Watercress and red onion risotto with pan-fried mushrooms

Preparation info

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Appears in

The Café Paradiso Cookbook

The Café Paradiso Cookbook

By Denis Cotter

Published 1999

  • About

I love the pungency of vibrantly fresh watercress and would rarely cook it at all, saving it instead for salads. That’s why in this recipe the watercress is added at the end; if you want to soften its flavour, add the watercress with the last ladle of stock instead. The same reasoning applies to the red onions, which are here as featured vegetables, not in the usual background oniony way, which is why they are cooked separately. It would be very difficult not to overcook them if they were done in the same pan as the risotto. I use oyster mushrooms, not only because I get brilliant ones delivered from Forest Mushrooms in North Cork but also because of their subtle flavour and their quick and easy cooking. If you use other mushrooms, especially field or flat ones, they may leak a lot more juice, not necessarily a bad thing.


  • 60 g butter
  • 60 mls olive oil
  • 6 small red onions, sliced in half-rounds
  • 100 g watercress
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1200 mls stock
  • 320 g arborio or other risotto rice
  • 120 mls dry white wine
  • 60 g fresh parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 150 g fresh oyster mushrooms, whole or halved
  • 2 tblspns butter
  • small handful parsley, chopped


IN A SMALL PAN, warm half a tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil and stew all but one of the onions in it, gently and stirring occasionally, until the onions have become tender and sweeter, but not soft. Wash the watercress, tear the leaves and chop the stalks fairly small. Meanwhile, start the risotto.

Heat a tablespoon each of the olive oil and butter in a heavy pan and start the garlic and one of the onions cooking in it. In another pot, keep the stock barely simmering. After five minutes or so, stir the rice into the onion and cook it gently for a further five to ten minutes. Now turn up the heat and pour in the wine, stirring all the time until it has evaporated. Turn the heat back down and pour in a ladleful of hot stock; what you need is just enough to keep the rice simmering, without drowning it or stopping the cooking. Stir it often and gently until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, then add another measure of stock, and so on.

Check individual grains of rice regularly once about two thirds of the stock has been used. The rice is done when it is cooked through but retains some firmness. The liquid should be totally absorbed and the risotto slightly creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. When the liquid is all but gone, take the risotto off the heat and gently stir in the watercress and onions, the remaining butter and olive oil, the parmesan, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Cook the mushrooms as the risotto is finishing, they will only take five minutes or so. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan, fry the mushrooms fairly briskly, turning them once or twice. Just as they appear to be done, add in the other tablespoon of butter, the parsley and a good seasoning of salt and pepper, and take the pan off the heat immediately.

Serve the mushrooms and the risotto, pouring the pan juices over them.