With the aroma of wild marjoram and earthy Old Winchester, this mushroom risotto is a wonderful, hearty dish for early autumn evenings. I love using the puffball itself as a bowl, scooping out the inner flesh to bring flavour to the risotto before returning it to the ball for a funky way to dine. It’s best to pop the hollowed out puffball into a bowl to add extra support and ensure the juices don’t seep through, plus you can gobble up the outer flesh afterwards. Once again, I’ve used Old Winchester cheese as a vegetarian substitute for parmesan, but if you want to use the latter, a great way to add extra flavour is to cut the tough rind up into tiny cubes and mix them into the risotto. They are too hard to melt, but will soften into delicious chunks that fill each spoonful with even more wonderful cheesiness.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- Glug of olive oil
- 1 puffball mushroom
- 300g arborio rice
- 200ml dry white wine
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 100g Old Winchester cheese,
- 50g dried oyster mushrooms,
- Sprinkle of dried wild marjoram
- Sea salt and pepper to season
- Start by finely chopping the onion and garlic.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium sized stock pot and add the onion and garlic into the oil, frying gently for a few minutes until soft.
- Next, use a spoon or knife to carefully carve out the middle of the puffball mushroom, similar to scooping the seeds out of a pumpkin. Leave a thick wall so the puffball is still fairly solid but the hole is large enough to hold a portion of risotto, then place the hollowed puffball to one side.
- Take the scooped out flesh and weigh out 250g, then leave the rest aside for another recipe later in the week.
- Chop the measured flesh roughly into half-inch-thick chunks and add these to the onion and garlic.
- Cook gently for 8–10 minutes, on a low to medium heat until soft, then add the dry arborio rice and stir well for one minute.
- Add the white wine and mix thoroughly, allowing it to bubble for a few minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Then add a third of the vegetable stock, mixing well until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and swollen slightly.
- Repeat twice more until all the stock has been absorbed and the risotto is looking plump and delicious. When the rice is cooked (taste testing essential), add the dried oyster mushrooms, wild marjoram and two thirds of the cheese.
- Season and mix through for a minute or two, then use a ladle to scoop the risotto back into the puffball mushroom.
- If you want to serve two dishes, simply slice the puffball in half to create plate shapes. Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and serve.
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Excerpted from Food You Can Forage by Tiffany Francis, published in paperback by Bloomsbury, £16.99