle oil. The latter comes in right at the end for a distinctive top note finish. Truffle oil is olive oil infused with truffles, making it a cost effect alternative to whole truffles. I use Stonebarn (Imported by The Truffle Lady SA) Truffle Oil, for finishing. It’s available from most gourmet deli stores in South Africa, Pick n Pay or online.

Caramelised Leek Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms & Truffle Oil

Serves 4

20g dried porcini mushrooms
30ml (2 tablespoons) olive oil
30ml (2 tablespoons) butter
2 shallots or 1 brown onion, finely diced
2 French leeks, rinsed and sliced
3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
zest of half a lemon
200g Arborio rice
80ml (1/3 cup) white wine (Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc)
4 ½ cups hot chicken stock, plus a little extra water
1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
Stonebarn (Imported by The Truffle Lady SA) Truffle Oil, for finishing
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour over just enough hot water to cover. Set aside to rehydrate.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive and 1 tablespoon butter in a deep saucepan. Add the shallots and leeks and cook over a medium heat until softened and caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.

Drain the mushrooms, then add to the leeks along with the thyme, lemon zest and rice. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Once the rice smells nutty, deglaze with the wine and reduce by half.

Ladle the stock in gradually, stirring all the while. The stock should be fully absorbed before adding the next ladle. Cooking time ranges from 22-25 minutes. Add a splash of hot water if necessary. The consistency should be soft and creamy.

Remove from the heat. Rest for 1 minute then add the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter.

Divide the risotto between 4 shallow bowls and drizzle with truffle oil. Serve with extra Parmesan alongside.


More mushroom recipes to love:

Pork and shallot casserole with sage and mushrooms

Brown butter risotto with exotic mushrooms

Ostrich stroganoff pie with porcini mushrooms

Creamy Swedish meatballs with mushrooms





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