• Farro risotto with mushroom

    There are many more staples then pasta, bread or rice. Take farro, unjustly fallen out of favour.

    Happy and delicious New Year to you all! As is traditional here at The Epicurean, the first column of the year is devoted to learning something new. Perhaps a new technique or flavour combination, or maybe just a new ingredient. On this occasion we look back in time to search for our future.

    We tend to focus on very few grains for our meals nowadays and most of them come in processed form. Pasta, bread, rice, potatoes – those are our staples. However, there are more options available to us than we realise and many of them were staples in the past but have now fallen out of favour.

    One of these is farro, a term that I use to refer to most types and sizes of wheat berries (or kernels), though it is also sometimes used to refer to spelt. It is what is usually ground into flour and forms the backbone of the baking industry, but it is also available as kernels (look for tarwe at Le Souk or EkoPlaza). It is sweet and earthy in flavour, very nutritious, with a good texture and forgiving to the chef, because it doesn’t overcook as easily as rice or pasta. Today we will use it to make a risotto of sorts with two types of mushrooms, dried and fresh. Both can be found at the mushroom stand on the Vismarkt.

    A lot of flavor

    Dry porcini may seem pricey, but you get a lot of flavour from very few. Start by soaking the porcini in 350ml of just-boiled water for 30 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Separate the shimeji and nameko (or any other mushrooms you bought) from the woody roots and brush them clean. Place a frying pan over a high heat, add 1tbsp of olive oil and fry the mushrooms briskly until they are lightly coloured and soft (for 3-4 minutes). While they are still hot, add them to a bowl in which you have mixed the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, the rest of the olive oil and the chilli sauce. Let the marinade cool while you cook the risotto.

    Sweat the onion in the butter for five minutes in a large pan, until it is soft but not coloured. Add the farro and toast lightly over a medium heat. Deglaze with the wine, and when it has all evaporated add the stock, the soaking liquid from the porcini, and the porcini, sliced thickly.

    Tender with a bite

    Season with salt and cook covered over a medium-low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed or evaporated and the farro is tender with a little bite (about 30-35 minutes). You may need to add a little bit more liquid (water is fine) if you see the pan drying out before the farro is cooked.

    Take it off the heat, add the cheeses and beat with a wooden spoon until they are creamy. Season with black pepper and add salt if necessary. Serve generously in bowls topped with some of the marinated mushrooms and their liquid.

    Interested? Then print the text version of this recipe!

    • Farro with mushroom

      Ingredients (for 4 people)

      40g dried porcini
      150g each of shimeji (beukenzwam) and nameko mushrooms
      2tbsp olive oil
      2tbsp soy sauce
      2tbsp rice vinegar
      ½tsp sugar
      1tsp chilli sauce
      1 large diced onion
      2tbsp butter
      300g farro
      200ml dry white wine
      1lt chicken or vegetable stock
      100g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
      100g mascarpone