A good risotto is an exercise in balanced simplicity. A few simple ingredients are transformed into an unctuous dish; creaminess countered by a hint of acidity, richness balanced with clean flavours. The key player in this symphony is, of course, the rice. Two varieties are typically used in risotti, Arborio and Carnaroli. Both can be found at Basarz, the Italian deli on the Vismarkt. The short, starchy grains absorb liquid readily and become creamy as they are stirred frequently over the 20-25 minutes of cooking time.
Wild mushrooms are a wonderful treat, when you can find them. Since foraging for them is not an option for most of us, we are lucky to be able to buy them at the market throughout the year. Autumn is traditionally the main mushroom season, but there are also spring varieties (like morels), varieties that grow year-round, as well as cultivated varieties, so there is always the opportunity to cook with them.
Maybe it’s the recent spell of summery weather, maybe it’s the return to grey skies and the inevitable wish to be in Spain, sipping red wine and eating tapas, but whatever it is, I found myself the other day thinking about a dish called pulpo a la Gallega, or Galician Octopus.
It’s difficult not to notice the arrival of autumn, even if you’re still waiting for a summer that never was. The chestnuts are about to burst through their armoured shells, wild mushrooms are shyly poking their caps through the soil, and summer fruits are looking unhappy and getting pricier on the market stands. Today we’ll welcome the change of seasons with a recipe that makes the most of a traditionally autumnal vegetable, fennel, but has the lightness and playfulness of a summer dish.