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.

Serves 2

1 small butternut squash or half a larger one
3 tbsp light oiive oil or sunflower oil
15g butter
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?


Anonymous said...

I usually use butternut squash with pasta - this will make a nice change! :)

Charlie said...

I could happily eat this for breakfast, lunch and tea ... how delicious it looks..

Caroline said...

I make risotto quite regularly just for myself and certainly don't view it as special occasion food! Quite boringly I usually make mushroom, but sometimes vary this with courgette (idea taken from the 'Get Cooking' videos on the BBC website where Sophie Grigson makes courgette and herb risotto). BNS sounds good though with autumn imminent and I like the idea of paprika in there too.

An entirely different question - as a cheese expert I wonder if I could ask how you tell if the surface of a cheese has mould or crystals? I'm assuming your parmesan is crystalline rather than mouldy but I recently opened a packet of (supermarket, sorry!) emmenthal to find small white 'bits' on it, predominantly in the 'holes' of the cheese. It was quite a pricey specimen but I don't know whether emmenthal usually forms crystals or not? Thankyou!

Fiona Beckett said...

Well, I'm not a cheesemaker C but I wouldn't have expected supermarket Emmental to develop crystals. It wouldn't be aged nearly as long as parmesan - on the other hand it may simply be the fat globules in the milk rising to the surface. But if you're unsure about it, take it back.

ps I don't regard mushroom risotto as at all boring. I would say it's my favourite kind.

Glad you like the BNS version, Charlie and Travis!

BeccaRothwell said...

We had roast squash and sage risotto a couple of nights ago, it's an absolute staple during autumn! Although I frequently use other squash which give a slightly different flavour such as acorn, carnival or crown prince depending on what they have in the grocers or Waitrose.

Usually though I just cube and roast the lot then mash half before stirring into the rice at the end of cooking, I'll have to give this method a try instead. Time to treat myself to some saffron too perhaps! I may miss out the crème fraiche though as I never seem to like it when risottos have cream added.

Jean said...

I love risotto, and a lot of people seem to think it's hard to make but it's so easy isn't it? Of course, I can't be doing with all that cheese though - so I make mine without any. I know you going to be outraged by that Fiona!

Fiona Beckett said...

Think you need it (the cream) Becca to mellow the flavour of the squash - but give it a try.

And I know your views on cheese, notsupermum *sigh*. You need some kind of counterbalancing savoury flavour. Some crisp fried streaky bacon might do the trick!

healy said...

Delish! Some of my favorite ingredients all wrapped up in one recipe :)