Mushroom Risotto with My (Not So) Secret Ingredient

As I mentioned in my last post, I have recently got back from Genoa, my Italian hometown. I brought back over 10 kg worth of extra luggage and no, it wasn’t all clothes and shoes, thank you very much. I also took to Blighty a few kitchen utensils from my Granny’s kitchen and a whole load of food and wine: a bottle of Barolo, one of Bonarda, one of Prosecco, a huge bottle of excellent extra virgin olive oil, a big Pandoro for the joy of my colleagues, a small pandoro, a Pandolce Genovese (a typical Genoese Christmas cake), some chocolate, gnocchetti al basilico (basil baby gnocchi) and . . . my secret ingredient, STAR porcini mushroom stock cubes. As one would expect, the wine and prosecco bottles are long gone already, and so are the two pandori and the chocolate. The basil gnocchi have also been cooked and will be thoroughly featured in another post. The star of today’s post, however, is the mushroom stock:

I love the fact that this famous Italian brand hasn’t practically changed their logo and box design since pretty much the ‘50s, but most of all I love the flavour these cubes give!

I couldn’t wait, I had to pick a packet of mushrooms on my way home and cook some risotto right after my flight. Who needs unpacking when you have il dado ai funghi porcini?

Here is my very personal recipe (well, the one my mum taught me years ago with the helping of the special stock) for two portions.

The pictures were taken by me but edited by my two favourite picture experts, Rol and Sara.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 180 gr Arborio (risotto) rice
  • A medium glass of dry white wine
  • 150 gr of fresh mixed (or, if you find them, porcini) mushrooms or 75 gr of dried ones
  • 1 and ½ porcini mushroom stock cubes to be dissolved in 750 ml of water
  • ½ tbs of butter
  • 4 tsps grated Parmigiano Reggiano


First of all, if you are using dried mushrooms, soak them in lukewarm water for at least half an hour, drain them and set them aside. Chop the garlic and onion finely. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and add the chopped aromatics. Cook them until they’re soft and golden. In the meantime prepare the stock and keep it simmering very gently on one side. Add the rice into the frying pan and stir it thoroughly into the onions and garlic, letting it ‘toast’ for a minute or two in order to sear (coat) it. Turn the heat right up and pour in the wine. The heat needs to be very high at this stage because you want the alcohol to evaporate fairly quickly, as you don’t want to boil the rice into it. Once the rice starts drying off, turn the flame back down to medium heat. It’s now time to add in the mushrooms and a ladleful of stock. Keep stirring the rice; make sure you do not leave it unattended as it takes a split second for the whole content to go super dry and burn. Keep adding the stock gradually until the rice is completely cooked, which shouldn’t take any longer than 20 minutes. Now taste the risotto and see if it lacks any salt. It really shouldn’t as the stock should be sufficient for flavour – although better safe than sorry! Once ready, add the butter and a couple of teaspoons of grated cheese (remember, you are cooking Italian food so please, refrain from adding cheddar . . . you know who you are!), stir to allow all the ingredients to hobnob and the butter and cheese to melt and finally plate the dish. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, some extra Parmigiano if you so wish and garnish with fresh or dried flat-leaf parsley or coriander.

You’re going to love this!

Easy-peasy Wonderful Mince Pies

It’s Christmas! And as such it’s time for Yuletide baking. With this in mind, I decided to bake mince pies. Initially I wanted to make pastry and mince meat, but when I realised just how much of a fuss it is, and considering that I am pretty busy, I decided to buy two different mince meat fillings from Waitrose and see which one worked best. This recipe will yield I’d say about 20 to 22 mince pies but I made 18 and used what was left of the dough to make heart- and teddy-shaped soft cookies to hang onto my Christmas tree.


What you’ll need:

  • 225 g cold butter, diced
  • 350 g plain flour
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 400 g mincemeat (you can find ready-made mincemeat in most supermarkets. I tried the Classic Waitrose Mincemeat and the Cranberry and Port Waitrose Mincemeat, which was by far the best)
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of cold water
  • icing sugar, to dust


Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix the beaten egg and water and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl and knead well. It will look like there is way too much flour to begin with, but trust me, keep working the mixture and feel free to count this as part of your workout for the week! When the dough is almost ready add half of the egg mixture and knead a little more, until you have a smooth ball of buttery dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least half an hour.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/fan assisted 180°C. Butter 18 holes of muffin tins and line them by pressing big walnut-sized balls of pastry into each hole. Spoon the mincemeat into the pies. Pick slightly smaller balls of pastry from your Mother Dough Ball and pat them out between your hands to make round lids. Top the pies with their lids, pressing the edges gently together to seal the pies. Brush the tops with the rest of the egg mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then sprinkle with icing sugar. I made two paper templates, a star and a holly leaf and held them over the mince pies while dusting the sugar to make them look extra cute.