Butternut squash risotto

 

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.

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Praise be to the risotto gods

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 😉

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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!

#nowplaying : Omni – Delicacy

Spicy tofu & brussels sprout fried rice

Here’s a combo that you might not think goes together, but it really does.  Brussels sprouts and fried rice?  Nah.  Oh, but YEAH.

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Many people aren’t keen on that stinky little vegetable, but I’m a huge fan of sprouts.  They’re usually only found as part of a roast dinner (hidden under the gravy), but after trying this recipe it’s clear that they’re a lot more versatile than just being a side dish.  One cup of these little green machines gives you over 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K and C, as well as containing high amounts of folate and fibre.  Ugly vegetable, yet very good for you.

The combination of agave and sriracha on the crispy tofu gives it a sweet-but-spicy edge and I try to crisp up the tofu in the oven as much as possible without over cooking.  The tofu can be pan fried too if you prefer that method.  I like to just stick it in the oven and forget about it.

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Try not to overcook your sprouts also – I know it’s quite a British thing to do (sorry Brits!), but let’s leave some of the nutrients intact, shall we?!  Add some carrots and some seeds and you have a healthy as hell meal.  You’re welcome 😉

Enjoy!

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Ingredients

Sprout Fried Rice

2 cups of cooked, day old brown rice (white is fine if that’s all you have)

1.5 cups sliced Brussels sprouts (as thick or as thin as you want, just cook longer if you cut them quite thick)

1 large carrot, cut into half rounds

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of agave (or maple syrup)

1 tablespoon oil (any vegetable oil)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp ginger (I used the stuff in a tube – lasts forever and it works well!)

Optional – sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, chopped roasted cashews

Spicy Tofu

1 pack (280g) Tofoo tofu (I love this stuff – no need to press the water out, just pat dry with a couple of handy towels and you’re good to go)

1 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari)

1 tablespoon hot sauce (I use Sriracha, but you can use Frank’s or any other hot sauce)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon agave (can also use maple syrup)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method

Prepare your tofu first so you can put in the oven and work on the fried rice.

Preheat oven to 200C

Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all of the tofu ingredients apart from the tofu in a small bowl to make a marinade.

Drain the tofu and dice evenly.

Place the tofu into the marinade bowl and stir to combine, ensuring all of the tofu is coated.

Carefully place your tofu pieces one by one onto the baking paper.  Keep the remaining marinade to coat the tofu halfway through.

Bake for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn over each piece of tofu individually and coat with the remaining marinade.

Bake for another 15 minutes or until browned, or as I like it, slightly burnt!

Now for the stir fry…

Add the vegetable oil and sesame oil to a cast iron skillet (or wok) and heat on medium high heat.

Add to the skillet the minced garlic and ginger, stirring occasionally for about a minute.  Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Add the sliced sprouts and carrots, and fry for around five minutes (longer if your sprouts are cut quite chunky), stirring occasionally.

Add the rice, soy sauce and agave to the skillet and stir to combine.  Stir fry for another five minutes or so, until everything is heated through and the rice becomes dry.

Serve immediately and top with the tofu.  Add some sesame seeds or crushed cashews.

Time to make: 20 minutes prep (because sprouts take AGES to prep!), 15 minutes to cook the rice and 30 minutes for the tofu = 55 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 2.5, the rice is really quick and easy but when you add the tofu it becomes more complicated.

Serves 2 (but honestly, keep some for leftovers as this is hella tasty the next day!)

#nowplaying Baxter Dury – Price of Tears