Fear not. I have not, in point of fact, departed the earth’s cosy atmosphere.
I do, however, have something for you that might be considered, well, a little out there.
To borrow a Star Trekkin’ phrase, it’s risotto Jim, but not as we know it. Because why? Because potatoes have boldly gone where no potatoes have gone before: they have replaced rice as the risotto Chief of Starch.
Now, I can’t lay claim to originating the idea of a potato risotto. Watching Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant this week, I witnessed Michelin-starred Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias from Casa Mia in Bristol serve just such a “risotto” during the competition final.
I did take it a step further, however, and made it a truly Irish affair by using Guinness where you would normally use white wine. I mean to say, if Guinness is good in a potato gratin, then chances are it’ll be good in a potato risotto. And so it was. Very good, in fact, with meaty mushrooms for company, thyme, sage and parsley doing their herbal thing and an obligatory flourish of Irish cheese. Definitely worthy of becoming a regular at my table. It will, however, need a proper name, don’t you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions for same.
An Irish “Risotto” with Potatoes, Mushrooms & Guinness
The method here is pretty much as per traditional risotto, where liquid is added to a starch component in stages, stirred until absorbed, and the process repeated until the starch has cooked. I’m just using a different starch and different liquid.
You will, of course, need to cut your potatoes into rice-ish sized pieces first. My potato pieces were perhaps not quite as small as your average grain of rice and yours don’t need to be either. The main thing is that they are fairly small and roughly evenly sized. And, just as you would choose starchy arborio rice for risotto, I suspect that starchy (aka floury) potatoes will be best for this – Russets (in the US) or Roosters (here in Ireland) should serve you well.
For the stock, I used a mushroom-based vegetable stock which worked well, though you can use a chicken stock or other vegetable stock as you prefer. To complete the Irish risotto experience, you can use Desmond cheese, a full-flavoured hard cheese from Cork, but the more traditional parmesan is, of course, allowed.
- butter for frying
- 200g chestnut mushrooms (or use a mixture of chestnut and shiitake mushrooms), sliced
- 2 large-ish potatoes (about 400g once peeled), preferably floury
- approx 400ml vegetable stock
- olive oil for frying
- 1 medium onion (about 150g), finely chopped
- 0.5 tsp dried thyme
- 0.25 tsp dried sage
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 150ml Guinness or other stout
- 25g desmond cheese (if you can lay your hands on it) or use parmesan, finely grated
- approx. 4 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 0.25 tsp lemon zest or more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
- A deep-sided frying pan, mine was about 26cm wide.
- Place your pan over a medium heat and add about 1 tblsp of butter. When the butter has melted, add the sliced mushrooms. Avoid stirring until the mushrooms have shrunk and released their juices. Fry until well browned and the mushrooms have reabsorbed any liquid, around 12-15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
- While the mushrooms are frying, scrub and peel your potatoes. Cut into slices around 2mm thick. Stack the slices and cut into sticks about 2mm wide and then into approx. 1cm lengths.
- Place your stock in a small saucepan and keep at a simmer over a low heat.
- Using the same pan that you used for the mushrooms, return the pan to a medium heat, add about 2 tsp butter and 2 tsp olive oil. When hot, add the onion, thyme, sage and a pinch of salt. Stir and fry for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir and fry for another minute or so.
- Add the potato pieces, stir briefly, then add the Guinness. Stir until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Add a ladle of stock to the potatoes and continue stirring, again until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Continue adding ladles of stock and stirring, until the potato pieces are just tender, around 25-30 minutes.
- Stir in the fried mushrooms and cook for about another minute more.
- Remove from the heat, stir in about half of the grated cheese, half of the chopped parsley and the lemon zest. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and additional salt if you think it needs it.
- Serve sprinkled with the remaining grated cheese and chopped parsley.
- As with a regular risotto, the variations are, I think, endless. You can certainly use white wine in place of the beer and make any number of potato-friendly additions.
- “Risotto” for 2