WORDS Brendon D’Souza (a.k.a The Smiling Chef)
We grow Queensland blue pumpkins in our backyard. They creep along the side fence and stretch out amongst the rose bushes. Their leaves are velvety and if you run your finger over them you will feel a slight tickle from the tiny white hairs that cover the surface. One dish that I love to make during this time of year is risotto – the creamy, soupy Italian rice dish hailing from the north of the country. Many recipes for risotto seem notoriously difficult because you have to stir for hours. I have a little trick up my sleeves to make time speed up. So have a go and challenge yourself with my Pumpkin Risotto. Please use organic produce where you can. It’s much better for the environment and for yourself.
- 500g pumpkin cut into 1cm cubes (such as butternut, blue or jap or whatever is in season)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra
- 50g butter
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
- 400g Arborio rice
- 100ml dry white wine
- 1 L chicken stock
- 100g cheese, plus 100g extra for sprinkling (think Colby, cheddar or parmesan)
- Salt and pepper
- Baking tray
- Baking paper
- Chopping board
- Chef’s knife
- 1 litre stainless steel pot
- Large frying pan
- Pre-heat an oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Lay the pumpkin pieces on the tray and drizzle with olive oil till they are lightly coated. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin has crusty brown edges and is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Pour the chicken stock into a smaller pot and place over a medium heat. Put the butter, olive oil, garlic and onion into the frying pan and heat over a medium heat till the onion is translucent. This should take about five minutes.
- Add the rice to the pan and stir for one minute to coat the grains in the oil. Then add the wine. Turn the heat up to medium and stir the rice for two minutes until the wine has been absorbed.
- It’s time to add some more liquid. Using a ladle, or a similar scooping utensil, add half the stock to the rice. Stir the mixture constantly for five minutes. This is where the magic happens. As you stir, the gluten in the rice will be released which will give you a creamy risotto.
- Pour in the remaining stock. Allow the risotto to cook for 10 minutes or until the rice is soft but firm (this is called al dente).
- Stir through the roasted pumpkin and cheese till combined. Parmeggiano Reggiano (parmesan) is traditionally used in risotto but I prefer a creamy cheese such as Colby. It melts easily into the risotto and makes this rice dish extra creamy and special.