Friends and family back home have remarked in amazement at pictures I've posted of me exploring food markets and scenic sites clad in a thick sheepskin coat, scarf and boots, and it will no doubt be a schizophrenic experience to go from this to an Israeli summer that's reportedly so hot that it feels as if you're wading through a bowl of steaming soup.
In the meantime I've been making the most of the opportunity to enjoy a little downtime, and to catch up with special people from my past. Just last night, in fact, we shared a joint effort dinner which we ate in the golden glow of a warming fire. My sister-in-love Gill set the tone with her fabulous winter salad with toasted seeds and a lemon and pomegranate dressing...I chose to sweet-talk diners by experimenting with making my own nougat shortbread...while one of my oldest and dearest friends Gary stole the show with his simply sublime wild mushroom risotto.
Now I know it's hot in Israel and the last thing you feel like doing is standing at the stove and stirring a risotto pot....but I promise you it's well worth the effort.
Adjust your air conditioner to its coldest setting and pick up that wooden spoon right now.
You'll thank me for it later!
THE QUINTESSENTIAL COMFORT FOOD WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO
1/3 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/4 cups risotto rice
1/4 cup white wine
6 to 7 cups boiling chicken stock
2 to 3 cups finely chopped forest mushrooms
1 packet dried porcini mushrooms
1: Soften onions and garlic in a generous amount of olive oil in a large, deep frying pan.
2: Add rice and toss for a few minutes to ensure the rice grains are well coated in oil and are beginning to toast.
3: Stir in white wine and then slowly begin adding boiling stock stirring constantly.
3: Keep adding stock slowly to rice mixture as it is absorbed and keep stirring.
4: After approximately 20 - 25 minutes - rice will be soft and creamy - add chopped fresh mushrooms and chopped porcini mushrooms which have been soaked in warm water first to soften.
5: Season with black pepper and serve with grated Parmesan.
IMPORTANT NOTES Risotto rice - also called arborio rice - is the only rice to use here as it is naturally more creamy. Wine is not essential but does deliver extra flavor. Remember that you should always freeze leftover white wine to use in cooking.The stock must be hot as you add it to the pan - keep it simmering in a small pot on the stove as you work - or it will stop the cooking process. Forest mushrooms are the large brown mushrooms often sold loose in supermarkets but portobello mushrooms would work too. Dried porcini mushrooms are sold at Supersal in the same packaging as the sun-dried tomatoes and the water mushrooms have soaked in should be added to the pan too as it is full of flavor.