Do you remember the bit in the Young Ones when Vyvyan serves a pot of snow and tells them ‘It’s not snow, it’s risotto’? It always makes me smile when I make risotto. Just one little additional pleasure in making a dish that I love to make and eat.
It was not always this way. For a time, when I was learning to cook, risotto was my bête noire. It took forever and wouldn’t cook. It made me grumpy and dissatisfied. This was a lesson for me that it is not always possible to cut corners – though I often will if I can. Yes, I learnt the hard way that it is essential in risotto to have warm stock.
Having a saucepan of warm stock and a ladle seemed an unnecessary effort. But what I have discovered works for me is to fill the kettle and have it at hand. I put in enough stock powder for all the water when I add the first cup of water. And it is better to be more generous with the stock powder and salt than not because risotto really needs a good amount of seasoning. I now find it a joy to see the rice soften beneath my spoon. I especially love risotto for its creamy comfort without the addition of dairy products or eggs.
Since beginning blogging, I find that some of my old standard meals haven’t surfaced so often while I have been off in search of the new and inspiring. I have realised that these are some of the dishes that I make differently each time according to whim and instinct so they are quite hard to write down. Risotto is one such meal that I have neglected of late. I was inspired to make some when my leftover fresh sage from another pumpkin recipe brought to mind a recipe from LisaRene’s Little Bits for Butternut Squash, Apple and Sage Risotto. She always has interesting and healthy recipes on her blog.
Pumpkin is one of my favourite vegetables to add to risotto and apples are in season and delicious right now. I did look for butternut pumpkin but there was none available so I used my favourite kent pumpkin. LisaRene roasted her pumpkin and apple separately but I like having everything in one pot and I love the way the colour and flavour of the pumpkin bleeds into the risotto when it cooks together. I enjoyed the addition of apple which was subtle enough for me to get a blank look when I asked E how he liked it. It was barely cooked and retained some crunch to provide a pleasing contrast of flavours and textures. Definitely a new perspective on an old favourite.
I loved the idea of frying the sage leaves. When I buy fresh herbs I often have some leftover that I need to use somehow before they turn to soup in the bottom of the fridge. Frying them for a garnish is brilliant. We had a few before dinner and they were crisp and tasty. I also enjoyed them in the risotto for the extra hit of sage they imparted.
Pumpkin, Apple & Sage Risotto
(inspired by Little Bits)
30g butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped
½ tsp salt (or more)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 generous cup of Arborio rice
650g kent pumpkin, peeled and diced
½ cup dry white wine
5 cups stock, or as required
1 small granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
Options for serving:
Fresh nutmeg and ground cinnamon
Parmesan cheese, grated
Sage leaves fried in butter*
Melt butter in a stockpot or large saucepan and fry onions over low to medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or til they are softening. I add the salt here as I once heard Nigella say it stops the onions browning which keeps the rice from discolouring. Add rice and toss to coat with butter. Cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add white wine. Stir briefly. The rice will absorb the wine fairly quickly. Add pumpkin and a cup of warm stock. The heat should be on medium to make sure that the stock warms quite quickly and is bubbling softly while the rice absorbs the stock. (But I do sometimes turn the heat up and down a bit when I find the heat too fierce or too meek.) Stir frequently. This encourages a creamy texture to develop and also prevents the rice catching on the bottom of the saucepan as it cooks. When a lot of stock – but not all – is absorbed by the rice, add another cup of stock. Keep repeating with remaining stock until the rice is cooked and the pumpkin is soft. This should take about 20-25 minutes. Add apple and gently cook a further 5 minutes. Add chopped sage and stir.
Serve hot or warm. I garnished ours with parmesan cheese and sage leaves. I forgot about the spices but hope to try them another time! We ate it with roasted broccoli and cauliflower. Leftovers risotto is delicious cold on toast for breakfast.
*While risotto is cooking, fry sage leaves in a little butter if desired. LisaRene suggests 2 minutes.
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