Porcini Risotto, Parmesan Crisps and Poor Man’s Caviar.

Porcini Risotto

There’s a global recession on people! Well, except in the US, Canada, and the BRIC countries. They’re just experiencing moderate growth.

But in Europe, there’s a recession on everyone! The UK is showing weak growth but….oh forget it.

Whatever the situation, ‘austerity’ is the current buzz word and to be honest, prior to a few  years ago I wasn’t really aware of the concept, other than as an adjective for the sort of person I generally tried to avoid at parties.

For some this is an inevitable consequence of genuine hardship, for others (and maybe I’m being a little cynical here) the latest trend, dare I say. But either way I think it’s having a cooling effect and in terms of food it’s opened up new avenues. And this is a food website after all.

People are baking again, cheaper cuts of meat – the best cuts in my opinion – are popular once more and in this country I think concepts of provenance and ‘proper’ cooking are now desirable. May I also refer you to my previous rant on chips. Good.

So tonight, ladies and gentlemen it’s caviar, only it’s the far more austere lumpfish caviar. Retailing at the more sensible price of around £40/kilo, it’s less than half the price of salmon caviar, and some 100 times less than the dangerously scarce Beluga caviar (which I have sampled and I can confirm is delicious). Still pricy of course, but then a little goes a long way.

As you may have guessed by the title I made it to accompany a porcini mushroom risotto and because, I like the texture, some parmesan crisps. It all worked nicely with a little scoop of ricotta that I had in the fridge.

If each serving was more than a £1.50, I’d be surprised. I’m keeping the belt tightened over here….

Serves two:

  • 160g good risotto rice
  • 100g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small celery sticks, diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 glass white vermouth
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 100g parmesan (with extra to serve)
  • Dried oregano
  • 2 heaped tsp lumpfish caviar
  • 2 tbsp ricotto cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chives to serve

Start by soaking the mushrooms in the hot stock for 30 mins prior to cooking. Once ready, remove them and squeeze some of the liquid out with a sieve. Set aside until later.

In a heavy pan, fry off the shallots, celery and garlic until soft. Stir in the rice and butter and coat well. Add the vermouth and stir well (some of the rice starch will start to come out – this is good). Heat the stock back up in a small pan and leave on a low heat to keep hot.

Using a ladle, add a little stock and stir well until it’s nearly gone, then add another. Keeping ladling and stirring until all the rice is cooked but retains a bit of a ‘bite’. Soggy risotto is bad risotto. Towards the end add the parmesan and mushrooms. Taste and season. There should be a creamy sauce in the risotto, it shouldn’t be dry. Add a little water and a bit more seasoning if it is.

Risotto cooking

Meanwhile, make the parmesan crisps my forming mounds of grated grated parmesan with the oregano and black pepper. Grill until browned and flat. Remove from the heat and cool thoroughly. They should be nice and crisp.

Parmesan crisps

Serve the risotto in bowls with the crisps, chopped chives. Spoon on a tbsp of ricotta and a heaped tsp lumpfish caviar per person. Dust with a little more cheese and black pepper.

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Variations on a variation of a theme……

Sweet potato and polenta 'cottage pie'

Busy, busy busy. I’ve been busy.

Blogging about food, fun as it is, but doesn’t pay the bills so work comes first I’m afraid. Getting back late every night means sticking to tried and trusted faithfuls for me and so I had nothing particularly blogable (some may say I don’t anyway 😉 ).

I did however have a hankering for a shepherd’s/cottage pie midweek and some lovely leftover venison from the roast I made on Sunday. A plan was forming. I remembered a very nice dish of braised venison at an Italian restaurant recently and thought about varying the theme a bit. I had some sweet potatoes left over and, brilliantly, I thought to myself, some polenta.

I made a simple, but rich stew from the left over venison. I didn’t make it from a recipe, nor did I make a note of any quantities, but it was a standard affair of red wine, mirepoix and beef stock, with added diced swede and baby carrots. I actually made it the night before I used it, it’s always better that way.

I made two cottage pies (as  I suppose they must be) one topped with mashed sweet potato, the other with a fairly wet polenta.

The sweet potato was simply mashed with butter and some thyme, but to the polenta I added some taleggio cheese. I used a couple of bread tins to split the venison and topped each with the polenta and sweet potato respectively.

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To both, I scattered on the grated end of a block of parmesan. It really was a great way to use up the fridge contents. I baked them at 180C, or 350F for about 20 minutes and turned on the oven grill element for the last ten to get a nice crust.

They were both very good, I preferred the polenta which I thought was a bit of a triumph to be honest, but then, I really like polenta….

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