Thursday, August 5, 2010


Sometimes I want to eat what's fresh and seasonal. Sometimes modern agricultural technologies provide me with autumnal vegetables in the summer and, you know what, sometimes it's great.

Mushrooms are, I find, one of the more controversial vegetables, or rather fungi. Seems like people either really like them or don't like them at all. I wouldn't be discussing them if I didn't like them. There are so many kinds of mushrooms that I like, and i appreciate them all. In Kuwait, our selection is a bit limited because we don't have the woods nearby where these great undergrowth-dwellers reside. Instead, we get them flown over from Holland usually and are given the selection of white mushrooms, portobellos or crimini (baby portobellos.) From some small markets downtown, I can sometimes find inoki, oyster and a variety of dried asian mushrooms. Given this lack of selection, we have to be creative in how to use them.

The photo above is of portobellos that i served with steak once. For me, the goal is to get the mushrooms cooked to the best texture. Here, i cooked the mushrooms very slowly in olive oil, worcestershire sauce, honey, soy sauce and chili flakes. Using the same kind of marination, the best results I've reached were through smoking the mushrooms whole at a low smoke temperature - that imparted a nice smoky taste from the wood chips i used. I also like these giant mushrooms very basically marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic and grill them on the barbecue.

Another great application is a mushroom risotto - and I could actually get away with making a vegan version of this risotto by making sure that i put as much mushroom flavour into the dish and using as many different kinds of mushroom to give the variety of flavours and textures that make the dish interesting. And here is a recipe for that:

  • about 2.75 litres of water
  • a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms - make sure to rinse them first to remove the gritty grains of soil. But especially with the dried ones, don't soak them - you want to retain the mushroom taste for the stock.
  • a big leek, a carrot and a stick or two of celery
  • a few black peppercorns
  • Combine the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to just simmering, or slightly bubbling. cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Drain and reserve the stock. Keep warm for the risotto cooking process in a separate pan.
  • stock (above)
  • 400 g carnaroli or arborio rice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • one large white onion chopped very small - so that the pieces are the same size as the rice
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar (wine substitute)
  • about 750 g of a selection of mushrooms, cut into various sizes. this is variable and will depend on your preference and available kinds of mushrooms.
  • a handful of parsley, chopped. 
  • salt and pepper - to taste
The mix of mushrooms you choose will depend on what you have on hand or could manage to find. Note that the different mushrooms will have different cooking times - so if the mushrooms are tough, like trumpet mushrooms, then they should go in early, while frail mushrooms should go in a bit before the end. However, be careful that you watch out for the moisture of the dish as you cook it - mushrooms release quite a bit of moisture content - you don't want soup, you want risotto. Since this is a vegan dish, you want more mushrooms. There will be no parmesan and butter to give creaminess to the dish. the stock should be kept warm on a burner next to the one you will use to cook the risotto. have a ladle ready to transfer some stock incrementally through the cooking process.
  1. in a heavy-based pan, sautee the onions in the olive oil over a moderate heat. continue for 6 or so minutes until the onions are softened but not coloured. 
  2. add the rice and continue to heat until the rice is crackling and ready to drink the stock. maybe 2-3 minutes. again, make sure no colouring goes on.
  3. add the rice vinegar and 2 ladles of stock. they should boil furiously upon contact. i usually add some diced white mushrooms at this point.
  4. keep stirring the risotto and add a ladle of stock as it dries out. However, never let the rice dry out. you want a nice thick sauce to always surround your rice. keep this up for about 15 minutes or so - until the rice is done but still has a little bit of a bite. As you go, throw in a handful or two of your sliced mushrooms. I like to add them as I cook to have a variety of textures.
  5. Once you've finished your rice, and there is still a nice sauce around it, turn off the heat. let it rest a couple of minutes, then add the parsley, salt and pepper and serve. 
It's as simple as that.


  1. Just a small suggestion. Since you mentioned 400g of arborio or carnaroli rice, it would be a good idea to mention the serving size. Like in this it would be 4 very hungry people as a standalone meal. And I think if you using wine it would be white wine about a cup (250ml), if available.

  2. Sorry my bad. It should be 125ml of wine if available not a cup as mentioned earlier.