Hay Hay Its Donna Day #8: Risotto

I have finally managed to join Hay Hay it’s Donna Day! I have wanted to take part ever since I first read about its inception at Barbara's. I had been charmed by Donna Hay from the very first time I came across her cookbooks in my favorite bookstore. Her simple yet luscious sounding recipes, always accompanied by brilliant food styling and photography, reeled me in. And then came those cupcakes that I, and many others, could not get enough of (it was in fact the theme of the very first Donna Day). And then I finally gave in to fate and got my own subscription. During all this time I tried to join HHDD, but as life, timing, and weird chance would have it, I never made it.

Until now! I was getting more vigilant about checking the HHDD announcements and came upon Cenzina’s posting for HHDD # 8…risotto! I couldn’t believe my luck. As I had started making my own stock, I had been wanting to try my hand at risotto. It would be my very first time to attempt it! So my first risotto and my first Donna Day coincide...

You can find the original recipe at Cenzina’s beautiful blog il cavoletto di bruxelles. She’s the host this month and the winner of last month’s HHDD. Her photos are fantastic!

Choices, choices…what would I do for my maiden risotto (and my first HHDD entry)? I decided to make a mushroom risotto because I seriously heart mushrooms and can eat them for days on end. Unfortunately, this tropical paradise is not exactly teeming with them, so I used a mix of dried forest mushrooms (although next time I will try this with fresh shitake or oyster mushrooms, as those are readily available here). As I had to reconstitute (I love that word…make me feel like Dr. Frankenstein) the mushrooms, I decided to replace some of the stock with the mushroom liquid as it just smelled so good and woodsy. Also, because I was in a celebratory-risotto-initiation mood, I decided to use cava (a sparkling wine from Spain) instead of white wine. Cheers to me! And cheers to Donna Day!

Forest Mushroom & Cava Risotto
(Click here for original recipe)

  • 200 grams carnaroli rice
  • 750 ml chicken stock
  • Dried forest mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water (1 ½ cups mushrooms when reconstituted)
  • 250 ml liquid from the mushrooms
  • 200 ml cava
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 50 grams grated parmesan cheese
  • 25 grams butter
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt & cracked black pepper
Prepare the mushrooms:
Place dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot water (just boiled) over them. Let rest until soft (30 minutes to one hour). Squeeze liquid out of mushrooms and roughly chop. Save the liquid!

Get on with your risotto:
- Place your stock and the mushrooms’ liquid in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer.
- Put the oil and chopped onion in another heavy bottomed saucepan and let cook for one minute over medium-high heat, until the onion is soft.
- Toss in the mushrooms and stir.
- Add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated with the oil.
- Turn the heat to high and add the Cava, letting it evaporate (watch it bubble and fizz!)
- Gradually add the hot stock one cup at a time, adding new stock when the previous cup has been absorbed, stirring constantly.

The whole cooking process should take 18 minutes. To be sure, taste the rice at the end, it shouldn’t be hard but definitely not too chewy either (al dente). I think I cooked mine a bit too long and that’s why it came out a little dry.

Once risotto is ready (al dente), take it off the heat, and stir in the butter and parmesan cheese. Add salt & pepper to taste, stir well, and let it rest for a few minutes.

Aside from my risotto coming out a tad on the dry side, everything else was just lovely and thrilling. I gently stirred the rice with a wooden fork (as I read here that using a fork avoids crushing the grains) and watched in wonder as it all came together. Pour in the stock…rice sips it up…repeat…watch the little white grains getting fatter and fatter. The smell was just amazing, and the flavor was wonderfully, intensely mushroom, with a mellow depth from the cava.

I’ll definitely be repeating this. Donna’s The New Cook has some interesting risotto recipes...

Thanks Cenzina for choosing such a smashing theme!