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.

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 😉


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!

#nowplaying : Omni – Delicacy

Roasted Courgette Orzotto



Orzotto is a thing!  I didn’t know it was a thing until I spent a week in Dubrovnik recently and tried some myself.  Oh boy, it was GOOD.

Orzotto is basically a risotto made with pearl barley instead of rice.  The food in Dubrovnik has quite a heavy Italian influence (think pizza, pasta, grilled veggies… all the good stuff!), and orzotto is no exception.

You can substitute the veggies in this with any other roast veggies and I’m sure it’ll taste just as good.  Be sure to roast your veggies with olive oil, balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper before you mix it in too, as it just makes the flavour so much tastier.

Pearl barley – not just for soup apparently!



3 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 small/medium courgette (zucchini), cut into 1/2 cm thick rounds

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of crushed garlic

200g pearl barley

2 handfuls of roughly chopped spinach

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

1 tsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tsp chopped fresh basil

sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

optional 1 Tbsp vegan parmesan – I use Violife Prosociano which I pick up from Ms Cupcake in Brixton


Preheat oven to 220C (425F)

Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the finely chopped onion

Heat the onion on medium heat, stirring until translucent (about five minutes)

Add two cloves of crushed garlic and stir until combined

Stir in the pearl barley and spinach and cook for a couple of minutes


Add the white wine and stir.  Allow the wine to evaporate.

(Optional – drink the remainder of the bottle of white wine ;-))

Add the stock in 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring occasionally, and allowing each cup of stock to fully evaporate before adding more stock

While the pearl barley is cooking, prepare the roast courgettes

Add the sliced courgette rounds to a small bowl and top with 1 of the cloves of crushed garlic, 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, the balsamic and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss to coat.

Place the courgette rounds on a baking tray and cook for 25 minutes (longer if you cut thicker rounds)

Perfect roasted courgettes

Continue cooking the pearl barley mix for 30 minutes, adding more stock after the current stock evaporates

When the pear barley is ready, remove from heat and stir in the corgette, basil and parsley (and parmesan if using) and a generous amount of salt and cracked black pepper

Serve by itself or with a side salad and more roasted veggies


Makes enough orzotto for two people

Time to make: 20 minutes prep, 30 minutes on the hob = 50 minutes

On a scale of easy (1) to pull your hair out difficult (5) = 3, you will need to keep an eye on the pearl barley, stirring to keep from sticking to the pan, and adding stock every few minutes.

#nowplaying The Charlatans – Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over