I feel like the seasons have shifted since my last post. We are tumbling into a darkness where the days are snappier and the rain, once refreshing, now splashes an ugly scowl across your face as you think of your umbrella, warm and dry at home. The chill in the air has started creeping down your collar and up your skirt, and coolly flirting where your socks should now be. It’s official: Summer is over.
Just before the weather turned, I returned from a very sleepy holiday in Sardinia. We stayed in Orosei, a village just off the coast, where we filled our days zipping along winding country roads on our (electric!) bicycles, splayed half-under parasols soaking up the irresistibly fierce sun, and supping and chomping our way through the juicy local produce. S’Hostera, a traditional Sard restaurant tucked away on a quiet residential road, surprised us with our top meal of the week. Completely no-fuss decor, yes, but with price tags to match I didn’t see anyone complaining.
The tuna and swordfish carpaccio antipasto was exquisite – thick butter-soft slivers doused in sticky balsamic and citrus olive oil and topped with peppery rocket. Perfection. The culurgiones – a Sard speciality of ravioli with a potato and mint filling – were also excellent. In the best possible way they evoked in my tastebuds the memory of a lamb Sunday roast (without the lamb)…The tuna steak was gargantuan (I had never before seen my boyfriend defeated, and by fish – the shame!) and beautifully cooked and the wine was unpretentious, local and highly quaffable. If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend skipping lunch and booking a table for dinner.
Oddly, my trip to Italy did not feature risotto. This omission, compounded by the hunger that cooler weather brings, means that risotto is all I want to eat. I sampled a delicious rendition at Paesan on Exmouth Market last week – a radicchio, gorgonzola and walnut-y bowl of sticky goodness – but I was getting fidgety for one of my own so I present to you my first risotto of the season: Truffly porcini & chestnut mushroom risotto.
Meaty chunks of porcini and chestnut mushroom nestled among silky swollen grains of rice, slick from earthy stock and cut with parmesan and truffle oil – it’s rich and dirty and wraps you up in a bundle of warm truffly kisses. ‘Nuff said.
Truffly porcini & chestnut mushroom risotto
– 2 tablespoons porcini mushrooms
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 small onion, finely diced
– 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
– 150-175g arborio rice
– 75ml white wine
– 600ml hot vegetable stock
– 50g parmesan*, finely grated
– small knob butter
– 2 tablespoons flat parsley, chopped
– squeeze fresh lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon (white) truffle oil
– salt & pepper, to taste
*To make a vegetarian version, use a vegetarian parmesan-style cheese instead.
Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 10 minutes, until fully rehydrated. Drain the mushrooms, cut into chunks and set aside, retaining the soaking liquid (this is pure mushroom gold!).
In a wide-based pan, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion for a few minutes until soft and translucent (do not let it brown!). Add the chestnut mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the rice, stir well to coat the grains in the oil, pour in the wine and turn up the heat. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
Add the soaking liquid to the stock and add to the pan, one lug every few minutes, as fast as the rice can absorb it. Tip: The key is to stir regularly and not let the rice stick to the bottom of the pan! Keep checking the rice – you may need a little more or a little less than the 600ml stock stated.
Once cooked (you still want a little bite to the rice), stir in the porcini, 2/3 of the parmesan, the butter, 2/3 of the parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/2 the truffle oil and season to taste with salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Put the lid on and let the risotto rest for about five minutes to let all the flavours mingle.
Serve warm with the remaining parmesan and parsley sprinkled on top and drizzled with the rest of the truffle oil.
Source: Recipe and photos from pip & little blue.