Risotto and the Hero’s Journey–Part 2 (Recipe!)

Welcome back and to Friday, friends, and get your aprons on! We’re connecting the hero’s journey  with a risotto recipe my current guest, Aussie author James Stratford, has taken many years to perfect. (Read the intro post here.) Haven’t attempted making risotto before but this one DEFINITELY sounds like a ‘must try.’ 

About the Author: James Stratford is an educator and author of numerous publications on the hero and international strategy. His blog, Beyond the Call, shares reflections on his own approach to  learning and personal development that are often inspired by the great hero ancient and modern stories. James is also a keen cyclist and traveler and a lover of great food – preferably all together. He lives with his wife and son in Melbourne, Australia. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

James S--Hero Within

James Stratford
An appropriate photo choice–yea? Or so say the Aussies I know!

It’s all yours, James!

Today I’d like to share one of my favourite family meals with you.

Risotto, like pasta, is wonderful dish as it is so versatile. You can adjust the flavors and consistency for any time of year and it can be made with as few or as many ingredients as you happen to have in the pantry. In this post, I’ll share with you my take on the classic mushroom risotto which is a favorite with my family.

Risotto is basically rice cooked in such a way that it absorbs all the flavors you bring to it, which typically include butter and/or olive oil, onion, wine or beer, vegetables and or meat or fish of your liking.

There are two tricks to getting it right: good ingredients and care. The second of these is what puts off many cooks, and one of the reasons I rarely order this in a restaurant as there are no shortcuts. Timing is essential, from the regular, almost constant stirring to the serving. Once it is cooked and the rice is just al dente, slightly resistant to the tooth, it has to be served and eaten immediately or it will quickly become a heavy if yummy stodge. Saying this, leftovers are great fried up as patties or rissoles. But that’s another story.

For two generous serves you will need:

–   a deep saucepan with a heavy base, iron or non-stick.

1 cup arborio rice (Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano are also good)

–   1 stock cube (I use Massel) or preferably a good fresh stock, either chicken or vegetable.

–   A generous handful of fresh thinly sliced field mushrooms, swiss brown etc. Porcini are traditional and if you have them in the dried form let them soak for a couple of hours or until they become nice and soft

–   1 brown (a.k.a. yellow) onion, finely diced into very small pieces.

–   75-100g good quality butter (that’s roughly 6-7 tablespoons, or 3-3.5 ounces)

–   1 tbs Extra Virgin olive oil

–   2 cups of beer or white wine

–   Salt and pepper to taste.

–   A handful of freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano) finely grated.

Start by melting half your butter and a little oil to sauté the onion. Once the onion is translucent add your mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until they are evenly done, say 4-5 minutes. If you’re using stock cubes, crumble one in now with a generous splash of beer.

Re liquid amounts, I can’t be that specific. The idea is to add liquid gradually, like a ladle or two at a time.This is my cheat method and it works because I know how much flavoring I need. Normally you just add the stock in a ladle at a time. A good malty beer, German, Belgian or Australian, will be lovely. White wine is typical for this, but I found that beer works beautifully, especially with earthy mushrooms. You can even use a stout like Guinness. Into this you pour in the rice and turn it through. You want to make sure it mixes thoroughly though and absorbs most of the moisture in the pot. After a minute or so the grains will begin to change color and will lose their chalky white color. This is good.

Risotto 1
Some of the goodies you’ll need.
risotto 2
Sauteing your veggies in butter and a little olive oil

From here on you want to add your liquid gradually. You don’t want to add in too much in case the liquid cooks before it has been absorbed. A couple of ladles at a time is fine. If you’ve used my cheat method you’ll just be adding hot water now. The important thing now is to just stand by it and stir it lovingly every couple of minutes so it doesn’t stick too much. (Pour yourself and your lovely partner a beer or a nice dry white wine and turn on some classical guitar to add to the ambiance; John William’s Seville Concert goes especially well with this, or maybe the Three Tenors for old times sake.)

After around 10 minutes, taste a single grain and a little of the liquid just to get an indication of how well cooked the rice is and whether you need to add more seasoning. At this point you might want to add another splash of beer, just half a cup or so. I taste regularly, every couple of minutes from this point, to avoid overcooking it. As you’re using stock you won’t need to add salt until it’s served.

Once the rice is just al dente, turn through another little bit of butter, say 50g, and a small handful of grated parmagiano. Serve immediately with more cheese, some freshly chopped parsley and cracked pepper. This is lovely as a winter dish by itself or as an entree.

Ah,the fruits of one’s labor, ready to be savored!

Variations: You can also add thing like peas, prawns (similar to shrimp), or chicken from last night’s roast. Experiment. It’s also nice to sprinkle some diced bacon or pancetta at very end with some some toasted pine nuts.

Another favorite variation is to use a tomato puree instead of the mushrooms and white wine. This is nicer when it’s quite soupy. You still have to watch the rice, just that you want to have more liquid at the end and add white wine close to serving to add a lovely acidity.

Sounds like the perfect dish to make on one of those lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoons when I’m in the mood to try something new. For my family to eat it though, I’d have to skip the mushrooms. (Hubby thinks he’s allergic–tells me they make his ears grow.) 

Special thanks to Dr. James for spending the week with us! If you please, take a moment to visit his very inspiring blog. Take a moment and say, “Hi.”  (What quicker way to make it to the land Down Under?) And won’t you please take a moment to SHARE before you leave?

Have a wonderful weekend all. NFL Conference Championship games this weekend and Aussie Open Tennis will keep this girl occupied. See you all next week! Take care and thanks for stopping in 🙂


7 thoughts on “Risotto and the Hero’s Journey–Part 2 (Recipe!)

  1. I’d love to give the tomato puree a try as I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, though it’s not like I’d say no to a mushroom risotto. 🙂

    I like the idea of adding beer, too. I’ll have to see if I’ll ever be ambitious enough to give this a try. Looks wonderful!


    1. I hear you, Carrie. I love the mushroom idea, but I’d have to make a smaller scale of the recipe. I’m very interested in how the beer makes anything taste. Never used it in any recipe. I do love cooking with wine, red and white. Thanks!


        1. I like chicken marsala, but I like white wine chicken recipes even better. My favorite has a little story that goes with it; maybe I’ll just re-post it next week 🙂 I also happen to love any kind of lemon-wine recipe, like my version of shrimp scampi. So good. Have a great extended weekend!


  2. Feel free to drop me a line if you want any clarification. Risotto typically takes a bit of practice to get the rice right. Most people overcook it. Another good one I’ve been doing recently (on the theme of cooking with wine/beer etc) is using left over coq au vin as a pasta ragu. It’s fantastic! Enjoy and bon appetite!


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