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Cook: Porcini Risotto

Risotto is traditional in the north (Piedmont, Veneto) where the special rice is grown. The key to successful risotto is good stock, proper risotto rice, a large heavy bottomed pan and timing – it is really easy to overcook. Also serve it alone (not as an accompaniment) and one good ladleful is enough per person. Fresh porcini can be hard to find so you can use Portobello instead, but the risotto won’t have the same flavour/texture. Expect to pay £8-10 for 100g of dried porcini – they should be identifiable as mushroom slices not woody sticks (cheap and nasty).

Ingredients (serves 6)
2 pints fresh chicken stock, 50g dried porcini, 250g fresh porcini, 100g butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 large onion, 400g risotto rice, 1 glass white wine, white wine vinegar, 100g smoked pancetta cubes, 125g freshly grated Parmesan , sea salt, black pepper , large bunch flat leaf parsleyMethodSoak the dried porcini in enough warm water to cover. Finely chop the onion and fry in olive oil and 10g butter in a large, heavy pan until translucent. Add enough rice to give a 0.5 cm layer (maybe less than 400g) and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for 2 mins. Add the white wine and a splash of vinegar and allow to evaporate. Now add the stock a ladleful at a time stirring until all the liquid has evaporated – don’t be tempted to add it all at once. After 10-12 mins taste the grains – they should be still quite firm in the centre – and remove the pan from the heat (you can safely reserve this base for later/tomorrow). Now fry the pancetta in a little oil until golden and reserve. Squeeze out the liquid from the dried porcini and reserve. Fry the rehydrated porcini for 2 mins and add to the pancetta. Wipe the pan and add a knob of butter. Fry the sliced fresh porcini in the butter over a high heat until golden – 2 mins or so. Chop the parsley.To finish the risotto put the risotto pan back on the heat and add all the mushroom liquor. Stir until it evaporates. Check the rice for doneness – should be soft on the outside with a little bite in the middle. Add stock/stir until you get to ‘al dente’ – 2 to 5 minutes. At that point quickly stir through the pancetta, dried mushrooms, half the fresh porcini, half the parmesan, half the parsley and 60g butter. The consistency should be creamy – if too dry add a little more stock. To serve put one ladel of risotto on a plate, decorate with a few sliced porcini and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan.Wine Match: Tomasso Bussolla Valpolicella Classico TB 2006, Veneto, Italy £25 Majestic Wines

You could serve a full bodied white with this risotto, but with the nights drawing in red seems more appropriate. This wine is rich and intense with bitter cherry character and soft tannins. Made by one of the region’s finest producers this Valpolicella is the equal of many Amarones. The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella and Mollinara.

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