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Duck & Mushroom Risotto

Woodland Flavours

Today I stripped the carcass, separating the meat from the bones and the skin. Of course, these will become stock, but I have something specific planned for this, of which more later. I also found an escapee clove of garlic, nestled in the back of the cavity. Roasted garlic is so good, there was no way that I was going to let that go, and it will only add to the flavour of today’s dish.

So, to a risotto, but this time I wanted to develop the flavour with earthy base notes of woodland and wild mushrooms, building the flavour layers as I went, instead of making a simple white risotto, and adding the flavour at the end.

You can dry your own mushrooms or buy them. If you were going to buy them, I would suggest porcini mushrooms. I was lucky, the Big Guy’s sister had been out in the woods and taken the trouble of gathering and drying the most amazing chanterelles and trompettes des mort. I got a jar full as a present, and I love them. I love that someone has taken the care to go and forage for them and preserve them, and I really love that she also knew that I would love some of them.

Dried mushrooms, particularly of the chanterelle variety, have a really deep, almost woody quality,and I knew that they would be perfect with this duck, and would help layer the flavours, as I could soak them, then add the soaking liquor to the stock.

Then I started thinking about red wine, but decided that a better match would be sherry. I only had the Pedro Ximénez that we bought for the sherry trifle, so I knew I couldn’t use a lot of it, for fear of making it too sweet. But it all builds up.

This has all the earthy richness that I wanted, given that the weather has taken a turn for the colder, despite it being spring.

Recipe: Duck and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

10 g dried mushrooms

400 ml boiling water

A little oil for frying

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Bay leaf

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 roasted garlic clove, mashed

4-5 sprigs thyme

200 g arborio rice

Splash Pedro Ximénez

500 ml chicken stock

150 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

200 g cooked duck meat

2 knobs butter (to be used separately)

75 g Parmesan cheese, grated

Small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Method

Soak the dried mushrooms in the boiling water, and set aside while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.

Sweat the onion in a little oil, until translucent. Add both types of garlic and the thyme and bay, and allow them to sweat together.

Meanwhile, drain, and squeeze out the dried mushrooms, but do not discard the water that they were soaking in. Roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms, and add them to the sweating vegetables.

Carefully pour the liquid that the mushrooms had been soaking in to the chicken stock, and warm them both on the hob. No matter how carefully the mushrooms were cleaned before drying, there will probably still be a bit of grit or debris in them. When you add the mushroom stock to the chicken stock, don’t pour the grit in. It is easy to see, and is heavier than the stock, so it is easily to avoid if you pour the stock in carefully, and maybe leave the last few ml, which will have the most grit in it.

Add the rice, then follow the method for the basic risotto. You will be developing some big, earthy mushroom flavours, by adding the rehydrating mushrooms, and using the mushroom stock. However, the duck can take it.

So, while the risotto is cooking down, fry the sliced chestnut mushrooms over a low heat with a little more thyme, and a little salt.

When you feel that the rice is nearly ready, add the duck meat, and the now cooked mushrooms with the last half ladle of the stock that you need. This will heat the meat without it going tough, and will help to bring the flavour of the chestnut mushrooms into the dish.

Once the last lot of stock has been absorbed, add a knob of butter and the parmesan, then season with a little salt and a lot of pepper. Finally, stir through the parsley, and serve with a peppery salad.

Not only is this risotto a great way to use up leftovers, but it is really earthy, with the mushrooms and the duck packing a real punch. Leftovers done like this really are not humble, and nor should they be.

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Top Tips

Broad Bean Plants

Better late than never

I got my broad beans in really late this year, through a mixture of snow and laziness. There was snow in both November and February, rendering the soil unworkable. However, since I love broad beans so much, I managed to shake myself, and get them planted, eventually.

Almost all gardeners will tell you to pinch out the tips of the beans once they get the first bean pods. This is to stop them getting taller, meaning that they concentrate their energy into beans. They also say it will help prevent blackfly infestations.

What a lot of them don’t tell you is that they also make a really delicious vegetable in their own right, with a subtle broad bean flavour.  You can have them steamed or quickly boiled. They don’t keep very well though, so they really are the gardener’s treat. This really is the best advert for growing your own, just so that you too can try this treat for yourself. They will even grow along the edge of your balcony in a deep window box – a pretty, edible, and practical windbreak.

Braod Bean Tips

Gardener's Delight, washed free of blackfly

I added mine to a risotto, following the same method as the one I gave in the masterclass the other day. I made the white risotto base, then added the tips, and some cooked, double-podded broad beans along with the last ladleful of stock. I used Crème fraîche instead of the butter at the end, along with some chopped dill. Then I served it all up with a nice green salad, which included some wild garlic leaves.

