Is risotto one of those dishes that absolutely terrifies you? It used to scare the bejeebers out of me, but after a few goes, I’ve discovered its actually REALLY easy. There are recipes where you can just pop your risotto rice straight into a pot of chicken casserole and leave it to do its thing and…gasp….it turns out JUST fine. I’ll post that another time though. Today, inspired by the monthly recipe challenge over at the Modern Home Kitchen, I’ve decided to make a classic autumnal risotto. An oozy risotto is the perfect comfort food for those chilly, misty days. It is also incredibly versatile. Try a fresh pea and mint combination for spring, beans in summer or chicken and mushroom for winter to ward off the sniffles.
For autumn though, and with the challenge ingredient of SQUASH requested by team over at the Modern Home Kitchen, I’ve plumped for a classic roast butternut squash risotto. The beauty of this dish is that you can adapt it to suit what ingredients you have at hand. I strongly recommend teaming it with fresh sage, which works beautifully with butternut. Roasting the butternut causes some caramalisation and you get a super sweet, smoky depth of flavour that you can’t achieve by steaming or baking your squash at a low temperature. I made this to serve two adults, a toddler and a baby so had to tone down the flavours somewhat for the youngsters. We added seasoning and some other extras once I’d dished up for the kids.
1 litre of stock (chicken or veg stock is great). If you don’t have enough stock, you can always increase it with some hot water
1 butternut squash, skinned and diced into small bitesized cubes. You can also leave the skin on if you like it that way
Fresh rosemary (Sage is also a fantastic option)
A large white onion or 4 shallots, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
a tablespoon of crushed/chopped garlic
pinch of cinnamon
3 heaped handfuls of risotto rice (I used arborio rice)
a small glass of white wine
A block of parmesan cheese
Toss your butternut chunks in olive oil with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary and roast for 30-45 at 200 degrees C. Keep an eye on them after the 30 minutes are up and take them out when the edges start to blacken and caramelise.
Put two large pots on your hob. Put your stock into the smaller pot and keep warm on a low simmer. In the largest pot, heat some olive oil, and gently cook the onion and celery. This should take about ten minutes. You want to do this on a low heat so the onion stays translucent and doesn’t crisp up. I like to sweat my onion for the last 5 minutes with the lid on, so it softens up really gently. Once its soft, turn up to a medium heat and add the garlic and stir to prevent burning. Add the cinnamon.
Turn up the heat a couple of notches and add the rice, it should sizzle. Stir until the sizzling dies down and the rice starts to turn translucent. Add in your small glass of wine, keep stirring. Inhale the heady alcohol fumes. Once the fumes start to die down and the wine has been sucked up by the rice, start adding the stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time. Keep stirring as it gets absorbed. Every risotto recipe I’ve ever read helpfully tells you not to cook your risotto too fast (cooked outside, raw inside) or too slowly (claggy, smooshy risotto) but they don’t tell you how to achieve that. What you want is a moderate temperature. If its bubbling rapidly, your temperature is too high. If it emits about one slow blub every second, then its probably about right. I keep turning mine down until its JUST not simmering around the edge. Keep on with adding a bit of stock and stirring while it gets absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes. The rice grains will suddenly turn big and puffy looking, give it another 5 minutes, then bite into one to check if they’re done right the way through. You don’t need to be a slave to the risotto. I changed Toddler clothes, folded a big pile of laundry and unloaded and reloaded my dishwasher between ladlefuls.
Once the rice is just cooked through, add in your roasted butternut chunks and a splash more stock. Stir stir stir. Some of the butternut will ooze off, and the caramelised bits will stay as they are. Add a good couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese and stir through. Check your seasoning. I usually need to add salt, because my stock is salt free. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice to cut the flavour a little. Garnish with any of butter fried sage leaves (highly recommended), crisp bacon bits, torn parma ham, some fresh rosemary leaves.
Enjoy with a glass of wine in front of the fire.