Porcini risotto: real winter fare

Porcini Risotto

I grew up in  Stellenbosch and just love everything about winter in the Boland. That includes the never-ending rain, the dark and icy mornings, and of course the comforting, steamy winter food. To me, that includes pancakes with cinnamon sugar, oxtail stew, meaty bean soup, malva pudding with warm custard, and porcini risotto.

Risotto has always been one of my favourite winter comfort dishes – creamy, nutty rice, runny like lava. It really isn’t difficult to make this fantastic Italian rice dish. The rules are simple: 1) use a really good quality stock, 2) don’t over-stir, 3) don’t overcook the rice and 4) don’t over-complicate flavours. And it really shouldn’t take too long either – maybe 20-30 minutes tops.

So make your own chicken stock before your start, buy proper arborio rice, and if you are making a porcini risotto, let the porcini’s shine.  That’s it.

Ingredients: (serves 2 really hungry people)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 60 g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in about 150 ml just-boiled water for at least 10 minutes
  • 200 ml dry white wine
  • 750 ml chicken stock, kept at a simmer on the stove next to your risotto
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan or grada padano
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Over medium heat in a heavy based saucepan, melt the butter into the olive oil and sauteé the onions untill transparent but not brown.
  2. Add rice, and stir for about 2 minutes to toast them lightly.
  3. Remove soaked porcini’s from the warm water, chop them roughly, and add them to the rice. Do not discard the water.
  4. Add the wine and porcini-water to the pot, and reduce untill almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Be carefull not to burn the rice or to let it cook dry – watch it carefully and keep the heat moderate.
  5. Now add the stock, ladle by ladle, stirring occasionally, allowing the liquid to be absorbed little by little before adding more.
  6. Test the rice before all the stock has been added : it should still have a slight bite to it, but be creamy. If needed, add more stock. When ready, remove from the heat.
  7. Add butter and parmesan, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir untill butter has melted. Cover and let it stand for about 5 minutes, then serve immediately. The risotto should be thick but still slightly runny, almost like lava.
  8. Serve with extra shaved parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil (optional).
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