Having two teenage boys, my lovely husband and a male dog at home, means that Hella and I often sneak off to do girl’s stuff together.
Sometimes we watch a chick flick (accompanied by a little box of Ferrero Rocher … Hella’s chocolate treat of choice). We’re liking ‘About Time’ at the moment and we never fall out of love with ‘The Princess Diaries’. Sometimes we clothes shop together – often just the window variety – but mostly we coffee together.
Mine’s a decaf latte … for Hella it’s a milkshake – mostly chocolate, sometimes vanilla. We are creatures of habit.
And over coffee and a milkshake we chat … and we chat. And when we’ve run out of things to chat about, then we often play a game. When Hella was younger, the games were more random –
“OK Mummy, I’m going to think of a vegetable and you need to guess what it is …”
No clues. Sometimes it took a while.
Over the years, we’ve left the vegetables behind and on our most recent coffee we moved onto an Alphabet game –
“OK Mummy, let’s play girl’s names – starting with ‘A’. You go first.”
We were grateful for having known a Xanthe, a Yolandi and a Zeena. Now onto the boys. It was going so well until we reached ‘U’ where a consultation with Professor Google was required. Now I love that whole thing of knowing the meaning behind names and of course, on the internet you get that kind of juicy information by the spadeful. There were plenty of goodies for ‘U’, but our favourite? Usenko – meaning ‘ son of the man with the moustache’. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
And with Victor, William, Xavier, Yousef and Zac in the bag it was time to pay the bill and to address the next big question of the day … what’s for dinner?
Oven Baked Mushroom Risotto – a perfect low maintenance dinner for when you’ve got lots to chat about or when you have serious games to play.
And here’s a few more reasons why you’ll love this risotto for busy lives –
- This is serious comfort food. Tasty mushrooms and onions gently sauted and then baked with creamy rice and a good dose of Parmesan. Happiness in a pan …
- You can do the preparation (up to the end of stage 5) beforehand. Leave the cooked mushrooms, covered in the pan and you’ll be ready to get straight on with finishing it off later on. And there’s none of that ‘standing over the pan’ silliness here. I’m assuming you’ll have better things to be doing.
- This is a one-pot meal. Don’t you just love it when there’s hardly any washing up.
- Using some dry sherry in the cooking liquid gives extra depth and richness to the flavour but replace it with a little extra water or vegetable stock if you’d rather not.
- With a glass of something chilled, this is special enough for entertaining. A simple salad with, perhaps, a mustardy dressing is all that you need to finish it off.
- Once the risotto is in the oven, you are a free agent – but don’t go far … the risotto is at its best while still hot.
OK – now countries of the world starting with ‘A’ …. Who’s going first?
- 20g (1oz) dried porcini mushrooms
- 450g (1lb) fresh dark-gilled mushrooms
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 350g (12oz) arborio rice
- 300ml (10floz) dry Sherry, or vegetable stock or water if preferred
- 100g (4oz) Parmesan cheese - half of it finely grated, the remainder shaved into flakes with a potato peeler
- salt and pepper
- small handful parsley, finely chopped
- a 3 litre ovenproof dish (if you have one that works on the hob too, this will be a one pan meal). A Le Creuset style casserole works perfectly.
- First of all you need to soak the dried mushrooms. To do this, place them in a bowl and pour 1.2 litres (2 pints) of boiling water over them. Then leave them to soak and soften for half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 150°C, 300°F (gas mark 2).
- Meanwhile, chop the fresh mushrooms into 1cm (½ inch) chunks - not too small as they shrink quite a bit when they are cooked.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan, preferably one that is also ovenproof and large enough to house the risotto (approx 3 litres or 5 pints). Now add the onion and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms to the pan and stir well.
- When the dried mushrooms have had their half an hour of soaking, remove them from the liquid, squeezing out any excess moisture. BE SURE TO RESERVE THE MUSHROOM SOAKING LIQUID.
- Chop the dried mushrooms finely (snipping with a pair of scissors is probably the easiest way) and add them to the pan with the onions and the fresh mushrooms. Keep the heat low and gently cook the onion mixture for about 10 minutes.
- Now add the rice to the pan and stir it around to get a good coating of oil, then add the Sherry (or stock/water) and the mushroom soaking liquid. Add 2 level teaspoons of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring the whole lot up to simmering point and transfer to the oven without covering. Set a timer and give it 20 minutes exactly.
- At this stage, stir in the grated Parmesan and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately sprinkled with shavings of Parmesan and a scattering of finely chopped parsley.