A Tale of Two Cities and Few Recipes: Paris with Tori Sharp

Here are two small stories about cooking for friends. One in Paris, one in London. Shamefully both parties failed to present a taste of place. A Middle Eastern meal in London and an Italian meal in Paris, what will the millennials do next?

Tori’s Mushroom and Goats’ Cheese Risotto

Making risotto for a dinner party is a contentious issue for me for two reasons. Firstly, my oracle in the kitchen, my guiding light, the domestic goddess herself, Nigella told me once* never ever to cook risotto for more than two people. She says large quantities never work, the pan is never big enough (more on this later), and there is never enough stock, meaning that you will be left with a sticky, not so smooth, disappointment. Secondly, risotto was once my go-to dish to make for friends who came around for supper, as I thought it looked impressive and swish and cosmopolitan and Italian, and all of the things I wanted to be, and this high expectation for one meal never ended so well. The first attempt, my 16th birthday, some friends crowded in my kitchen whilst I attempted to re-heat a risotto that I had made earlier in the day (never a good idea.) Giddy from a celebratory glass of champagne, with the air of someone pretending to know what they were doing, I stirred the rice, hand on hip, with a tea-towel tucked into my back pocket. There may or may not have been someone there I was trying quite hard to impress. I looked the part, but alas, the final product, a cement-like mess, a broken wooden spoon, and 8 very hungry and quite drunk 16-year olds. It was not my finest hour.

A few years later, having recovered from this minor disaster, I plucked up the courage to try this again. Once again for 8 people, ignoring Nigella’s advice and quadrupling the quantities that she had kindly suggested for her simple pea and mint risotto. To cut a long story abruptly short, this risotto is brought up, every. single. time. That I cook for my friends Jack and Fin, no matter what I make them, it will be revered, esteemed, deified even, in comparison to the nightmare supper of 2016.

Cut to 2020, a new decade, a new city and it was time to attempt it one more time. The impromptu arrival of friends led to an inflated sense of domesticity and I invited everyone for supper. The menu, mushroom and goats cheese risotto and too much wine in case of a repeated risotto ruination. When I moved to Paris, I was intent on learning how to cook le French way, how hard could it be? It turns out; however, it is un peu difficile. I bought the books, I read the books: MFK Fisher, Julia Child, Elizabeth David. I don’t know how these women did it, to be honest, as the art of French cooking is exactly that, an art. It is something to be honed, and something to master, something that perhaps I do not have the time or patience for at the moment. I will return to it and attempt a perfect Sole Meunière at some point in my life, but for now, I will stick to my Mediterranean roots (I wish) and keep it Italiano.

To repent for past sins, I made this risotto in two separate pans, to try and appease Nigella

For 8 (or 6 greedy friends)

3 cloves of garlic - chopped or sliced however small you can be bothered to do

1 punnet of mushrooms, sliced

A tub of soft goats’ cheese

50g parmesan grated

800g Arborio rice

1 litre ish vegetable stock

Thyme dried or fresh

Salt & pepper

Small glass of white wine

- My favourite tip for mushrooms, accompanied with a terrible pun:

- never, ever, ever crowd mushrooms in a frying pan, they won’t brown or cook in the way that you want them. Mushrooms need much room (sorry)

- cook your mushrooms before starting your rice as they will be added at the last minute

- fry in a lot of butter, more than you think you need, a handful of mushrooms at a time, and season generously with S&P and thyme, cook them low and slow until they brown and glisten

- Set aside each batch in a bowl until you’re ready to use them later, try not to eat too many of them whilst cooking your rice

- Start as always with a risotto, slowly, gently fry off your garlic in a splash of olive oil until soft and translucent

- add your rice and fry down until you think it is about to start to brown

- chuck in your wine and coat everything, cook off the acrid, alcohol smell

- Have your stock ready and boiling! Keep it on the heat, makes the whole process a lot easier

- Add a ladle at a time, be patient, don’t rush. Stir methodically. Listen to the Little Women soundtrack whilst doing this bit as you will feel extremely domestic. It is nice to feel like a Meg from time to time

- When the risotto starts to thicken, and the rice has a bite to it, you can add all of your components

- goats’ cheese, mushrooms, parmesan, more butter (why not)

- and stir until it is all combined

- the consistency wants to be thinner than you always think so don’t be scared to add more stock

- La Onda is the Italian word for the perfect consistency of a risotto which means the wave. It should gently ripple and roll back into place when you push a spoon through it

- If you want to impress, and who doesn’t, you can knock up a quick pangritata (the poor man’s parmesan)

- some stale bread (baguette or ciabatta is best, but shit white bread works too) about half a baguette’s worth should do

- Blitz in a blender into breadcrumbs and chuck it on a baking tray

- salt, pepper, a crushed garlic glove, some mixed herbs if you have them on hand

- a quick drizzle of olive oil and whack it in the oven for a hot second

- One or two minutes is about right, until it is golden brown

Serve as hot as you can handle, cold risotto is insipid

Chuck a generous handful of pangritata on top and devour

*via a recipe

- Tori Sharp


 Proudly created with Wix.com