I had some interesting responses to last week's On The Side column which had some suggested resolutions for 2022. For starters, LinkedIn blocked it, as it apparently contravened some policy or other, but they declined to tell me which it was. I've included the link so you can judge for yourself. Secondly, a few people interpreted my tongue in cheek comments about vegans as suggesting that I was anti vegetarians. Nothing could be further from the truth. These folk combine ethical beliefs with a sensible diet. Here at Johnston Mansions we quite often have meat free days, often without thinking about it - pasta, risotto, veg curries and the like. While you won't catch me crossing their threshold for good, we find ourselves eating less red meat, and much more fish and veg these days. My old cynicism about a diet of vegetables alone was almost certainly born of ignorance on my part after a lifetime of the ghastly veg cooking which used to be the norm in Britain.
I asked good friend and culinary superstar Craig Wood for a recipe for today. By coincidence, no living creatures were harmed to produce its ingredients (unless you choose to use chicken stock, which isn't compulsory).
Remember that you should never wash mushrooms, as they absorb the water. Use a small brush to remove any dirt. I guess you could use Arborio rice if you can't find Carnaroli, but long grain won't work. The first part of the process is really making a thick, quite dry risotto.
Ingredients (serves about 6)
500g wild mushrooms cleaned; 200g Carnaroli rice; 120g butter; 120g Parmesan, grated; 200g smoked mozzarella, diced; a few drops of truffle oil; 1 shallot, finely chopped; 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I usually crush it, but chefs, who have much better knife skills than you and I, hate garlic presses); water or chicken stock; salt and pepper; flour; beaten egg; breadcrumbs.
Start by sautéing the mushrooms in the butter along with the shallots and garlic and a little seasoning. Cook till the shallot is softish, then add in the rice and stir to coat in the butter and mushroom. Cook for a minute or two like this on a medium heat.
Gradually add in some hot water or chicken stock (water obviously keeps the dish vegetarian). Stir every minute or so and keep an eye on it so it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan.
Add a little more water or stock bit by bit. As the rice cooks it will soak up the liquid and by stirring you will also help release the starch from the rice, which will make it nice and creamy. As the rice cooks try not to add too much liquid, as we need it to be thick enough to shape
When the rice is cooked al dente (a slight bite to it) stop adding liquid and add in the Parmesan, a little truffle oil and some seasoning to taste. The risotto should be quite thick – pour out onto a tray and allow to cool.
When the rice is cooled dice up the smoked mozzarella and mix through the risotto. Form into balls the size of a golf ball and then run through a breadcrumb mix.
The next stage is to add an extra breadcrumb layer. You do this in the standard manner. Dip the balls in flour, then in the beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs, for a second time to double coat them. (Tom's Top Tip - Do all of this with one hand, preferably your non-dominant hand. If you need to go into a cupboard to get more flour, or find more breadcrumbs, or answer the phone, you'll thank me.)
Set in the fridge for a few hours before use. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Deep fry at 150˚C until golden. (If you don't have a food thermometer, a cube of bread will turn golden in about 35 - 40 seconds when the oil is at the correct temperature.) Place in a oven on a preheated baking tray for 3 - 4 minutes to finish them off. Drain with kitchen paper. Check they're hot in the middle before serving. In my kitchen, that's called the cook's perk - I believe professionals use a thermometer.
At The Wee Restaurant, Craig serves them with a seasonal salad featuring Heritage tomatoes of different shapes and flavours along with a tarragon dressing which goes well with the mushrooms.
Craig Wood is a multi award winning chef, Scotland's Chef of the Year in 2015. Along with his wife Vikki he owns and runs The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry in the shadow of the Forth Bridge. Craig and Vikki are good friends to Tom's Food! If you haven't visited their wonderful establishment, make it a resolution to remedy that soon.