I’ve been slightly frazzled today, although my father, who was a farmer all his working life, would laugh at the idea that sitting in front of a computer for ten hours could be tiring. I’ve been wrestling with writing something that needed lots of research and which had to be completed to a deadline. So my desk has been strewn with books and articles and my browser must have had about twenty tabs open concurrently. When it got to 7 o’clock I had no idea what to cook and little imagination. In situations like this I invariably make a risotto, so that’s what I did.
I only got three squash to properly ripen this year, I think that the dodgy August weather wasn’t ideal for them, but the idea of training them up and over an arch in the garden worked really well. I think I’ll definitely try it again next year. Of course, you couldn’t do it with huge great Halloween style pumpkins but the Uchiki Kuri squash that are my favourite were an ideal size as well as being delicious. I cut them about three weeks ago with a good few inches of stalk, and left them in the sun for a day to allow the skin to harden off. I’d roasted half of one a few days ago with roast chicken and potatoes and so had some left in the fridge. So all I had to do was to stumble outside in the dark and grope around for a leek.
Squash, leek & marscapone risotto
1/3 uchiki kuri squash (butternut squash would work well too)
500ml chicken stock
small wine glass of dry white wine (100ml maybe)
200g carnaroli or arborio risotto rice
knob of butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch of cumin
1 T(ablespoon) marscapone
1 T grated parmesan
salt & pepper
Slice the squash into chunks, drizzle with a little olive oil and a pinch of cumin. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C. If you’re using uchiki kuri you don’t need to peel off the skin because it goes soft and is fine to eat when its roasted but if you’re using butternut squash you’ll need to peel it. Take out of the oven and put to one side. You could do this immediately before you’ll need it or even cook more roast squash with, for example, Sunday lunch, and save some in the fridge.
Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add a knob of butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a pan. Slice the leeks and saute in the butter and olive oil over a medium heat until soft. Then add the risotto rice and stir around for a few minutes. Add the wine and bubble until it has almost all been absorbed. Then gradually add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring continually. Wait until the liquid from each ladle of stock has been absorbed before adding the next. The whole process will take around 20 minutes, by which time the stock should all be absorbed and the rice should be soft but still with a tiny bit of bite (al dente) and not soggy. You may need to add slightly less or more stock. Dice the cooled squash and add into the risotto together with the heaped tablespoons of marscapone and grated parmesan. Stir very gently so that the squash doesn’t all break up and turn into a puree.
The squash makes the risotto look very autumnal. Stir for a minute or two on a low heat until the squash is heated through and the marscapone is well combined. Season to taste. Although I try to be healthy and avoid adding too much salt to things, I do find that this needs a little bit of salt otherwise it can be too bland and creamy. Just a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and the flavours really lift.
Would be nice with a green salad with some peppery cut and come again salad leaves that are still just about hanging on in the garden.
I’ve said it before, but as a fan of recycling I’ll say it again. I find the process of making risotto incredibly therapeutic, you need to concentrate just enough to allow you to block everything else out, but its not exactly rocket science. With a glass of wine in my hand and some music playing in the background thoughts of the day’s work vanish.