The festive season is in full swing. The trees are decorated, the presents wrapped – hopefully. Christmas parties and secret Santa gifts are almost done with for another year. It’s time to turn our attention to celebrating.
When you’re entertaining at home it’s best to keep things simple. Have a couple of bottles of Prosecco (or even some Prosecco cocktails) ready to offer as an arrival drink and set up a drinks station so that people can help themselves after that. Food-wise, stick to one or two dishes, again that you can put out on a table for guests to help themselves to.
As a starter or amuse-bouche, I’m sharing a great all-round recipe – a vegan mushroom risotto. This will cover vegan, vegetarian and even gluten-free guests, and it’s tasty to boot. I tend to part-cook my risotto, so that when guests start to arrive I can just finish it off (rather than letting it sit for too long and overcooking). Then, simply serve in a selection of espresso or small coffee cups with teaspoons – the more eclectic the mix, the better!
I recently wrote about the secret to a basic risotto. For my vegan risotto, I use olive oil, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, a selection of mushrooms and some porcini stock, made by simply soaking some dried porcini mushrooms. You could use porcini stock cubes, but keep in mind that not all pre-made stocks and stock cubes are gluten-free. As an extra, you could grate in some vegan cheese. I like to use fresh thyme to add a little colour and fragrance, too.
Another tip is to fry your mushrooms in a little olive oil separately and then to simply stir them through your risotto towards the end to avoid it turning a dark, grey colour!
Ren’s vegan risotto recipe
Serves 12 (in small cups)
1 packet dried porcini mushrooms
1¼ litres of hot water
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
400g arborio risotto rice
150g mixed mushrooms
Optional: 50g grated vegan cheese
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- In a medium-sized pan, pour the boiling water over the dried porcini mushrooms. Leave to soak for a few minutes and then keep on a very gentle heat.
- Peel the onions, carrots and garlic and finely chop, along with the celery. Add a good drizzle of olive oil into a pan (I use a 24cm, heavy-based casserole pan) and tip in the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook on a gentle heat for around ten minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
- Next, stir in the rice, making sure the grains are coated with the oil in the pan, then add a ladleful of your simmering porcini mushroom stock. It will bubble and evaporate quite quickly, so add a ladleful more and stir. Each ladleful of stock should be absorbed before adding the next.
- The rice should take around fifteen minutes to cook, with regular additions of stock and a little stir. The grains should still have a little bite to them but the dish itself will have become naturally creamy.
- If you are cooking this for guests, you can take the risotto pan off the heat around ten minutes into your cooking time when the rice should still have quite a firm bite to it.
- In a separate frying pan, fry the mushrooms in a little olive oil. You can also add the dried, rehydrated mushrooms from the stock, if you used any. Once coloured add a little fresh thyme.
- To finish the risotto, add the last of the stock, a little grated vegan cheese if using, some fresh thyme and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat through and check that the rice is cooked before serving.
Fill small espresso cups with the cooked risotto and sprinkle over some of the cooked mushrooms and thyme, then layout for the guests to tuck in to.
If you want to master the basics, here’s Gennaro to show you how to make the perfect risotto: