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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Fish, Prawns & Risotto

I fancied trying something a bit different tonight. I’ve been up in Scotland today and popped into a farm shop on the way back down where I picked up some some haddock fillets landed in Eyemouth. I’m a huge fan of fresh fish, but it has to be fresh. We’re lucky enough to have the North Shields Fish Quays nearby and I get over there whenever I can.

For this dish, I had four pans on the go but it was worth it. The haddock was simply grilled with a leek risotto, whole prawns and a a sauce made from their shells. I finished it off which some pickled mushrooms, an idea I got from a local occasional TV chef called Kenny Atkinson after I saw a cooking demo by him. They really finish it off and contrast the richness of the other flavors.

I was pretty pleased with the results, as was Helen, and from someone who is normally fairly indifferent to fish, that’s praise indeed!

(Serves 2)

For the fish:

  • Oil – I used rapeseed
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Risotto:

  • 1 tbsp oil & 10g butter (optional, health fans!)
  • 150g Arborio Rive
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • Glass of white wine
  • 1 medium leek, finely sliced.
  • Handful of grated parmesan cheese (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper

For the prawns/sauce:

  • 6 whole prawns
  • About 300ml chicken stock
  • Dash of Brandy or Cognac
  • 1 tbsp double cream
  • 15 g butter (to finish)
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley

For the pickled mushrooms:

  • 100g button mushrooms cleaned and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp stock
  • 2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • Salt

Start the prawns/sauce: Add the prawns and stock to a small pan, bring gently to the boil and poach for a few minutes until cooked. Remove the prawns with a slotted spoon and peel them -apart from the tail, it just looks better… Return the peeled shells to the pan for a while to extract more flavour for 10 minutes (or as long as possible). Keep the cooked prawns to one side, they’ll be warmed through later.

Ge the risotto started: Unless you have any homemade, get the kettle on and make up some stock (I often use the little pots made up with boiling water). Put the stock in a pan/Pyrex bowl and place on a small burner on your hob to keep hot.

Add the oil to a large pan, heat, and fry the celery,  garlic and leeks. Tip in the rice and coat well in the oil. Pour in a glass of wine and stir well until absorbed. Add a ladle of the stock and stir well until nearly absorbed. Keep adding ladle-fulls and stir in the same way  for about 15-20 minutes.

Whilst doing this, prepare the pickled mushrooms: fry the mushrooms in a little oil with some salt for a minute, add the vinegars, stock and sugar. Heat until boiling then leave to simmer very gently to reduce whilst you crack on with the rest.

Keep stirring the risotto and adding the stock! You need to keep an eye on this one!

Finish the sauce off. Strain the prawn shells using a fine sieve (or muslin cloth for a clearer liquor) and discard, keeping the liquid in the pan. Add the cognac/brandy, double cream and reduce for a few minutes. Add salt to taste and the chopped parsley. Finish with the butter by whisking it in until melted away. Add the prawns to warm through gently.

Finally! Cook the fish. Heat  the grill and put the fish under, seasoned with salt and pepper and brushed with oil. They will only take a few minutes to cook. I confess, I took my eye off them and slightly over did it, but it was still good!

I served it up with the prawns on the risotto, and the sauce on the fish, with a few of the pickled mushrooms scattered round the edge.

Phew! Bit of a balancing act, this one, but well worth sticking with! Lovely with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.