Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Vegan Mushroom Risotto (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

At what point does it dawn on you that you’re beginning to age? Is it the back that creaks as you get out of bed, and doesn’t really function until mid-morning? Is it those stubborn pounds of weight that have lodged around your middle and wobble uncomfortably as you attempt some desperate exercise? Or is it the Campbell de Morgan spots that spring up somewhere on your torso? They look red and menacing and fill you with a Skin Cancer Fear, but apparently they are benign and harmless, and not worth bothering about; a bit like you in a few years’ time.

Perhaps you are like me, and you still nurture some hope. You think your bad back is caused by having young children. You think the weight will drop off at some undetermined point in the future, and that the grey hair issue will easily be solved by some very expensive highlights. Yet however good you are at denying the changes wrought by advancing years in your own body, sometimes it can be meeting up with friends that brings the whole ageing thing home to you.

Some dear and lovely friends came to visit us last summer. We first met at a dubious cocktail party in a hotel in China. I can’t remember who introduced us, but I do remember being so very happy that at last, here were some people we could have fun with. And we did make it our chief aim to have fun. Over the next couple of years we lived the strange, privileged, hedonistic - and occasionally desperate - life of young, childless expats in China.

Although some of the images have blurred (it must be my age), I do recall many rampaging nights in a northern city of China. The drinking that began any time after 11am and continued long and hard into the early hours. The terrible striped ‘team shirts’ bought for our weekend assault on Beijing. The glee we felt from our podium as an entire Chinese nightclub followed us in the intricate dance some know as The Macarena. The huge platters we ordered and devoured in Korean restaurants, Chinese restaurants, Mexican restaurants, and pretty much any other restaurant that got caught in our tractor beam.
The hours we spent cycling dusty roads and exploring remote, stinking markets; trying to fill our weekends, and make sense of our twenties that perhaps were being lost in this bustling Chinese city? It was a frenetic, surreal time that probably took its toll on our livers, but forged friendships that still serve us well today.

When Mac and Fran arrived last summer, we were outwardly much the same. I couldn’t discern any signs of ageing; perhaps that’s because I still think I look rather like a 16 year old. Ok, we had a few more wrinkles, quite a few more children, but essentially our outer shells remained the same. We were happy, excited and ready to party.

Following some afternoon drinks, we decided to fill up our swimming pool. Two hours later it was Fran who called the proceedings to a halt.
‘It’s getting late, the children haven’t eaten, this is going to take hours, I think we should stop now’.
A hush fell over the group; surely these staid words had no place in our friendship?

We all nodded in agreement,
‘Yep, time to call it a day. I’m a bit chilly anyhow, and I could do with a sit down and a nice cup of tea’.

As Fran and I prepared a meal for the children, the penny dropped. Perhaps it was Mac falling asleep on a garden bench before dinner that really brought it home to me, but I suddenly saw that we were no longer young. We wanted to get our children to bed so that we could gently sip some more wine, eat a relaxed meal, drink a few pints of water for fear of a hangover, and get to bed at a decent hour. We no longer had the energy of our frenzied China years.

That evening I attempted a mushroom risotto for the ageing Gang of Four. It didn’t work out well. I’ve since perfected the recipe, and had every intention of serving it last weekend when once again we were all reunited in a beautiful house overlooking Lac Léman. Unfortunately my husband had fallen asleep before dinner, Mac was pruning the hedge, and Fran and I were too tired to cook. So we ate the kid’s leftovers, polished off the wine and were in bed by 10pm.

How long will it be until our teeth sleep in a glass by our beds? Until the Mazda RX8 is replaced by one that can ride on pavements? Until the Karen Millen jacket is swapped for a tartan rug to keep our knees nice and warm? At this rate I’m pretty sure I won’t make platinum member of SAGA.
Older and Wiser Mushroom Risotto (Serves 6)

Now this will be a great meal for me when I’m in my dotage; all soft and creamy. If the oyster mushrooms are a bit too challenging for my dentures, I’ll just have the nurse blend it all to a smooth paste. Then I shall regale the rest of the lounge with tales of my life and hope my children still love me enough to come and visit.

For the mushroom part: (can be made up to 6 hours ahead and kept in fridge)
You can mix and match with the mushrooms; use chestnut shrooms if you prefer, skip the oyster mush and increase the button mush, the choice is really yours. I would advise against using magic mushrooms, I'm pretty sure that's illegal and I've heard they make you ears turn green.