Risotto and salad

Tip Tops!

So lovely, light and fresh. Will you try to grow some just to see what you are missing out on?

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Risotto “Masterclass”

Versatile flavours

So many flavours from one basic dish

I was talking about risotto the other day, when a few friends persuaded me that I should do a ‘risotto masterclass’. I suspect the fact that I have a larger than average kitchen (not difficult in a city where a ‘kitchen’ constitutes having a microwave on a shelf and a hob in many of the flats in the rental sector!) also had something to do with it, but I was flattered enough to go ahead.

We made three flavours of risotto – fennel, lemon and ricotta; pumpkin; and mushroom.

This is not to say that I made three risottos initially. My friends wanted to have a class so I wanted to show them how versatile risotto is with adding flavour, and how simple it is as a method. So, I started with a simple, white risotto, and we took it from there.

A good time was had by all, and I hope that they went away feeling more confident in making risotto, and experimenting with flavour.

Of course, there are more complex ways of building up flavour within the risotto, but adding ingredients at the end is a good way to get started!

I do most of my cooking by eye – especially as I wanted to make this one large enough to split into three, but the recipe that I give below should be enough to serve 2 people with leftovers. Leftover risotto is so versatile, that it really is worth making the extra.

Recipe: White Risotto

Ingredients

150 g risotto rice (risotto rice comes in a number of varieties, or is probably labelled just ‘risotto rice’ in your local supermarket. We used arborio for this one)

1 medium chopped onion,

1 tbsp olive oil

1 glass white wine (or you can use vermouth or another spirit relevant to your flavouring, such as Pernod, etc)

750 ml – 1 l stock (the stock you use can depend on what you are going to add. On this occasion I used vegetable stock)

Thyme

Knob of butter, or dash of cream or oil

50 g parmesan, freshly grated

Method

Sweat the onion in the olive oil until it is translucent, but not coloured. Add the rice, and stir until the rice is slightly translucent round the edges. Add the thyme at this stage too – the leaves but not the stalks.

Meanwhile, Bring the stock to the boil, and then leave it on a gentle simmer. I always make my own stock and freeze it in roughly  500 ml portions, so I use one of these, then add hot water as I run out. If you want a particularly ‘meaty’ flavour in the risotto, there is no reason why you cannot use all stock. It is important that you are adding warm stock to the rice, so I just leave it on the hob while I am cooking the risotto.

Turn up the heat a little and add the wine. Allow the alcohol to burn off and the rice to absorb the liquid. If you don’t want to have alcohol, this step can also be missed out altogether.

Add your stock, starting with just enough to cover the rice. Allow this to absorb completely before adding more, then add more a ladleful or so at a time. You will need to stir the risotto to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. Much better chefs  than me (well, chefs, in fact) say that the more that you stir it, the creamier it will be, especially at the end stages. This will reduce the amount of butter or cream that you need to add at the end.

Taste the rice as you go. Before it is ready, it has a chalky quality to the grains. It is ready when this chalkiness is lost, but the grains are still a little al dente (especially important if you don’t want claggy leftovers). At this point, stop adding more stock.

Take it off the heat, ad beat in the butter or cream (which must be cold). Add the parmesan and seasoning. You will need quite a lot of pepper.

This is the basic recipe. Then you can flavour it by adding herbs, veg, meat. Whatever you like really.

The flavours I added for the three risottos were as follows:

Fennel, Ricotta and Lemon

I sliced a fennel bulb thinly, lengthways. Then I braised this gently in olive oil, with 2 garlic cloves, also sliced thinly. I added all the vegetables and the oil to the rice, mixed in a little ricotta, and the grated zest of the lemon. I then added the lemon juice, a little at a time to balance out the other flavours. I added the chopped fronds of the fennel as a garnish.

Pumpkin

I made a large dice of about 1/4 of an orange fleshed pumpkin, and roasted this, with some unpeeled garlic cloves, and some crumbled dried chillies in some olive oil with sprigs of thyme. This took about 3/4 hour at 180 degrees. I stirred these in at the end of cooking the risotto, and served with taleggio. If you wanted you could halve the above pumpkin, and boil half. Adding it with some of the last stock, which will make the risotto orange, and help build up the flavour. Roast and add the rest as above.

Mushroom

I fried a selection of sliced mushrooms in butter and garlic, with a generous amount of thyme leaves. I stirred them in at the end of cooking the risotto, and stirred through some fresh chopped tarragon. To build up the flavour even more, you could use a mushroom stock, or add the soaking liquor from dried porcinis to the stock as you cook it.

The recipes are simple, as I said, but adding your favourite flavours like this is an easy way to make a risotto recipe your own.

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