Healthy Recipe Morel Brown Rice Risotto
To paraphrase author, futurist and inventor Arthur Clarke, magic is simply science we don’t yet understand. This is certainly true for mushrooms, or more accurately mycelium. Mushrooms are the visible part of mycelium. Glorious Morels, Chanterelles, Shiitake, Trumpet and Oyster Mushrooms are simply the delicious edible tips of vast, threadlike, earthly icebergs.
We have so much to learn and appreciate about fungi, mycelium and mushrooms. What is magical about them, not in the visionary plant, tripping, tie-dye kind of way, but in the incredibly advanced scientific and technological way: how they communicate, store and transfer data, nutrients and cellular information. Trees and plants tap in to this fungi system like we do the internet, not unlike how David Cameron portrayed the plant life in the Sci-Fi movie, Avatar. Really.
Life comes from mycelium, they are a foundation species. They digest the waste, they react to your footsteps on a forest floor, they are capable of turning a toxic waste dump pile into a new ecosystem where life can return. First comes the fungi, then the insects, then the birds, then the seeds begin to sprout and germinate, then plants and greenery. Life.
The above ground deliciousness of the edible mushroom is a natural gift which inspires awe in me for the plant kingdom. With this recipe, I spotlight the magical Morel in a Brown Rice Risotto with Kale. Brown rice is lower glycemic than white, higher fibre, and offers many more minerals than white rice. Always go brown if you can. Morels are expensive, so if you can’t find them fresh (they are a Spring thing), use a mix of mushrooms with nearly any but portobello which are too meaty for this, and brown or white button mushrooms, the kind mostly featured on pizza, which are rather flavourless.
Morel Mushroom, Kale & Brown Rice Risotto
Cook Time: 1 hour, the trick with risotto is the pre-rinse. It requires some stirring but this an opportunity for Flow, set your intentions, zone out in the activity and melt your cares away.
Serves: 3 as a main, 4 as a side dish
200g of small grain, round brown rice (most like Arborio, traditional risotto rice)
150g of dried mushrooms, morels or porcini are best
30ml or 2 Tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
100ml of dry white wine
370ml of vegetable broth
200g of fresh morels or mushroom mix
17ml or 1 Tbs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
100g or 3-4 large handfuls of washed, chopped kale
1 fat pinch of fresh parsley, chopped
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and set aside
Fresh grated parmesan on top for Flexitarians (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 200C for mushroom toasting if using mushroom mix, fresh Morels you will do in a pan on the stove. Next, rehydrate the dried mushrooms in a bowl with 170ml of hot water. Now, heat your vegetable broth in a pan wide enough to accommodate a strainer. Set your rice in a strainer and dunk it in the veggie broth, get a wooden spoon in there and wash the rice in the broth so it releases its starches, just a few swishes and shakes. Drain the rice over the broth, you need this starchy liquid.
Add your rice into a deep sauce pan over medium-low heat and add the 30ml of olive oil, tossing the rice to coat and toast a bit, it will smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until nearly evaporated. While the wine cooks in, drain the rehydrated mushrooms (I find they have given their flavour to the broth already, but some people still like the taste and you can add them in to the risotto if you like). Combine the mushroom broth with your warm veggie broth and add to the rice, about 100ml at a time, cooking and stirring the rice every so often until nearly evaporated. Continue the process until you are on the last 100ml of broth.
When you have added the last 100ml of broth, gently brush clean your mushrooms. If you are using Morels, slice them thickly and set aside. If you are using a mushroom mix (washing will water log them and they won’t crisp up), chop roughly, and set on an oven tray lined with wax paper for easy clean up. Toss the mushrooms in the remaining 17ml/1 Tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper and add the thyme leaves, evenly spaced on the oven tray and broil/grill them for 10mins at 220C or until crispy and golden.
For Morels, do them on the stovetop in a pan with the 17ml olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme but just cook to soften them about 5-7mins on medium-low heat. Morels (and portobellos) are the exception to the spacing and crisping rules, browning or crisping them ruins their rich, earthy flavour.
While the mushrooms are cooking, mix in your chopped kale to the risotto for the final 3-5 mins of cooking until bright green. Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper, 2 pinches of coarse sea salt and 3 turns of freshly ground black pepper in mine. Remove the mushrooms from the heat, plate the risotto and top with the mushrooms and parsley, serve hot. You can drizzle a bit of infused garlic oil on top as a bonus. Flexitarians can coarsely grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top.
Paul Stamets is one of the world’s leading mycologists (a Biologist who specialises in fungi) and an inspiration for this Food Story. If you are at all curious about the magic of mushrooms and mycelium, give him 18 minutes of your time and watch this excellent TED talk.