Christopher Hoult

Software engineer, actor, speaker, print designer

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for. So here is the first in a series of recipes (I hope) that I use to treat myself.

I've recently been playing with risottos - I've got a couple of friends with vegan or FODMAP dietary needs who I like to cook for. Risottos are excellent in that they're really easy to prepare and make tasty, and the rice provides a great base for all sorts of flavours.

Here's a recent recipe I've been using - like a lot of my cooking, it's formed from an understanding of how something is prepared, not necessarily from a formalized recipe from another source. I'm sure I do something wrong, or miss a trick with it - but this one works for me!

Please note, this recipe is vegan, but not suitable for FODMAP diets!

Musroom Risotto

Preparation time: 10 minutes (leave a couple of hours for soaking mushrooms)
Cooking time: 35 minutes

  • 150g arborio rice
  • 1.5l vegetable stock
  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms (or any dried mushrooms)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 4 large field mushrooms, chopped
  • 150ml white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (for non dairy-free)
  • Fresh rocket (arugala for you Americans)
  • Salt and black pepper, to season

1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and pour 150ml of boiling water over them - enough so that they float with a bit of clearance from the bottom of the container. Leave to soak for an hour or two - the water should become brown, and the mushrooms should turn from solid to, well, squidgy. I've previously added pink peppercorns to this preparation, but I found they ended up being fairly potent in the final dish.

2. When ready to prepare the main dish (ie. after the mushrooms have soaked for long enough), drain the liquid from the mushrooms into the stock, then chop the now hydrated shiitakes.

3. In a large pot, add olive oil (if not cooking for non-dairy, you can add butter to this, but make sure it doesn't brown). Soften the red onions in the oil; when just starting to brown, add in the garlic and mushrooms, and season. Cook until the mushrooms are brown; avoid stirring too much. Remove everything from the pot and place to one side.

4. Add more olive oil (and butter) to the pan, and throw in the rice. Toast it for a couple of minutes to add some colour, but not too much.

5. When toasted, add the white wine directly, and then about 500ml of stock. Start a timer for 25 minutes from this point!

6. Keep stirring the rice - when it seems thick, add a splash of stock until it looks covered again, and stir. The trick here is to break down the starch covering the rice, and let the stock soak into it.

7. At the 10 minute mark, add in the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture.

8. At the 20 minute mark, stir in a handful or two of rocket.

9. After 25 minutes of stirring and adding stock, the risotto should be cooked! Check with a spoon as to whether it's to your taste - classically it should be al dente, with a bit of resistance to chewing but without the grittiness of raw rice.

10. Serve in a low dish with a drizzle of olive oil and half a handful of rocket on top.