Risotto is still a somewhat misunderstood entity for many Brits. When I say many Brits, I mean at least my grandmother, and I imagine many others besides. For Grannie, risotto translates as ‘ricey graveyard for leftovers’ – any kind of rice (but preferably not risotto rice) slung in the oven with vegetables and perhaps some leftover chicken. Is she unique, or are there others who take this view? Either way, it’s not really what risotto is all about.
For starters, it needs to be a particular kind of rice. A medium-grained, starchy rice, the main ones used in Italy being Vialone Nano, Carnaroli and Arborio (the one least used in Italy, most used in the UK). The idea is that the rice releases starch in the cooking, making it stickier and creamier than, say, basmati, and at the same time absorbs the stock and other flavours used in the dish.
And this is the fun part. Once you have got beyond the standard technique used to make a white risotto, it is a fantastic canvas on which to paint. This does not mean putting half of the larder into it, but instead using one or two carefully chosen ingredients to add body, flavour, and texture. This version is a little more time consuming than others, in that there are three separate processes, but I promise it is worth the effort, and if you keep on top the washing up you shouldn’t have a filthy kitchen by the end of cooking.
Roast sqaush and goat’s cheese risotto
1 small squash – I used Sweet Mama from the veg box, butternut would be grand
1 red onion, peeled and sliced thickly
6 cloves garlic
A few sprigs of thyme
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
300g risotto rice
1 glass white wine
2 litres of hot vegetable or chicken stock
50g goat’s cheese
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Peel and deseed the squash, and cut into large chunks. Put 75% of these in a roasting tray with the red onion, garlic and thyme, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil the remaining squash in salted water and liquidize.
Heat a little butter in a large saute pan and stir in the chopped onion. Season, cover, and leave over a low heat for 5 minutes, taking care not to burn it. Remove the lid, increase the heat and add the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes before adding the wine. Once the wine has reduced add a ladle of stock. Continue stirring, adding stock each time the rice has absorbed the previous batch. After 15-17 minutes taste the rice. It should be a couple of minutes away from being cooked. Adjust the seasoning and stir in the pureed squash, goat’s cheese, and most of the roasted squash, and a final ladle of stock. Turn off the heat but continue stirring for a couple more minutes.
Serve the risotto in warmed bowls, with a few chunks of roasted squash and red onion on top.