It wasn’t so long back that I would never have thought brown rice can become irresistible and fit for a fine dinning experience. I always liked it and thought it was OK, but for a dinner party……not really.
Well here that theory is blown out of the water. Continually searching for healthy options around classic meals I went round the block and back with risotto using barley, kamut and spelt. Quinoa will work but is nowhere near the consistency of a good risotto and really, it is not a risotto. A risotto is with rice, in this case round brown Italian rice.
Using the round brown Italian rice is perfect for this dish. Health food shops and sections at the supermarkets will stock it. It might not even say it on the packet in the supermarket, just look for the smallest roundest grain. Cooking the rice a bit longer than directed gives it a similar richness to what butter gives which is that creaminess. Brown rice is very forgiving as it will retain a bite even when it goes a bit over. The ‘bite’ in risotto is so important. So over cook it a little to add a rich texture. You can lose the parmesan easily, yeast flakes would work as a substitute and therefore becoming a vegan option or it stands alone with the depth of the mushrooms.
Brown rice outweighs the health benefits of any white rice. A dish like this has a certain air of originality about it as well. Making healthy food taste good is very popular at the moment. If you are familiar with brown rice then you will know what a chore it can be to cook time wise which is why I pre-cook this for twenty minutes before starting the recipe.
Ingredients (serves 4)
200g round brown Italian rice
200g chestnut mushrooms (use any mix of mushrooms, these are just easy to get)
150g portobello mushrooms
75g dried mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 litres of veg stock (cubes or powder)
150ml white wine, sherry or vermouth
1 green chilli (optional)
Maldon salt and black pepper
1 spring onion or chives
Soak the dried mushrooms for twenty minutes (the dish is noticeably better with them and I saw them in all supermarkets when I was back in the UK). Cook the rice in boiling water for 20 mins and drain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit sticky.
Peel and cut the shallots into small squares. Brush any dirt off the chestnut mushrooms, do not wash though as this gives the mushrooms a sliminess which tends to put people off them. Cut into similar sized squares as the shallots. Cut the portobello mushroom into thick slices. Chop the soaked mushrooms as finely as possible. Press the garlic to a pulp. De-seed and chop the chilli. Grate the parmesan. Make up the stock which needs to be kept hot and add the liquor from the soaked mushrooms to it.
Sautee the portobello slices until browned on each side (if you are using them). Take out of pan and put onto paper to remove excess oil. Fry off the chestnut mushrooms (or mixed mushrooms) and the dried ones in oil. When they start browning add the shallots. When it is all browned and dry add the garlic and green chilli ,combine and cook for a further two mins. Add the precooked rice and stir it in until the excess oil has been absorbed. Add the white wine and let the liquid cook out.
After 20mins taste a grain and if its soft but with some bite turn off the heat making sure it is still wet. Add the grated parmesan, ground black pepper, spinach leaves and cooked portobello mushrooms. Put a lid (or cover with foil) on and leave for 5 mins. Take the lid off and gently fold the contents until they are evenly mixed through and the cheese has melted. Be gentle so as not to break or mash up the contents. The risotto needs to be loose so add some more stock if necessary.
To plate up put the risotto put a spoonful in the middle of the plate and smooth it over the surface, to make it nice and flat instead of a pile. Sprinkle to finish with finely cut spring onions.