NORA THIEL writes a brilliant recipe, and you can tell she’s a down-to-earth cook. Under ingredients, she notes “serves four adults who like dried porcini risotto”. It’s a reasonable statement, although I have no idea what we’re to do about the adults who don’t like the dish. My vote is nothing, more for us.
Rewind a bit. Delheim’s annual wild mushroom forage every winter is not only celebrating its 10th year but it was the very first story I posted on this blog in 2017, so it has a special significance for me. I’ve also been to a forage but I wasn’t very good at it. The event always sells out incredibly fast, usually before I can share the dates. This year, however, things are different (for the obvious reasons) so Delheim has put together a stunning package to bring the mushrooms to your doorstep.
It’s still a limited offer so do not tarry. The Wild Mushroom Experience-in-a-box (I have become a huge fan of The Box, any box that is delivered) is filled with tastes and textures that capture the spirit of the occasion (in a nest of twigs with leaves and a pine cone, exactly like the photograph), available from the winery’s online shop while stocks last.
Delheim was the originator of the now-popular concept of wild mushroom foraging events in the country – more than a decade ago – and has since definitely managed to raise awareness for Mother Nature’s elusive delicacies in South Africa, says Nora. “In those years, people were even less familiar with mushroom foraging than today.” She showed a few people how it’s done and the idea for organised forages was born. “It took three years before we could get enough people together as interest grew,” she adds.
Each box contains the book, Field Guide to Mushrooms & Other Fungi of South Africa by Gary Goldman and Marieka Gryzenhout. Gary co-hosted forages with Nora at Delheim for years; a bottle of Delheim Chenin Blanc Wild Ferment 2019 (now under cork); Sauvignon Blanc 2019 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2016; dried porcini mushrooms, parmesan cheese and risotto rice plus added extras to make your meal ex-cep-tional; and a recipe card to help you perfect your mushroom risotto.
The dried porcinis needed about an hour of soaking, and they really do last forever in the cupboard because I added some I’d been hoarding for quite a while. Midway through the process I hit a bit of a bump because Nora’s recipe said to reserve the liquid but didn’t tell me what to do with it. After a few Whatsapps, I decided to use it along with the chicken stock. Luckily it wasn’t my first risotto.
“The key ingredients for a mildly successful risotto are a good, suitable pan, great quality risotto rice, preferably home made chicken stock, and of course some patience. Good wine is not negotiable,” says Nora. She concludes by saying all the Parmesan should be added and stirred once and the texture should be creamy – “if all went according to plan”.
It most certainly did. Even though Nora said she wouldn’t have used the mushroom water, it packed an extra punch, and the result was utterly delicious, luxurious, indulgent and decadent. My plus one had seconds and came around knocking the next day looking for more. Too late, sweetheart, sorry for you (not). Guess I’m just going to have to make it again.
Risotto is a lovely, relaxing dish to cook (and perfect for chilly winter evenings). A bottle of wine needs to be opened so some can go in the pot, and the rest can be drunk while stirring the stock in slowly, ladle by ladle. Nora calls it kitchen therapy and I agree.
This offer costs R1 200 per box and includes free delivery in South Africa. You can also order a box without the book for just R720 (excluding delivery fee). The wine trio showcased is eminently suitable for this eco-experience. They’re calling cards for the practice of farming in harmony with nature.
The Chenin Blanc Wild Ferment was winemaker Roelof Lotriet’s first vintage as winemaker at Delheim. He has worked with some of South Africa’s oldest Chenin blanc vineyards and quickly recognised the potential at Delheim. It was important that the wine tells its story by letting the juice ferment slowly and spontaneously in barrel. “Older blocks are like listening to your father or grandfather’s stories at the campfire,” he says. “They really have more to say and have so many layers.”
The Cabernet Sauvignon is back in the portfolio, thanks to the culmination of a replanting programme and an exceptional harvest in 2016. As for the Sauvignon Blanc, its exceptional quality and expression make it perfect for savouring in glass and as a top-notch ingredient for the risotto.
- Foraging in South African National Parks is illegal (see point 16).