The key to serving up a delicious risotto is texture – you want to strike a balance between dry and gluggy, leaving a little al dente firmness to the rice. Risotto is also a supremely adaptable dish – simply follow the standard cooking method, then just add your cooked ingredients at the end.
1.6 litres good-quality chicken stock
70g unsalted butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
800g mixed mushrooms such as buttons, swiss browns, saffron milk caps, shiitakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 medium brown onion, finely diced
2½ cups carnaroli rice
½ cup dry white wine
150g small peas (frozen are fine)
100g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
2. Place a wide, heavy pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Trim and slice the mushrooms (and discard stems of shiitakes), season with salt and pepper, and cook until they have given off their liquid and the liquid has reduced to about 1 tbsp, about 10 minutes. Add brandy and cook until it has almost evaporated (1-2 minutes). Add half the thyme and cook for another minute, then remove mushrooms and set aside.
3. Place the pot back on the heat. Add 1 tbsp of butter and remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until the grains start to turn opaque. Add the wine and stir until it evaporates completely, about 2 minutes.
4. Add about 1 cup of stock and cook, stirring constantly, until it has all been absorbed by the rice. Continue adding stock, half a cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing it to be absorbed before adding more. If the rice begins to stick to the pot, lower the heat.
5. After about 15 minutes, when there is only about a quarter of the stock remaining, stir the fresh peas into the risotto (if using frozen peas, add just before finishing). Continue to cook until the rice has lost any chalkiness but is still firm to the bite.
6. Fold mushrooms, remaining butter and parmesan into the rice. Taste and check seasoning. You may need to add more stock to adjust the texture of the risotto just before you serve – it should be quite wet and soft enough to just hold its shape. Divide among 4 wide plates and serve with remaining thyme as a garnish.