I’m a big fan of risotto, and there are so many variations on what you can make it with that my head spins sometimes. Tomato based, creamy based, arborio rice, pearl barley, ALL the different veggies… the list of combinations are endless.
You need to follow the basics of risotto making to ensure it comes out with the right taste and texture. By all means, mix it up a bit, but it will require your time and attention. Don’t just leave that poor fella on the hob, cooking away, while you go have a shower – NO. Give him the love he deserves, and you’ll get it back in a delicious dish that you’ll make over and over again.
Make sure you use specialist “risotto” rice (e.g. arborio, carnaroli, baldo etc…) and not your standard white or brown rice – because it WILL make a difference. White wine is also needed, although if you’re trying to cut down on the alcohol, then substitute with white grape juice (no, really!) or more stock. With this recipe I substituted the wine for stock and a little bit of lemon juice, and the result was still excellent.
So set some time aside, give this recipe a try, pay attention (be mindful!), and you’ll get results, I promise 😉
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
4 TBsp oil
600ml vegetable stock
2 TBsp vegan butter/margarine
1/2 large or one small onion, chopped fairly fine
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine/crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mixed herbs (try including thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano, or a combination of them)
150g risotto rice (I used Arborio for this recipe)
100 ml white wine (substitute for veggie stock or white grape juice)
1 packed cup of fresh, roughly chopped spinach
Preheat oven to 180C
Add 2/3 of the diced butternut squash to a bowl with 2 TBsp of the oil, and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the oiled squash on a baking tray, ensuring none of the squash is touching each other, and bake for around 30 minutes, turning over every so often to ensure all sides are cooked evenly. Ensure they are fully cooked before removing from the oven.
Add the remaining squash to a saucepan with the 600ml vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, allowing the squash to poach in the stock.
Add the remaining oil and one TBsp of the butter to a frying pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions and allow to cook until translucent (don’t allow the onion to brown – so ensure the temperature is not too high), about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf and herbs, stir and cook for one further minute. Stir in the rice, and keep stirring on and off for about five minutes, so the rice becomes coated in the butter and oil, and allow the rice to take on a toasty flavour.
Add the wine to the rice and stir to combine. Increase the heat slightly and let the wine evaporate, about 1-2 minutes. Start to ladle in the stock (leaving the squash in the saucepan to cook), but only ladle in around 1/2 a cup at a time. Stir during each addition of stock, and then allow the stock to be almost completely absorbed into the rice before adding more. Here is where you need to keep an eye on it, so be patient! From start to finish of the stock, it should take around 15 minutes.
The squash in the stock should have now softened enough to mash. Once the risotto is cooked, add the mashed squash and chopped spinach to the risotto and stir to combine. Find the bay leaf and remove (unless you want to eat it?!). Add the remaining TBsp of butter and season with salt and pepper.
Once the baked squash is ready, add that to the risotto and stir to combine.
Feel free to serve with some vegan parmesan (as I did), toasted seeds or nuts to the finished product!
Time to make: 10 minutes to prep the ingredients, 30 minutes to cook the squash in the oven, 10 minutes starting the risotto and 15 minutes cooking the risotto (while the squash is in the oven) = 55 minutes
On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 2.5, there are a few moving parts to this, but nothing difficult if you know how to chop veggies and stir some rice!
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