I like a challenge! A good friend told me you couldn’t make a decent risotto without dairy. I beg to differ and she’s now a convert. How did I achieve that? Here’s how. Don’t be put off by the length of the recipe, it’s easier than it might appear. Just follow the individual steps.
The recipe comes from the Plants Taste Better cookbook by Richard Buckley, though I have tweaked it a bit.
Double mushroom stock
Mushroom stock (for double mushroom stock)
1. Chop onion, carrot, celery and chestnut mushrooms into similarly sized pieces. Put all the ingredients, except the dried porcini mushrooms, into a lidded saucepan. Bring gentle to a rolling boil which should take around 20 minutes.
2. Once boiling, simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
3. Immediately add the dried porcini mushrooms, ensuring that they are submerged in the stock. Cover the saucepan with cling film (plastic wrap).
4. Leave the stock to cool completely, then drain off through a large sieve into a clean saucepan. Discard the peppercorns, thyme stalks and bay leaves. Keep the vegetables and mushrooms to make a delicious vegan mushroom soup with the addition of filtered water and some oat milk.
5. Having made the mushroom stock, now make the double mushroom stock. Bring the stock (above) back to the boil, add the dried mushrooms, turn off heat and clamp on the pan lid for around 30 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to steep.
6. After 30 minutes, pour the stock once more through a sieve and retain the reflated dried mushrooms for the mushroom puree.
7. Now make the puree by heating the olive oil in a wide-based saucepan. Add the sliced chestnut mushrooms and sweat over a high heat until all the juices have evaporated. Add the ruby port and reduce until you’re left with a thick syrup. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender.
8. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and blend until silky smooth, only add a little filtered water if absolutely necessary. It should have a ribbon like quality (see above).
9. Prepare and cook the mushrooms for the risotto. If using fresh, ensure that you clean them thoroughly with a small brush and/or damp cloth. Do not wash them! However, if you can’t find fresh, feel free to use frozen or bottled. Add 50 ml (1/4 cup) of the olive oil to a large frying pan (skillet) and cook over a high heat, adding salt to taste, until cooked through and no liquid remains. Keep warm.
10. Now it’s time for the risotto. Heat the double mushroom stock, bringing it up to a gentle simmer. Heat the remaining olive oil in another frying pan (skillet), add the shallot and fry gently until translucent. Now do the same with the garlic. Add the rice and stir well to coat the grains in the oil.
11. Add four ladles of mushroom stock to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it has almost disappeared. Now, keep adding stock a ladle at a time, until the rice is almost but not quite cooked through, 15-20 minutes. You may not need all of the stock but if you need more, just add hot water. The risotto should be thick, creamy and stiff.
12. The risotto should now be almost ready. Add the fried mushrooms and remove from the heat. Add the mushroom puree and stir well to combine both. Taste and adjust, if necessary, the seasoning. Divide between four bowls, add a sprinkle of fresh parsley, a spritz of truffle oil and serve the ambrosial feast.
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. The trick to really well-cooked mushrooms is to use a large pan over a high heat so that they don’t stew in their own juices. If possible try to cook the mushrooms at the same time as you’re cooking the risotto mix so that you can combine when the rice is ready.
2. You could of course use a mushroom stock cube to which you add the dried mushrooms to make the double stock.
3. You can change the mix of mushrooms, just don’t use those tasteless white button mushrooms.
4. If you can avoid it, do not substitute the dried porcini (cep) mushrooms or truffle oil. These give the dish depth and a lot of umami.
5. Unless you advise your guests, no one will be able to tell that this is a vegan risotto. I have served this to Italians who were gob-smacked to discover it contained no dairy. Indeed, they pronounced it the best they’d ever eaten. Praise indeed!
6. You could make everything except the risotto in advance and heat through on the day.