How good is risotto! We love how versatile risotto is - so many amazing ingredients you can use to add flavour and variety. This is one of our favourites and highlights the rich earthiness of mushrooms married with the savoury umami of bacon and the aromatic, spiciness of Mountain Pepper - risotto heaven for us!
We used to make risotto in the traditional manner of adding a ladle of stock at a time and stirring constantly, until we met and learned directly from Gabriel Ferron another. simpler way and once you try it, you'll never make your risotto any other way.
The Ferron family have operated the Ferron rice mill near Verona in Italy since 1921. Gabriel Ferron received a knighthood from the Italian government for his work in preserving ancient rice grains and has worked with local rice growers setting up a consortium to preserve old grains of rice. In 1996 Ferron Vialone Nano rice was declared an Indicazione Geografica Protetta (IGP), a seal of approval guaranteeing consumers the quality of the rice, its cultivation method and the area in which it is grown.
We always use Ferron rice - usually the Carnaroli risotto rice as it is more easily found - but we have tried the Ferron method with other good risotto rices such as Aborio and it works reasonably well.
So why use Carnaroli and what is it? In stirred rice dishes, such as risotto, some of the starch is released, and it is this extra starch that creates the smooth, creamy texture. The trick is to use a rice that will absorb the liquid added to it without breaking apart or sticking together, thus retaining its consistency. Carnaroli rice is an Italian variety that has short, plump, firm grains like those of Arborio rice. Also, like Arborio rice, Carnaroli grains are high in starch content and, when cooked, have a creamy, sauce like consistency. Ferron rices, however, are sturdier in structure, with more husk left on and unlike most commercially grown rices, they are not highly polished. They contain more nutrients and have more taste. From our experience with both grains we believe Carnaroli to be far superior in taste and texture to Aborio. As you can tell we really like risotto and especially the Ferron Carnaroli! Life's too short to stand and stir!
500g Swiss Brown Mushrooms
500g other mushrooms of your choice such as porcini when in season, or very available button mushrooms or field mushrooms.
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cups (420g) Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (this is optional)
6 cups (1 1/2 litres) vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 large middle rashers bacon
2 tablespoons (16g) Mountain Pepper
Tasmanian Pepper Salt (or salt) and cracked black pepper to taste
Spring onions, finely sliced
Grated or shaved parmesan or pecorino cheese - to taste (we use about 2 tablespoons to stir through and another generous amount for each serve, once in the dish)
In a large saucepan bring the stock to the boil.
In another large, heavy based saucepan, that has a tight fitting lid, heat two tablespoons of oil and add the onion and rice. Toss the rice and onion in the oil for a few minutes until the rice is thoroughly coated with the oil -about 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and allow the liquid to evaporate.
Add the just boiled stock to the rice, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cover with the lid. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Check a minute after you've added the stock that the rice is cooking at a simmer - not at a boil.
While the rice is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a separate, large frying pan and add the garlic, all the mushrooms and the diced bacon and cook gently until the mushrooms are half cooked through.
Remove the lid from the rice and stir. Lay the other ingredients evenly over the surface of the rice. Add the spring onions and the Mountain Pepper . Do not stir any of this through - all ingredients need to remain as a layer on top of the rice.
The rice will have absorbed much of the stock but there will still be an obvious level of liquid in the pot at this stage. Do not adjust the temperature if the dish is cooking at a gentle simmer. If it is cooking at a greater rate, turn the heat down again until a gentle simmer is achieved. Cook with the lid on for a further 5 minutes.
Take the saucepan from the heat and let sit, lid on, for a further 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir through the remaining tablespoon of oil and butter and 2 tablespoons Parmesan and the salt and pepper.
The risotto rice should be cooked through and al dente. You may find a little stock in the risotto, giving it a lovely soupy texture. We love it like this butif you don't let the risotto sit for a few more minutes, with the lid off and the rice will absorb any remaining liquids.
Serve immediately in large, flat soup bowls, topped with the grated or shaved cheese. Finish with a scatter of Mountain Pepper and a drizzle of olive oil over the served risotto is also lovely.