by Camilla Ridley
This tasty vegetarian halloween recipe is incredibly easy and a great way to use up your left over pumpkins
Camilla wears a floral silk Alicia dress in the silver opera print by Liberty of London
Risotto is a real winter staple in our house and something I look forward to in autumn as temperatures drop and the nights draw in. Halloween is the perfect time for pumpkin risotto and a great way to use up any pumpkins you have left over. Although risotto originated as a simple peasant dish, Italians will tell you that a good risotto is a thing of beauty. And once you understand the simple tricks behind this dish, it's really easy to consistently produce something mouthwateringly good. My husband Mark is the real risotto chef here and this dish is an amalgamation of his favourite recipes and the many, many tasty risottos he's cooked over the years.
Ingredients to serve 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time 40 minutes
250 grams of good quality risotto rice. Either Arborio or Carnaroli. The quality of the rice really makes all the difference so it's worth investing in something good. We order ours from Lina Stores in Soho: shop now
1 small to medium sized pumpkin
1 large or 2 small onions
Good Olive oil
A large glass of white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock or boullion. I also quite like chicken stock.
Roughly 80g of butter at room temperature cut into smallish slices or chunks
80g of good quality freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to flavour
A small bunch of fresh sage leaves finely chopped
A good large non-stick, stainless steel or copper pan. Ideally a frying pan or something with a flat wide surface and high sides if possible. A metal casserole dish, like a Le Creuset would also work well.
Camilla cooking the risotto in her floral silk Alicia dress in the silver opera print by Liberty of London. And details of the pan and plate showing the wonderfully creamy texture
Chop up the pumpkin flesh into smallish chunks removing both the hard skin, seeds and pith. Place these in a roasting tin, generously drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 180 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the pumpkin turns a nice rich roasted golden colour and before it burns.
While the pumpkin is roasting finely chop the onion and sweat it in a pan with a good glug of olive oil on a medium heat until it turns translucent and slightly golden. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
Once the onions are ready remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rice. The trick is to coat the rice evenly in the oil and onion mixture. The rice will start to change colour as it warms up, becoming slightly translucent around the surface. This usually takes a couple of minutes. At this point add half a glass of white wine and the finely chopped sage and return the pan to the heat and stir.
As the liquid evaporates, you'll now want to start to add your stock to the rice to keep it wet. It's important to do this bit by bit, keeping it consistently hydrated but not overly saturated. Essentially a good even covering, so you can see the liquid bubbling between the grains. Some people use a ladle, I just tend to poor it straight from the jug. And you must keep stirring and keep an eye on your risotto at all times to stop the rice sticking and burning. While the rice cooks and absorbs the stock it produces starch which gives the risotto its lovely thick creamy texture. The better quality of risotto rice you use, the creamier the texture and the better the grains hold their firmness.
Cooking time depends on the rice you're using and the amount of heat but usually it's roughly 20 to 25 minutes to get the rice evenly cooked through. If you break a grain open it should be the same texture and colour all the way through but still relatively firm and springy to the touch. I constantly check how the rice is progressing throughout the cooking process, by simply removing a rice grain and breaking it open. As the risotto cooks, you'll also notice the volume of the rice also growing in size.
As the rice nears completion, so still has a slightly hard small white centre, remove the roasted pumpkin from the oven, finely chop it and add it to the mixture stirring in more stock to keep the creamy consistency. And stir in the rest of the wine to flavour. Once the rice is ready and you have a beautifully rich risotto, remove the pan from the heat. stir in the grated parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Finally add the butter into the mix and stir it in vigorously creating a smooth creamy emulsion. And it's ready to serve.
I normally serve a risotto up in large bowls so there's lots of space and then I'll add a drizzle of olive oil or truffle oil and garnish with a few un-chopped sage leaves. You can leave the cheese and butter out from this recipe but it really adds to the overall rich creaminess and authentic Northern Italian flavour. It may not be great for the waistline but it's certainly enjoyable!
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