Mushroom and fennel risotto… Inspired by empty stomach and love for risotto!

“Rice is born in water and must die in wine.” Italian proverb
Today is October 22nd, Saturday. It is sunny yet chilly and hard enough to believe that at this time of year I was still able to find mushrooms in the forest. After a long late breakfast with Zucchini – ricotta fritters, a long walk in the forest with my Mom and dogs was the perfect choice. Besides mushrooms, we also brought back some wild thyme and oregano that I used in making the risotto. And although we did bring back enough fresh chanterelles for the dish, I still went for the dried porcini.
To me risotto is one of those comforting, satisfying and palette satisfying dishes. Since I made my way around to make the perfect texture, I keep on trying it with a variety of ingredients! This time it is mushrooms and fennel. Before I dig into describing the whole process – I must give certain praise to fennel. To tell you honestly, I have eaten it and tried it for a number of times, yet I only truly discovered it about half a year ago. I  have to admit – in a way it is a weird vegetable, with its peculiar taste, smell and texture. But once you tame it,
it can become a true compliment to certain dishes!
Total cooking time – around 40-50 minutes.
~4-6 portions, depending on the level of hunger:
* ~250 g arborio rice
* 1 fennel bulb (~300 g)
* 4 handfuls of dried porcini
* 2 medium onions
* 200 ml cream
* ~100 g parmigiano reggiano
* 100 g butter
* A few stems of chives
* A bit of grated lemon zest
* Olive oil
* Le Provence herb mix
* Some fresh oregano and thyme
* Salt and fresh ground pepper
Pour boiling water over the mushrooms and let them sit for a while. Usually for the amount of ingredients I would use ~1 litre of water.
Slice the onion and chop the fennel to 1 cm cubes. In a large pot, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft and tender. Add the fennel and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add salt and fresh ground pepper, a dash of Le Provence herb mix.
Add the rice and stir frequently for about 2-3 minutes until it becomes a bit translucent. Then add a cup of the water the mushrooms are soaking in. Cook until the rice absorbs the liquid and keep on adding more a cup or so at time. Don’t leave the risotto unattended. It requires frequent stirring.
Taste the rice once in a while – when the rice becomes tender, add the chopped soaked mushrooms and cook some more. When the rice feels tender and about right, add some fresh chopped oregano, thyme, grated lemon zest and half of the grated parmigiano reggiano. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and leave it for 5 minutes.
When the risotto is ready to serve, plate it and sprinkle with some of the remaining grated parmigiano reggiano and chopped chives, fresh ground pepper. Serve accompanied with chilled Pinot Grigio.
Bon appetit!

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