500g button mushrooms
20-30g dried porcini mushrooms
150-200g oyster mushrooms
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
small bunch of fresh parsley, leave some to garnish
olive oil to fry
1-2 tbsps yeast extract
130ml (approx) to soak the dried mushrooms
150ml dry white wine
black pepper to taste

For the risotto part:
500g risotto rice
60g dairy free spread
400ml white wine
1 litre of boiling water
2 GF stock cubes
  • Put the porcini mushrooms into a jug and cover with approximately 130ml of boiling water
  • Wipe and slice the button mushrooms and set aside
  • Gently rip the oyster mushrooms apart, pausing a second to stroke their velvety surface against your cheek
  • Chop the onion - finely or into strips or rings, up to you - and the garlic and most of the parsley. Leave a little parsley to garnish the plates...if your guests are still awake that is
  • Put the onions and garlic into a large frying pan and fry gently for about 5 minutes
  • Add the button and oyster mushrooms and fry gently for a further 5 minutes until they start to give off their juice. If you are staring in a pleading manner at the pan and they are not giving off their juice, cover the pan and that should do the trick
  • Allow the mushrooms to simmer gently whilst you fish out the porcini from the jug - don't throw the stock away
  • Squeeze out the porcini over the jug, then finely chop and add to the mushroom mix
  • Add the yeast extract to the porcini stock, stir and then add it to the pan
  • Add the chopped parsley and the 150ml white wine, turn the heat as low as it will go and leave it to simmer - stirring occasionally - until nearly all the stock has evaporated/been absorbed by the mushrooms. This could take 20 - 30 minutes. There should be a small residue of stock left in the pan, but the mushrooms won't be submerged
  • Set the magical mushroom mix aside
  • Mix up the two stock cubes with the litre of boiling water
  • In a large saucepan, gently melt the dairy free spread
  • Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice is coated
  • Glug in about 250ml of the 400mls of white wine and stir. It will absorb quite quickly
  • Add a good glug of stock and stir
  • Now, I was about to ask you in an exasperated manner, 'have you ever managed to cook risotto rice as per the packet instructions? Don't you find it takes loads more liquid than they say?', but marvel of marvels, tonight my risotto rice, did cook really easily. Keep the heat really low, add the liquid, stir, then cover the pan. Keep twitching and dithering and stirring every 3 minutes or so. Worked a treat
  • Repeat the adding of liquid, stirring, covering, dithering, twitching and stirring until all the stock and wine has been used up, OR until the risotto rice is tender with a slightly firm centre
  • When you think the rice is just about cooked, add the mushroom mix to the rice and stir to combine
  • Give it 5-10 minutes until the mushrooms are warmed through, then tutti frutti it's all terminale! (I did French and Spanish, not Italian)
  • Serve with a good grinding of black pepper and if you can eat parmesan cheese, go right ahead and sprinkle it on
  • Top tip: if you are eating this in a standing position, do make sure your zimmer frame is placed on even terrain. It's best not to take chances at our age

© Pig in the Kitchen

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Iota said...

That wobbly thing where a lovely taut pregnancy bump used to be? You have one too? Phew.

I'm up for a sit down and a nice cup of tea any time. Come on over.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Pig shudders at Iota's description. I might need a shot of brandy in that tea...medicinal!

Grit said...

i empathise, pig, i really do. i imagine one day i will wake up and be back to normal, and then i see my mother's face staring back at me in the mirror and know that i'm on a one-way highway. oh dear. i am doomed. never mind. i will eat mushroom risotto on the way.

Brom said...

Oh, no we don't discuss age!

Back to the blog - your writing is so plentiful these days that I'm surprised you had mushroom left for the recipie!!

I'd get my coat, but I don't need one this week!!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Grit, the words of The Darkness were a backdrop to your comment, 'one way ticket to he-ell and back'...maybe we can take comfort from the 'and back' bit? No, you're right, it IS a slippery one way road to tummy control pants. Did i make any sense there?

Brom, a very good point, we should avoid, age, politics, religion and weight. My post was so plentiful, I'm very impressed you stuck with it to the end, thank-you! And exactly where are you this week? Gloating over hot weather as rain streams down my window pane. Oh, i feel another song coming on, '...I can't stand the rain...'

Miss Thistle said...

I was looking at a photo taken the day before I got married yesterday. What has changed? I don't know what it is - well I do - apparently as you lose collagen your cheekbones become more prominent - the trouble is the collagen keeps on dropping and prominent cheekbones turn to 'jowls' Agghhh! As I approach my forties I have perfected the 'sit up' and 'intense cardiovascular exercise'. My cholesterol and blood pressure are good.... and I think I could be obsessed! Mushroom risotto sounds good! could be anti aging!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Miss Thistle, with your scientific speak you have simultaneously struck fear and guilt into my heart. Fear! How can I prevent the collagen dropping? How long until I have jowls like a bloodhound? Guilt! I should be doing more cardiovascular and sit ups! and slick as you like here comes the excuse, well you see I have FOUR children, just pass the strawberry creams would you?
(Pig runs away in a spiral of despair, thank-you for your visit Miss Thistle)

elizabethm said...

