Home > Ethical Consumption, Food, Provenance, Wine > Wild mushroom risotto & Groote Post 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Wild mushroom risotto & Groote Post 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Sumptuous wild mushroom risotto

When you get invited to go wild mushroom picking for the first time, you accept with alacrity. What you also do, when the phone call does come – this is a weather dependent exercise – you drop everything and go. Why is it then, that it took three consecutive invitations from Anita Bunn to get me to actually put on my hiking boots, gather a basket and serrated edge knife, and meet her at the appointed place? As much as I’d love to divulge where that is, it is more than my life is worth. I have a very clear picture in my mind of Anita, serrated knife casually in hand, as she asked me not let on. My lips are sealed!

The first trip, which involved quite a bit of tramping about in dank dripping woods yielded a crop of poplar mushrooms and what Anita calls sticky Bolitus mushrooms. They’re better for making stock than for eating, so that’s what I did with them.

Despite very careful coaching by Anita about what is and what is not safe to pick – far more of the latter than the former – I discovered that it is remarkably easy to make a mistake, and in this business mistakes can be fatal. As I reached down to pick what I thought was a sticky Bolitus, Anita’s voice rang out: “Careful! Turn over the cap first!”, freezing my hand a centimetre from the beautiful mushroom. I carefully upended the cap with a twig – you do not take a chance and touch anything doubtful with your hands – to discover prominent muted pink gills, a sure sign that the mushroom was deadly poisonous.

The second trip, in somewhat milder weather conditions, resulted in a substantial crop of pine rings, a lovely pale orange mushroom, so called because when you cut the stem of the mushroom it blooms bright orange around the stem periphery. “If you cut the stem and you don’t see the orange ring,” she says, “then you’ve just cut a koperkeltjie.” The koperkeltjie is quite naturally, deadly poisonous. Cutting mushrooms is not for sissies, believe me, nor is it for cowboys. I’ve resolved that I will only pick mushrooms with Anita, because it’s just not worth making a mistake. She’s been doing it for years, and must know what she’s doing: she’s still around hale and hearty.

I resolved to make wild mushroom risotto, and it was lovely.

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

1 medium onion: finely chopped.

80g butter

100ml dry vermouth: you could use a dry white wine, but the vermouth is far richer and complex, lending an added flavour dimension.

2 cloves garlic: fresh, crushed.

300g Arborio rice: this is of course the real thing. It’s expensive – between R35 and R50 per kilogram, but the results justify the cost. The carbon footprint is another matter, however, since it is grown largely in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of northern Italy, and to a lesser extent in California and Texas.

1250ml chicken stock

150g grated Paremsan: or Grana Padana, which is less expensive, plus some shavings for serving.

400g wild mushrooms: Pine rings have a lovely meaty texture, and a wild mushroom flavour, not to everybody’s liking, so it is entirely okay to use another variety such as oyster, shitake or even the delicate enoki mushroom. A variety of “wild” mushrooms are fairly easily available these days, typically at markets, but if all else fails, Portabellini mushrooms will do. Brush off any detritus with a kitchen paper towel. Depending upon how large the caps are, cut them into between four and eight pieces.

250g streaky bacon: sliced about 3mm wide.

2tbsp canola oil

Salt and pepper for seasoning


Bring the kettle to the boil to make your chicken stock.

Once the kettle boils, make the chicken stock in a small saucepan and keep it simmering on the stove top.

Heat the canola oil in a small pan, and toss in the bacon.  Sauté until golden brown and just crispy.  Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Heat a large flat saucepan and sweat the onion and garlic in 30g of the butter until translucent. Add the rice then stir until coated, and it begins to crackle gently. This is important, so turn off the cooker-hood extractor fan and listen carefully!

Pour in the vermouth, and stir constantly until it is all absorbed.

Meantime, add 50g butter to another saucepan large enough to take the mushrooms, and sauté them until cooked through and soft. Keep covered to stay warm.

Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring gently in a figure of eight pattern until it is all absorbed. Do not be tempted to add more than one ladle of stock at a time, else you’ll end up with a mush.

As you progress adding the stock, the starch in the rice will be released, and it will become creamier.

Once you’d used about a litre of stock, scoop up a few grains of rice And taste them. They should be al dente¸ much like pasta in that they should have a slight resistance when you bite the grain, but it must not be crunchy.

Check the seasoning at this time, and adjust if need be.

Continue adding stock one ladle at a time until the rice texture is just right.

Add the cheese and stir it in, followed by the mushrooms and the bacon. Stir them in and set aside covered for five minutes to “creamify”.

Serve with some Parmesan shavings. Enjoy!

What would risotto be without a really good wine?

A delightful evening at Cargill’s Restaurant in Rondebosch with the Pentz family and winemaker Lukas Wentzel of Groote Post afforded the opportunity to taste the 2010 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, a perfect match with this dish.

Pale yellow with an ephemeral hint of green in colour, the nose is all layers of greengage plums on flinty citrus with delicate guava and greenpepper notes.

The palate entry revels in a zesty line of acidity, balancing the fruit which comes through bright and clear in mid palate, supported by a distinct mineral note imparted by the Hutton & Oakleaf soils in which the vines grow on the cool upper slopes of the Darling Hills overlooking the cellar. The finish is long and succulent.

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