While I consider myself rather lucky to be living in a gorgeous part of an inner suburb surrounded by park lands, I can’t really consider myself a nature forager. And this is the type of dish that’s well known among the mushroom foragers.
So imagine how excited I was when I came across a stall holder at our local farmers’ market selling bags of these pine mushrooms (also known as saffron milk caps for its gorgeous orange coloured ‘milk’ that appears when the mushroom is cut) I promptly handed Mini Me over to Josh and quickly grabbed one of the last bags on offer. For the rest of the market trip, I was constantly stopped by other market goers and quizzed about where I bought these mushrooms from. While never having them before, I knew I was onto a good thing.
The lunch that follows our once-a-month farmers’ market trip is always very simple. We have a rule that when you have the best and the freshest ingredients, we don’t mess with it. And this risotto is no different.
Cleaning Pine Mushrooms (Saffron Milk Caps)
(not the cleanest mushrooms, are they?)
The batch of mushrooms we got seemed rather dirty and really needed cleaning. I later found out that the blue stains on the mushrooms were caused by the ‘milk’ of the milk caps oxidizing. However, after consulting a few cookbooks and online, I decided on these very simple steps which worked really well.
- Use a pastry brush to brush off any dirt or grass.
- Use the end of a small knife to scrap off any other unclean bits that didn’t come off with the brush.
- Rinse briefly under cold tap. (I saved the rinsing water and poured it onto the nearest pine tree. You know, just in case!)
(cleaning the mushroom with a pastry brush)
Don’t worry about washing away the flavours of these mushrooms. They were perfectly fine. In fact, I would say they need a little bit of liquid to steam while we grill them.
Quick Chicken Stock
For a vegetarian version, substitute with your usual good vegetable stock.
- 1 meaty chicken frame
- 1 litre water
- any vegetable offcuts you can find such as carrot peels and tops, parsley stalks, celery or onion
- a good quality vegetable stock cube
Rinse chicken frame and place in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to boil. Leave on boiling for about 10 minutes. Add vegetable off cut and stock cube. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes while you prepare other ingredients. Keep the stock hot when making the risotto.
Risotto For Two
- 1 cup of risotto rice (I used Carnoroli, you can use others but adjust the amount of stock accordingly)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 3 sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves picked (substitute with normal thyme and a bit of lemon zest)
- 4 large slices of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in a cup of hot water, reserve soaking water
Heat olive oil in a thick bottom frying pan or saucepan, very slowly fry shallot and onion for about 10 minutes until translucent but not coloured. The onion and shallot will be nice and sweet and contribute to the dish. Turn up the heat to medium and add rice. Fry the rice for about 2-3 minutes or until the rice become too hot to touch.
Splash in the white wine until evaporated. Add the lemon thyme (or thyme) leaves. Add the porcini soaking water and chopped up porcini and a ladle of stock. Stir constantly and keep adding stock – until the rice is just cooked with a bite in the middle. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Note that different rice requires cooking methods so follow the packet instruction about cooking time and amount of liquid.
The consistently of the risotto needs to be creamy and oozy.
- 200 g saffron milk caps (substitute with field mushrooms), sliced into large piecse
- 1 tbsp melt butter
- 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 sprig of lemon thyme, leaves picked
Mix chopped garlic into melted butter. Grill mushroom pieces on cast iron grill or plate until slightly charred and smoky on both sides. Brush with garlic butter. this should take about 10-15 minutes for the saffron milk caps. If you are using normal field mushrooms, they will cook slightly quicker. Once cooked, transferred into the rest of the garlic butter and sprinkle on the lemon thyme. Cover and keep warm.
Putting It All Together
Once the risotto is done. Turn off the heat and add a dollop of butter and a grating of parmesan. Cover and rest for a minute. Serve in a nice warm bowl topped with grilled, garlicky mushrooms.
So heavenly. Perfect dish for the cold weather.
And so even though we have moved onto a very crisp first day of Winter today, my memories are still lingering on the lovely Autumn we had. And who knows? Next year, you might see our little family foraging for these lovely mushrooms.