Mushroom & Artichoke Risotto

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Published on: October 23, 2011
 

I’m probably not the best person to ask when it comes to making vegetarian meals.  I generally feel duped when I find a meal doesn’t involve meat.  Most chefs who aren’t vegetarians themselves don’t enjoy having to serve up meals for vegans.  I recently watched an old episode of Top Chef: Masters where the four chefs had to cook lunch for Zooey Deschanel – the catch?  She is a vegan, who is also gluten intolerant.  I thought that was pretty evil, but at least they could do something nice with Tofu!  Clearly Anita Lo was thinking the same thing, only for Zooey to then reveal that she also doesn’t eat soya.  So, grass then?

That whole episode got me thinking, what vegetarian dishes can I do?  I know quite a few vegetarians, some stricter than others but what could I cook?  Gazpacho is one idea, but that’s really only a summer dish.  There are a couple of Tofu recipes that I can think of that usually have meat, but could be easily made into vegetarian dishes. Then there are quite a few pasta dishes that could easily be vegetarian.  Then I thought of risotto…  I have a recipe for a really nice tomato essence risotto that I love and it’s completely meat free.  Not bad for a guy who likes his steak so rare it should moo.

I thought I would try something new and make a mushroom and artichoke risotto.  I don’t use artichokes that much, but it’s used quite a bit in Italian cooking.  So what better excuse do I need for adding it into this recipe?  Risotto is really easy to do, doesn’t take very long and when done right makes a really tasty dinner.  The trick to a good risotto is to have everything prepared before you start and then just focus on cooking the rice.  If the rice is done well, the rest is easy.

I don’t put any butter in to my risotto, I let the rice create the cream for me – as it should!  I’m following the top Italian chefs on this one, I know a lot of other chefs do use butter.  Based on what I’ve been told and on what I’ve tasted, I prefer not to use butter.  It means you have to do more work stirring but I think it’s worth it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

280g Carnaroli Risotto Rice

250g Chestnut Mushrooms

200g Artichokes

2 Ribs of Celery

1 Medium Onion

175ml Dry Fino Sherry

1 Litre Chicken / Vegetable Stock

5 tbsp Rapeseed / Vegetable Oil

1 tbsp Olive Oil

Pecorino Cheese

Sea Salt and Black Pepper

 

Method:

1.  First prepare all the vegetables.  Clean the mushrooms, thinly slice the artichokes (preserve in cold water), dice the celery and onion.

2.  Set a large saucepan to a high heat and put in 1 tbps of Rapeseed oil.  At the same time, heat the stock to a steady boil in another saucepan.

3.  Fry the onions in the oil until they turn soft and translucent, but not brown.  Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

4.  Add the rest of the rapeseed oil and once back up to heat, add the risotto rice and stir well.  Toast the rice until it becomes slightly translucent and coated in the oil.

5.  Pour in the Sherry, it should sizzle immediately.  Stir the risotto again and allow the Sherry to be absorbed by the rice.  Reduce to a medium heat.

6.  Now add the stock to the rice, one ladle at a time.  Stir constantly and only add the next ladle when the previous has nearly been completely absorbed. As you add the last one or two ladles of stock, add in the sliced artichokes.

7.  Check the risotto’s seasoning and add more salt and pepper if required.  Set the risotto to a low heat at this point.

7.  Heat a frying pan with the olive oil and fry the celery, once it starts to soften add the mushrooms with a little bit of salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to shrink.

8.  Combine the mushrooms and celery with the risotto which should now be starchy and soft on the outside, but fairly firm in the middle.  Remove from the heat.

9.  Grate some Pecorino into the risotto, stir and then garnish with some fresh parsley.  Serve immediately with more grated Pecorino.

 

Tips:

Keep the risotto pan hot while cooking.  Ensure the wine or sherry is at room temperature when added to the rice.  Also keep the stock at a simmer when adding it to the risotto.

Continually stir the rice.  If you let it burn it will lock in the starch and end up like fried rice.  Stirring also helps the rice release all of its starch, creating the rich creamy sauce.  A risotto spoon really helps but a wooden spoon will do the job.  This is why having everything prepared beforehand means you can focus on stirring the rice because if you stop stirring for more than a few minutes you won’t get the starch out of the rice.



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