Aargh, I know Pig I know I know. Somehow managed to keep it at bay through my forties (exercise, make up, more make up) but now I have hit 50 I am indeed suffering collagen slump (and tummy slump too). Some days are fine. Other days I just cant pull it back and have to go with the flow. I would comfort myself with the thought that I am immeasurably wiser if only I was. Never mind, have another glass.

Akelamalu said...

It comes to us all honey! I'm trying to reverse it right now, If I'm successful I'll give you the recipe! :(

Pig in the Kitchen said...

elizabethM, so what you're saying is, I could battle all thru my forties, to still be battling in my 50's? we may as well cut out the dieting middleman, i'm reaching for the choc as we speak!

Akelamalu, I'll feature the recipe on my blog if i may. Perhaps silicone is the way forward?

Milla said...

oh shuddersome post, Piggy. Shuddersome. So much to look forward to Those spots! why, thanks for that, had never heard of - can I trade you those strange growths on the face some people get - not me, yet, yikes - which look like skin-coloured moles. They're not good either. So empathised with that line that AT LAST there were people with whom you could have fun (and thanks for link to China, wasn't sure what you meant til then, durrr). But can they be true friends, excuses or what, if it's a cup of tea they're after around suppertime? Methinks they should be sold. Am all for cutting out the middleman. Elizm is most wise.

Potty Mummy said...

I know someone with the number of a very nice cosmetic surgeon who does laser liposuction. If anyone's interested...

(And btw, that 'someone' is not me. You only have to see my stomach - which sight I would not inflict on anyone - to know that...)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

milla, shudder away love, the future is not orange, it is SAGGY! Now, about those mole things, you don't mean the patches of pigment some people get on their face when they're pregnant? people like me??!! So glad the link to China helped; you can never be sure what grade of duffer the reader is, always best to cover all bases ;-) ElizM is the wisest of them all!

PottyM, 'laser liposuction', somehow that sounds genteel, a pleasant afternoon occupation...i'm fairly tempted. I wonder if they could liposuction away my appetite at the same time? I see your 'two children tummy'and raise you a 'four children tummy', I think that's 100 a la piggy banque!

Frog in the Field said...

Bloody hell Pig I've been thinking just these very same things this morning.
Thinking I really must buy those Cath Kidston pyjamas you told me about because it's cold.
Going to bed early...to read a book (or tractor magazine obviously).
Although I look and act like a three year old, don't be deceived...ah but I don't think I've got any grey hair yet.

AliBlahBlah said...

I was thinking only the other day that I must be getting older because I was going round all the chain stores back home in the UK that I used to consider the domain of frumpy housewives and I was thinking 'some of this stuff's not half bad you know'.

Somebody shoot me now!!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

FITF, the fear of ageing must be in the air. I can't believe you're not in PJ's, you'll catch your death. Must try and get one of those tractor mags off the top shelf, all those big, bloated tyres and shiny green cabs...fwoor! Envious of your sleek, greyless head.

Aliblahblah, what words of wisdom you speak! Who would have thought that in my late thirties I'd be thinking that one of those jar openers is actually a very sensible idea. I'm hanging out for my 40th before we get the Stannah Stair Lift, I used to play on one in a nursing home I worked in, top entertainment.

ExpatKat said...

Blimey Pig, 'old'? I just can't go there. I intend to grow old disgracefully even if it does take me 24hrs to get over 'the night before' these days.
Sunday night I was proud to tell a friend that I'd kept up with a 25yr old at my pilates class. As he 'kindly' pointed out - Who takes longer to get over it though!
Some friend!!

ExpatKat said...

I guess I'm in denial :-(

Stay at home dad said...

What's happening to us all? It's gone all Proust in a bad moment.. anyway looks a great a risotto

Manic Mother Of Five said...


And the food looks yummy too!


the mother of this lot said...

Hi Pig,

You won the giveaway! Will you e-mail me your address at


so I can send it to you.

DevonLife said...

I'm going to cook that risotto for tea, but I'll be adding a little bit of bacon. Will let you know how i get on. Saggy, spotty, moley old me.

Jo said...

Found your site after reading the Telegraph.

Like the site and will be forwarding it on to my friends who daughter got very ill with dairy, gluten and wheat intolerance that made her very anaemic and mum is always looking for different things to cook, dairy free, wheat free and gluten free.

Great read


Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hello Jo,
Thanks for stopping by. It's so hard having to cater to restricted diets, I'm constantly worrying that my daughter is missing out on some vital nutrient. I hope your friend finds the recipes useful.

And thanks for kind words!