Red Wine Risotto with Pan-fried Shiitake Mushrooms

Creamy red wine risotto, delicious buttery shiitake mushrooms served with perfectly grilled Karoo-lamb chops sounds like top notch cooking doesn’t it? The kind of  food you would expect to get in a fine dining establishment, right? WRONG! I have experienced the ultimate in fine dining when we went to La Colombe recently.

“A meal at La Colombe is one of Cape Town’s greatest pleasures.” (quoted from their website) I did not see a risotto anywhere near my plate, I am sure there where mushrooms hidden somewhere and lamb was not my meat of choice, but what I did experience was so profound that it has changed the way I look at food forever…..

 Former Executive Chef and now Culinary Consultant to Le Colombe, Luke Dale-Robert’s mantra is “Taste, taste, taste!” This statement proved to be so true,  every delicious morsel that passed my lips was so perfectly seasoned and balanced that it has raised the bar of what “fine dining” should be forever.
This is not a post about Le Colombe, although I could devote an entire month’s posts to the Delicious food I had, but rather I want to share with you what  I have learned from my experience there. The one one thing that stood out for me on every plate of food that was placed in front of me, was the depth of flavor in the reductions, jus or sauces… When you taste it, you knew instinctively that these reductions and sauces were not made with stock cubes, no shortcuts. I imagine pots and pots of stock cooking everyday, reducing down to  intense flavorsome liquids that are awaiting the master’s touch to turn them into something so incredibly good.  
With that, dear readers, I am back to my original idea for this post and that is to tell you that when you make a risotto, I’m afraid after my Le Colombe experience, there are no shortcuts when it comes to making a good stock. It makes the world of difference in the final product so take a little time, recycle all your meaty bones and vegetable peelings and see for yourself just how important it is. 

Making a good stock for your risotto is not difficult at all, in fact you can pop your vegetables in the oven and  roast them if standing over a simmering pot is too much effort for you. In fact that is how I make my vegetable stock. Roasting the vegetables  adds so much more depth of flavor and color to your stock. When next to heat up your oven for a something else, why not roast some vegetables and keep them to make a stock so that when you want to make a risotto or sauce, half the job is already done.
How to make a good vegetable stock.
2 big onions 
3 carrots
3 stalks celery – the harder exterior leaves can sometimes be bitter, cut them off
8-10 porcini or shiitake mushrooms
1 bulb garlic
1 leek
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Olive oil
Cut all the vegetables in big chunks. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the pan and place into a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and once it is boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 1 hour. Pour the stock through a strainer. Cheesecloth placed in a colander works well for me! Keep in a glass jar until needed!

Red Wine Risotto with Pan-fried Shiitake Mushroom
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion – very finely chopped
1¼ cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry red wine
2 cloves garlic – crushed
6 cups of vegetable stock
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp butter
about 2-3 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese

250 gr  Delifunghi Shiitake Mushrooms – stems removed and sliced
½ tsp smoked paprika
salt/black pepper
a sprig of fresh thyme
100 gr salted butter

Pour the stock in a pot and bring to a simmering state. In another pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion sand garlic until soft but be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the Arborio rice and allow the rice to absorb the oil and become slightly translucent. Add the red wine and vinegar and allow  the rice to totally absorb the liquid. Now start adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking. Do not try and rush this, this process takes about 20 minutes or more. Taste the rice at this point, it must be soft, but have a little resistance in the middle, allow any liquid that is still left on the rice to cook away. Add the butter and cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

The mushrooms should be done will the risotto is cooking, but it requires a bit of skill and multi-tasking. If you cannot do this, the mushrooms can be done quickly afterwards, but do remember risotto does not like “waiting” for its guests. 
Get a heavy based pan on the heat and melt the butter in it. Add the smoked paprika and swirl the pan to flavor the butter. Add the mushrooms and toss until it is cooked and slightly caramelized. Season with fresh thyme, salt and pepper and maybe a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
This meal is a wonderful meatless option, but I served mine with succulent Karoo- Lamb chops!!

To read more about the Delifunghi brand, click here!