Saturday, 11 September 2010
Squash and saffron risotto
I don’t know why risotto is thought of as special occasion food. I suppose because it seems complicated to make if you’re unfamiliar with it but it is frugal food par excellence - and comforting at that.
Sure, the rice is more expensive than most but you don’t need a lot of it. It also pays to use good parmesan (below) which I get from my local deli for no more than you’d pay in a supermarket (£16.95 a kilo). Don't buy ready grated - it's more expensive and the flavour isn't nearly as good.
Saffron is expensive, I grant you, but you only need a pinch and if you buy it by the box from a deli or online from a supplier like this you’ll have enough for a couple of years.
Risotto is also a great way to use butternut squash - or pumpkin come to that - a vegetable with which I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. It always needs something bitter or spicy to counteract its excessive sweetness. Sometimes I sprinkle it with crushed chillies and coriander before I roast it or sprinkle it with crisp-fried sage leaves but this time I used saffron because that’s what I happened to have.
A lot of recipes call for mascarpone but that seems to me too rich - and just another expense. I used a dollop of the crème fraîche I had in the fridge and it tasted fine as would a little double cream though you’d probably need to correct its extra creaminess with a squeeze of lemon.
1 small butternut squash or half a larger one
3 tbsp light oiive oil or sunflower oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic (optional)
Pinch of saffron threads
1 small glass white wine
1/2 tsp sweet pimenton or paprika
600ml chicken stock made with 1 dsp vegetable bouillon powder
150g risotto rice
25g freshly grated parmesan
1 generous tbsp crème fraiche or 2 tbsp double cream and a squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley to serve if you have some.
Wipe the squash clean and cut it lengthways into quarters - or, if using half a squash, in half. Scoop out the seeds then cut each piece across into 4 or 5 big chunks. Cut the skin off each chunk.
Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Pour 2 tbsp of the oil into a roasting dish. Turn the chunks of squash in the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 15-20 minutes until almost cooked. Take out about a quarter of the squash, turn over the remaining chunks and give them another 10 minutes or so until completely soft. Set aside.
Meanwhile start the risotto. Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat a heavy pan on the hob, add the remaining tbsp of oil then add the butter. Cook on a low heat till the onion is soft, stirring occasionally (about 3-4 minutes)
Heat the stock and pour over the saffron then leave in a warm place to infuse.
Once the onion is soft add the garlic and pimenton, stir then turn the heat up slightly and tip in the rice. Cook it for about three minutes stirring continually so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the wine and when the sizzling has died down and it has evaporated add the fully roasted squash and give a good stir.
Bring the stock up to boiling point and add a cupful. Stir until the stock has been absorbed then add more stock and repeat until the rice is creamy but still has some ‘bite’ and most of the stock has been absorbed (about 20 minutes).
Turn off the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of the parmesan and the crème fraîche. Cut the part-cooked squash you set aside into small cubes and add to the risotto then cover and set aside for 5 minutes. (The heat of the risotto will finish cooking the squash.)
Check the seasoning adding more salt and pepper to taste and a little more stock or boiling water if the risotto has got too thick and spoon into warm bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a scattering of chopped parsley if you have some.
Do you make risotto regularly and if so what flavours do you like best?