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Oven-baked Wild Mushroom Risotto

I've always loved real Italian risotto, a creamy mass with the rice grains al dente – but oh, the bother of all that stirring to make it. Then, one day, I was making a good old-fashioned rice pudding and I thought, why not try a risotto in the oven? Why not indeed – it works like a dream and leaves you in peace to enjoy the company of your friends while it's cooking. I have since discovered, in fact, that in Liguria they do make a special kind of baked risotto called rice arrosto, so my version turns out to be quite authentic after all.

 Oven-baked Wild Mushroom Risotto

  Serves 6 as a starter

 ½ oz (10g) dried porcini mushrooms
 8 oz (225 g) fresh dark-gilled mushrooms
 2½ oz (60 g) butter
 1 medium onion, finely chopped
 6 oz (175 g) Italian carnaroli rice
 5 fl oz (150 ml) dry Madeira
 2 level tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), plus 2 oz (50 g) extra, shaved into flakes with a potato peeler
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300°F (150°C).
Need help with conversions?
You will also need a 9 inch square (23 cm) shallow ovenproof dish of 2½ pint (1.5 litre) capacity, approximately 2 inches (5 cm) deep.

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (Nov 1993).


First of all you need to soak the dried mushrooms and, to do this, you place them in a bowl and pour 1 pint (570 ml) of boiling water over them. Then just leave them to soak and soften for half an hour. Meanwhile, chop the fresh mushrooms into ½ inch (1 cm) chunks – not too small, as they shrink down quite a bit in the cooking. Now melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the onion and let it cook over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes, then add the fresh mushrooms, stir well and leave on one side while you deal with the porcini.

When they have had their half-hour soak, place a sieve over a bowl, line the sieve with a double sheet of kitchen paper and strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Squeeze any excess liquid out of them, then chop them finely and transfer to the pan to join the other mushrooms and the onion. Keep the heat low and let the onions and mushrooms sweat gently and release their juices – which will take about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the dish in the oven to warm.

Now add the rice and stir it around to get a good coating of butter, then add the Madeira, followed by the strained mushroom soaking liquid. Add a level teaspoon of salt and some freshly milled black pepper, bring up to simmering point, then transfer the whole lot from the pan to the warmed dish. Stir once, then place it on the centre shelf of the oven without covering. Set a timer and give it 20 minutes exactly.

After that, gently stir in the grated Parmesan, turning the rice grains over. Now put the timer on again and give it a further 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and put a clean tea cloth over it while you invite everyone to be seated. Like soufflés, risottos won't wait, so serve presto pronto on warmed plates and sprinkle with the shavings of Parmesan.


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