Fun with fungi
Autumn is the season for mushrooms and Boletus edulis - better known as the porcini or cep (also spelled c?pe) - are among the more sought-after.
During the season, fresh porcini dishes will be on the menus of Italian restaurants around Hong Kong. Italian Boletus edulis are often found at Great, in Pacific Place and in the basement of Sogo. Chinese porcini (below) are sold at J's Garden in Sheung Wan. When buying fresh porcini, check for mould and insect infestation.
During the rest of the year, the porcini is only available dried - in slices, small, uneven pieces or powder, in descending order of price. If you're using the porcini purely for taste, the powder can be good value, but ensure it has not been diluted with other types of mushroom. The price of dried porcini may seem high, but a little goes a long way - the flavour intensifies when the mushroom is dehydrated.
To use, soak the slices or pieces in warm water until soft. The soaking liquid has lots of flavour; after straining it through a fine sieve (to remove any sediment), it can be added to whatever sauce, soup or risotto you are making. There's no need to soak porcini powder.
Rehydrated porcini can be cooked the same way as the fresh variety. For risotto, cook diced onion in olive oil (or a mixture of olive oil and butter) until soft. Add raw rice (arborio or carnaroli) and stir for several minutes to coat the grains with the oil. Stir in the porcini (in slices or pieces) and saute for a minute, add some white wine and stir until absorbed. Stir in the mushroom soaking liquid (if you used dried porcini) then start adding hot chicken broth a ladleful at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. When it is ready, stir in freshly grated parmesan cheese and top with porcini that have been sauteed in butter with garlic, salt and pepper.