By popular demand (popular here being maybe 5 people in my instagram DMs) I’ve resolved to start posting my recipes on my blog.
Cooking is obviously a great passion of mine, but I’ve been somewhat resistant to doing this – partly because my methods are a little slap-dash and improvisational. I tend to take my inspiration from restaurant dishes and of course our old friend the internet, then make it up as I go along, according to what’s in season, what’s on offer, and / or what we have in the fridge. My signature dish at university was always ‘leftover surprise’; my hatred of food waste has strong roots and will always factor into what I eat. I’ve thus tried to adapt my recipes to this, offering suggestions for swaps here and there and even a ‘leftover rating’.
I thought I’d start with my recipe for Wild Mushroom Farro ‘Risotto’.
I’ve loved Farro since I visited Milan as a broke student in 2017 – I picked it up at a supermarket and cooked it at our poky airbnb studio flat, and was totally sold. To my chagrin, I returned to the UK after my trip to find that Farro was not widely sold there. You can thus imagine my delight to now be living on the Swiss-Italian border – it’s a beautiful place, but availability of grains is obviously my foremost concern!
Essentially, Farro is just a wheat grain (which wheat species actually depends on the variety purchased in store – I found this out literally just now on Wikipedia) but I’ve always been a sucker for super simple grains (think pearl barley, bulgur and freekeh). There’s just something so comforting about them to me. Maybe it’s my Scottish / Irish blood…
Farro’s most common use here is in salads, often simply with cherry tomatoes and rocket, but much like pearl barley, I also find that it forms the base of a wonderful slightly lower-GI risotto. The cooking method is similar, and this particular recipe is accidentally vegan. I served it cooled as a kind of hearty salad with truffled burrata on top, but it would also be lovely served hot, accompanied with parmesan or for a vegan twist topped with toasted pine nuts.
Beneath the recipe I have listed some swaps where certain ingredients are unavailable (or just ridiculously expensive).
Serves 2 generously, 4 as a starter or topped with burrata
For the farro risotto:
2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp vegetable bouillon (or one cube stock)
100g leek (about 1/2 a trimmed leek), sliced into rounds
1 large clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup farro
75ml white wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. Put the kettle on to boil and weigh your porcini in a generous sized bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over porcini, mix in stock and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
2. Remove mushrooms from stock mixture (but don’t pour away the liquid!) and chop.
3. Cut leek into rounds and crush garlic. Fry the leek in olive oil on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until beginning to soften / brown somewhat, then add the garlic and hydrated mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute.
4. Measure out white wine and pour about 1/4 over the leek mixture, cooking for about a minute.
5. Add farro to pan, stirring until liquid is absorbed. Continue to pour wine into mix in 1/4 measures, stirring until absorbed.
6. Once 75ml of wine has been absorbed, begin to pour in the stock, using the same 1/4 at a time and stirring method.
7. Taste test regularly – you want the farro to be a little al dente (and I’ve never been good at math) so you may need a little less or more water… I also added a little salt and pepper, but I’ll leave those measurements up to you.
8. Turn off heat, stir in 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and pour over a little olive oil (living in Italy you must abandon any lingering fear of oil). Et voila! Unless you fancy more mushrooms, in which case see below:
For the balsamic roasted mushroom topping:
250g mushrooms (I used chanterelles bc they were on offer, but these are super expensive and normal ones are good too)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic
Salt & pepper to taste
1. Heat oven to 225°c.
3. Wash and cut mushrooms (I did so rather roughly as you can see, this is a matter of aesthetic preference), then pat dry.
4. Place mushrooms in a large bowl and mix with balsamic, olive oil and salt.
5. Place mushrooms on oven tray once oven has reached 225°c, and leave to cook for 15 minutes.
6. After 15 minutes, check the status of your mushrooms – you want them somewhat crisped up and golden. If they haven’t reached this stage return to oven. I also turned mine to make sure both sides were getting optimum crispiness!
Leftover rating: 3/3 – without the cheese or arborio / carnaroli rice that would bind a traditional risotto, this is pretty nice served cold & mixed with rocket leaves the next day.
Swaps / suggestions:
Mushrooms: if you’re in Hong Kong you’ll be spoilt for choice in the interesting mushroom department, and oyster mushrooms are a worthy substitute. See below a risotto I made in Hong Kong using super cheap and ubiquitous oyster mushrooms, which dare I say are a worthy replacement for their pricey cousin, the chanterelle. Standard button mushrooms are fine too.
As far as dried mushrooms are concerned, of course porcini are the ideal choice, but they don’t come cheap and aren’t always too easy to source. My Beijing-based Godmother (the best chef I know) taught me that straightforward, usually very cheap, Chinese dried mushrooms (forgive me for not knowing their official name or variety, but pic below of the ones I buy) add a similar umami flavour and can be used in an identical manner.
Farro: as I mentioned early on in this post, Farro isn’t too easy to come by in the UK, and certainly not in Hong Kong.
If you’re set on trying it, I know that Waitrose sell it under ‘Italian Spelt‘ (uncultured SWINES!) and you should have no trouble sourcing it from an Italian grocery store (Emilia’s Delicatessen in Parsons Green is the extent of my knowledge here).
In Hong Kong, Mercato Gourmet by Giando is amazing and surprisingly good value for all manner of Italian products; however, I’ve heard word that the fleet arcade is closing (sad, so many childhood memories at the video store) so keep an eye on their social media.
If you can’t find it at all, Pearl Barley is a decent enough substitute, and can be cooked by a similar method, although you will have to judge for yourself on water quantities etc.
How to serve
Above is the vegan version of the dish – honestly, with the flavour punch of the mushrooms, it really doesn’t need much to supplement it. I’d suggest toasted pine nuts and a side of rocket salad.
I am, however, of the belief that adding cheese to things rarely makes them worse. Stirring in 20g of parmesan before removing this from heat wouldn’t harm anyone. My latest favourite thing is to throw burrata on top of literally everything (they have so many varieties here! It’s such good value!) and I served this with a ball of truffle infused burrata (courtesy of Migros), which was amazing. Normal burrata would be great too (in Hong Kong and the UK you can get hold of this in the aforementioned farro-friendly stores).
I hope that you’ve found this recipe at least somewhat follow-able – as I said, my methods don’t really lend themselves to the mathematical aspect of recipe writing, but I’ve tried my best. Let me know if you give it a try or found any of the tips helpful.
I’m intending to post more recipes soon, including my sliced fennel salad, and exactly what the internet needs – another white girl’s hummus recipe (though this actually is one that everyone keeps asking me for, and I finally made it while taking down my measurements the other day)!