Risotto with Mushrooms

And on the 8th day he remembered he had forgotten to create food. So he quickly created something so simple, so tasty, so fulfilling that he knew people would still enjoy it, many, many years later. He called it Risotto.

Five Challenges When Making Risotto

We’re always too busy! We are tempted to buy risotto rice that cooks quickly and can be served in under 10 minutes.
Never rush a risotto. And by the way, what is so important that you don’t have 34 minutes to cook your own lovely, genuine, risotto? Why would quick be more important than tasty?

And since we are too busy anyway: why look for fresh cèpes if you can buy a pack of risotto rice with cèpes. Second mistake. You will not taste cèpes but a series of nasty E numbers and salt. Just look at the package! It will probably contain 0,01% of cèpes.

We think risotto is too basic, so we prepare a luxurious version! Let’s add tomatoes, or salmon, or spinach and pumpkin, or chicken, or saffron, shrimps and peas.
Please don’t. It will only ruin the lovely combination of rice, butter, stock and Parmesan cheese. With or without mushrooms, that’s your only choice.

Risotto is too heavy, let’s use Crème fraîche and not butter, or Mozarellla and not Parmesan and butter, or let’s simply skip the butter. Fourth mistake: butter and Parmesean cheese are essential, for the taste, the mouthfeel and the consistency.

We buy risotto-rice without checking if it’s the right rice. We use beautiful Carnaroli rice, superfine quality, produced by Acquerello. It doesn’t come cheap (we pay € 11,95 per kilo) but why would you not treat yourself to the best risotto rice? It has all the right qualities and the taste is outstanding.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Risotto with a glass of Soave. Some acidity, touch of bitterness, nicely balanced with the butter and the cheese. It’s light and fruity; it elevates the risotto.

What You Need

  • 70 grams of Acquerello rice
  • 1 Shallot
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 100 gram of Shiitake
  • 200 gram of mushrooms, for instance Chestnut Mushrooms
  • optional: 100 gram of Cèpes
  • Chicken Stock
  • Parmesan Cheese

What You Do

Peel and chop the shallot. Add butter and olive oil to the pan and glaze the shallot. In parallel clean and slice the various mushrooms. Feel free to use other mushrooms as well. We think the Shiitake is an important one because it adds depth to the taste. Bring the stock to a boil. After 5 minutes add the mushrooms to the pan and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add the rice to the pan and coat the rice for 2 minutes.
Start adding the stock, spoon by spoon and stir the rice frequently. When using Acquerello rice it takes 18 minutes. Check the rice. When okay, transfer the pan to the kitchen counter top and leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Add chunks of butter, stir, add a bit more butter and the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir, a bit of black pepper, add more butter or Parmesan cheese if so required. Serve immediately.

 

Insalata Caprese

Tomatoes

In 2013 the German culinary press characterised Dutch tomatoes as ‘wasserbomben’, let’s say ‘water balloons’. And they were right. Even more so, many tomatoes were, and still are, tasteless and watery. And since the Netherlands are in the top 3 of tomato exporting countries, you run the risk of buying a red balloon. Which is of course not what you want to do. So if you plan to make one of the simplest and tastiest starters ever, you have to find the best tomatoes ever. Or grow your own of course.

Mozzarella

Meaning Buffalo mozzarella, made from the milk of the Italian buffalo. Since 1993 it’s a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) and protected under EU law. It’s a young, moist, tasty cheese with a lovely soft, elastic but not chewy texture and it comes with a skin as a result of the shaping and pickling. The taste is more robust than mozzarella made from cow milk and it’s ideal for a salad. The cow version is best used for cooking. The smoked version should be ignored.

Basil

Someone should write ‘The Case of the Dying Basil’. A whodunit in which a clever detective will reveal why the basil plant you buy from the green grocer or supermarket will very likely die within 3 days, regardless what you do. And since they always die on us, we buy ‘fresh’ leaves.
The most used variety of basil is sweet or Genovese basil. Others are Thai basil (slightly spicy with a hint of anise) and red (or purple) basil (similar to sweet basil but more powerful). Alain Passard’s book Collages et Recettes includes a recipe for purple carrots with purple basil and cinnamon. Wonderful colours and a delicate taste.

Insalata Caprese

This salad stands or falls on the quality of the ingredients. And it requires the talent to keep things simple, so you have to stick to the 5 (five!) ingredients, meaning tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil and pepper. The salad does not come with balsamic vinegar, lettuce, pineapple nuts, salt, honey, croutons, oregano, mustard or a vinaigrette. Five ingredients. That’s it.
You wonder why? Because this way the Insalata Caprese is at its best. Tasty, sweet, rich, moist, fresh and a reflection of Italy and of summer. Adding an ingredient will worsen the concept of the salad and reduce its taste.

Wine Pairing

We suggest an excellent rosé, one with flavour and depth. For instance Monte del Frà Bardolino Chiaretto 2018. You’re looking for a wine with delicate scents of berries accompanied by light and refreshing hints of green apples and subtle spicy tones. On the palate the wine should reveal juicy sensations of red berries along with an appealing and refreshing acidity.

What You Need

  • Two Excellent Ripe Tomatoes
  • One Ball (125 gram) of Excellent Buffalo Mozzarella
  • Fresh Basil
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper

What You Do

Slice the tomatoes, slice the mozzarella and create the ‘tricolore’. Add fresh black pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Insalata Caprese © cadwu
Insalata Caprese © cadwu

Last Week’s Special – 36

Squid with Tomatoes and Red Wine

Don’t you love crispy Calamari with a glass of Pinot Grigio? A summer evening is ideal, but they are equally nice on a cold, winter’s evening. Such a wonderful combination, fried squid and crispy white wine. That is, if your Calamari is made of squid.

Go to your local supermarket and look for frozen Calamari. Interesting. All perfectly shaped, all perfectly the same size. Now go to your local fishmonger and buy (frozen) squid. How to cut perfect, similar sized rings from squid? Simple, you can’t.

Another interesting question: what happened to the tentacles?

If you prepare your own Calamari from fresh squid you will have rings (made from the mantle) in various sizes and shapes plus you will have tentacles and fins.
If you buy factory-produced ready to fry or eat Calamari you could be eating the real thing, but you could also be eating a fried mixture of left over squid, octopus, fish, flower and E-numbers. And to reduce your appetite for Calamari even more: factories treat the squid with sodium bicarbonate (and probably other chemicals) to make the meat softer. Bon Appétit!

Time to start cooking

The stew is a combination of squid, tomatoes, red wine and bay leaf, supported by shallot and garlic. The red wine in combination with the natural colour of the squid will help create a dark velvet red colour. This will take some time, but that’s fine, in the mean time the meat of the squid will become nice, tasty and soft. Bay leaf is essential. Feel free to add more. We finish the dish with parsley, just to give it an extra sharpness.

We enjoyed our stew as a starter with a glass of Inycon Estate, made of Viognier and Chardonnay. Inycon Estate is an international brand of Cantine Settesoli, a Sicilian wine producer. They produce a nice range of affordable wines, such as Nero D’Avola, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz. The combination of Viognier and Chardonnay works really well. The wine is both fruity, fresh and full-bodied.
When you eat the stew as a main, you could go for a light, cool, red wine. Not too complex because the stew is rather powerful.

Preparing squid

Buy a kilo of squid. In most cases the squid will be frozen, but that’s fine. The process of cleaning squid is simple and a bit messy. Not smelly by the way.

  1. Start by removing the head from the body. When you do this gently, you will also remove most of the internal organs of the squid.
  2. You may want to secure the ink for later use.
  3. Just below the eyes, cut off the tentacles using a knife or scissors. Remove the beak (located at the base of the tentacles). Discard internal organs and beak. Transfer the tentacles to a bowl.
  4. With your fingers remove the cartilage (this is the part that looks like it is made of plastic).
  5. Remove the skin of the mantle and fins. Best is to start in the middle and then gently pull the skin towards the top and bottom. Discard the skin.
  6. Remove the fins and transfer to the bowl with tentacles.
  7. Turn the mantle inside out by pushing the top into the mantle. This allows you to remove all internal organs and the membrane.
  8. Turn the mantle outside in by pushing the top into the mantle. Cut the mantle into rings and transfer to the bowl.
  9. Wash the rings, fins and tentacles with cold water.

Here is what you need

  • 1 kilo Squid (to be cleaned)
  • Olive Oil
  • Shallot
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Red Chilli
  • 500 grams of Excellent Red Tomatoes (peeled, seeded and cut in chunks)
  • Red Wine
  • Two Fresh Bay Leaves
  • Black Pepper
  • Parsley

Use a heavy, iron skillet for this stew. Cut the shallot in small bits and glaze gently in olive oil. Once the shallot is glazed add the garlic and the chilli. After a few minutes add the squid (rings, tentacles and fins). Let the liquid reduce for a few minutes, and then add the tomatoes, a glass of red wine and the bay leaf. Allow to slowly simmer for 4 hours. If necessary add a splash of water. Stir every 15 minutes. Just before serving add black pepper (be generous) and some parsley.
Serve with crusty bread (as a starter) or with red rice.

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

Such a lovely and simple dessert provided it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. And preferable use cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine.

Here is what you need:

  • 500 ml fresh Cream
  • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 25 gram Sugar
  • Candied Orange

Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until totally resolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you have removed all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add (in our case) 3,5 leaves. Stir well until homogenous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta’s cool and then store in the refrigerator. Maybe you need to stir a few times to make sure the vanilla seeds don’t and up on the bottom (later on top) of your panna cotta. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta’s will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
You can serve the panna cotta after a few hours (or the next day) with a rich strawberry or raspberry sauce, but we prefer to enjoy the panna cotta with a bit of candied orange zest, simply because we want to balance the sweetness and richness of the panna cotta with the acidity and bitterness of the orange. Home made is preferred, see the recipe for an Orange Flan.

Panna Cotta © cadwu
Panna Cotta © cadwu

Antonio Carluccio

Inspiration

Sadly Antonio Carluccio passed away this week on Wednesday November 8th 2017. To us he has been a true inspiration, especially when it comes to mushrooms. Thanks to him we started to explore a wide variety of mushrooms, such as Ceaser’s mushrooms and Pied Blue. His books on mushrooms showed us the world beyond the classics mushroom recipes. Every year we prepare his oysters with sabayon and white truffle. Pure magic.

Carluccio also showed us that you need to be a chef to create Michelin star worthy food, and that you need to be a decent cook to create tasty and healthy daily food. A combination of olives, pancetta, cheese, artichokes and a glass of red wine is a great way to start your meal and will only take you a bit of shopping and 5 minutes to present the food. And reading his books: you can learn how to be a decent cook.

MoF MoF

He said his motto was “mof mof” – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. No doubt a lot of hard work is required to reach that level, but let us assure you: it’s a great motto for daily cooking.