My gorgeous gentleman friend is out of town. He is a man of many charms, however one point of contention between us is PUMPKIN and another is MELTED CHEESY BUTTERY THINGS, both of which he doesn't like. I know, right? I must really love him. Obviously, in his absence I am indulging in both of the above in the best Wintry form I can think of: risotto.
Obviously risotto is one of those meals that, once you've nailed the baseline, you can take in whatever direction you want. However one technique I have learnt (from the aforementioned absent pumpkin-hating gentleman) is that of preparing your star ingredients and adding them right at the end, so that they don't go soggy or mushy. We've made gorgeous risottos with chilli powder dusted roast cauliflower, but tonight is all about the pumpkin and the cheese, with mushrooms as well because a) I have them and b) who doesn't love mushrooms. My man insists that risotto must be firmly yet tranquilly stirred pretty much the entire time it's on the stove. My own rule of thumb when making risotto is to use leek rather than onion - it's a gentler, greener and a subtler flavour - and to use butter and cheese as much as possible whenever he isn't around.
- 1/4 Queensland blue pumpkin (or whatever alternative form of pumpkin you can lay your hands on - just let it be known that Queensland Blues are hands-down the best)
- 1 bag of white-capped mushrooms, roughly chopped
- dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 leek
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 2 cups aborio rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 50 grated mozzarella
- 50-100g grated parmesan
- cracked pepper and salt
- olive oil and butter
So start by heating your oven to about 190 C and chopping up your pumpkin into bite-sized chunks. Toss it in oil, salt and pepper and put it in the oven. Next roughly chop your mushrooms, and finely chop your leek and garlic and put the 1.25 litres of water on to boil in the kettle to prepare your stock, if you're using the powdered variety.
After about 10-15 minutes add the mushrooms to the baking pan (the mushrooms will dry out much faster than the pumpkin so it's good to give the pumpking a head start). Heat a large non-stick low and wide pan to a medium heat. Once the pan is warm add a pour of oil and a small knob of butter. Yes, that's right, oil AND butter. That's how I roll when sir is away. Sautee the garlic and leek until soft then add the rice and toss through until evenly coated in the oils.
Add the wine and some cracked pepper and stir with requisite tranquility until largely evaporated, and then do likewise with a splash of the stock (about 1/7th). Pour some of the wine for yourself. Drink throughout. Chop your dried porcinis and scatter them through the rice. You don't need to pre-soak them, they're going to soak up all your stock and wine. Continue to add the stock in small batches, mixing it evenly through the rice. The pan should be hot enough that the liquid simmers within 20 seconds if you stop stirring. After your third or fourth batch of water (about 25 mins) turn the oven down to about 150 to keep your pumpkin and mushrooms warm but not burning. When not stirring, grate your cheeses.
You'll need to taste test regularly (awesome) to see how the rice is progressing. The interstitial liquid will start to get thicker but should never get gluggy. When you reckon the whole lot is about 99% done, add the mushrooms and pumpkin and fold into the risotto gently, so as not to break up the pumpkin too greatly. Finally, evenly sprinkle both your cheeses over the top and fold these in as well.
If you're not sure which cheeses to use, go with your guts. The parmasen is awesome with the mushrooms, and the mozzarella adds a springy, stringiness that I really love, but a creamy fetta or goats cheese would also work well with this combo.