“The elementary rules once grasped, it remains only to be borne in mind that the simpler the risotto the better.” says the wise Elizabeth David in her brilliant book called Italian Food. Indeed, apart from the basics (oil and butter, onion, rice, wine and stock) a couple of add-ins are usually enough. The best risotti have just one or two dominant flavours, sometimes complementary, others contrasting, but never colliding.
Wild mushrooms like finferli (girolles) are in full swing right now. Sweet and fruity, they grab your attention with their bright golden cap and scruffy look. In risotto they work wonders on their own, but I like them paired with some speck, too, for added savouriness.
Girolles Mushroom & Speck Risotto
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A knob of butter
½ medium golden onion, peeled and finely chopped
50 g thick slice of speck (or smoked flat pancetta), finely chopped
180 g vialone nano or carnaroli rice
70 ml dry white wine
1 L vegetable stock
100 g girolle mushrooms
30 g (a large knob) unsalted butter
40 g grated Parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Clean the mushrooms using a small brush or a damp cloth until all dirt is gone. Trim the roots where present. If you have any large mushrooms in the lot, halve them. Keep the rest whole, then set them all aside.
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and keep it on the boil by the side of the stove where you’re going to cook your risotto. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-based pot. Add the onion and speck and fry gently over a medium heat until the onion has softened and the fat in the speck has rendered. Next, add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, until it assumes a pale, transparent look. Add the wine and let it evaporate before starting to add the stock, a bit at the time, stirring all the while. Towards the end of the cooking time add the mushrooms. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Finish cooking your risotto – it should be al dente and fairly loose still; add more stock to adjust its thickness.
When ready, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, working your risotto energetically until the fat has melted and dressed the rice evenly. If you want to add some grated parmesan, this is the time to do so. Serve right away.