This dish was a serendipitous result of my never-ending quest to make stock whenever possible: after a dinner of scottaditi, and a tussle with some ovine rib bones, I was left with a pot of lamb stock, and no idea what I was going to cook with it. As risotto is one of the natural consequences of too much stock, I searched the cupboards for something which would complement the meatiness of the lamb stock, and hit upon dried wild mushrooms, which, when rehydrated, have the added bonus of giving you some more delicious stock to throw into the pot. The resultant dish was very good, but for some reason I never replicated it until now, when I found packs of lamb bones, labelled “for stock”, for sale in the local Morrison’s.* I’m glad I did, as this is a risotto of which I am particularly proud: the lamb adds a rich, meaty undernote to the mushrooms, which are already pretty tasty on their own, and the whole dish is flavoursome yet soothing. My husband’s verdict was, “This is good: we should have it again”, which is either a ringing ensorsement of the risotto, or a not-so-veiled insult directed at the rest of my cooking. I’ll leave you to decide.
I have a feeling that, the first time I made this, I used crėme fraîche as part of the mantecatura. I didn’t have any this time, but it might be worth trying, as it would pair well with the mushrooms and the thyme, if you want a slightly sharper and less unctuous result.
Lamb and Mushroom Risotto
You will need:
- About a pint and a half of lamb stock (see below)
- A mixture of wild or otherwise interesting mushrooms, preferably both fresh and dried. I used about 25g dried mushrooms (a mixture of porcini and portobello) and 100 g fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 4 shallots, chopped
- 300g arborio rice
- A small glassful of extra dry vermouth
- Some fresh thyme leaves
- About a tablespoon of extra-thick double cream
- A generous handful of grated parmesan
First, make your lamb stock. As I used raw bones, I browned them first in a heavy-based pan with a little oil; you could also roast them in the oven, likewise rubbed with a little oil. Chop an onion and a couple of carrots and throw them into the pot with the lamb bones. At this point, I also added the last glassful of sherry from a bottle of amontillado which Stephen had stashed in the fridge. Cover with water, bring to the boil, cover, simmer, strain: you know the drill.
Once you have made and strained your stock, you can start making the risotto. Place the strained stock in a clean saucepan, and keep it simmering over a moderate heat. Put the dried mushrooms in a shallow, heatproof bowl: break any large pieces up now, as it is a great deal easier to snap a dried mushroom in two than it is to cut up a hot, slippery rehydrated one. Cover with freshly-boiled water, and set aside.
In a large pot, fry the shallots in a slug of olive oil, and, once they have softened, add the rice. Let it fry for a moment or two, stirring well, and then add the vermouth. This, I find, is the handiest store-cupboard staple for risotto: it is cheap, it keeps very well, and it adds a slight herbal note to the dish. As the rice absorbs the vermouth, continue to stir and add the stock, a ladleful at a time, so that it is gradually absorbed.
In the meantime, you will need to cook your mushrooms. Strain the soaked mushrooms, adding the soaking liquid to the rice in lieu of the next ladleful of lamb stock. Slice the fresh mushrooms, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry all the mushrooms with some fresh thyme leaves and a good grinding of black pepper.
When the rice is soft, but still has a little bite to it, remove the pan from the heat and add the mushrooms. Mix well, then stir through the cream and the parmesan. You might want to serve this with some leafy salad, but, as you can see, we went for the unadulterated risotto fix.
These quantities would, I think, serve four: we had two portions for dinner, and I made 8 good-sized arancini from the leftovers the next day (if you have leftover risotto, I suggest you try doing the same: the flavours seem to develop overnight, making the arancini, if anything, even tastier than the risotto itself).
*I don’t know if it’s specific to the Cardiff Bay branch, but my closest Morrison’s really has an excellent butchery counter. It makes it worth overlooking the scary faux-market at the entrance, not to mention the bizarre product taxonomy, whereby savoury biscuits are confusingly shelved with the muesli, but far away from the rest of the biscuits.