The trees have turned that wonderful golden brown colour, the pavements are littered with crunchy leaves. We walk along kicking them up as we go. Pumpkins with their smiling candle lit toothy grins, are everywhere. Surely I should be cooking with pumpkin this week. A confession: pumpkin isn’t something I have used much in the past. I’ve made a good soup using pumpkin a few weeks ago. This week I could have paired it with spices and sugar and made a pumpkin pie, but that didn’t excite me. I wanted to make a risotto, something that was easy to make and warming on these cold nights; pumpkin risotto, that could be good I thought.
I roasted the pumpkin first to bring out the flavour. I thought I would add chorizo and thyme to the risotto, surely this would be good. The chorizo was spicy a robust punchy flavour. It reminded me how much I like chorizo and I must do more with it. The thyme was more subtle but added background flavour. The risotto was warming delicious comfort food until I got to the pumpkin. It’s rare that I don’t like food, but I tried a number of chunks of roasted pumpkin and it’s flavour was just not for me. I wanted something gently sweet, rather than the bitter flavour I was tasting. I tried another piece, but it was no good, I couldn’t enjoy it at all. It was time for a rethink. I decided to forget it was Halloween, and buy butternut squash instead of pumpkin and make the risotto again.
This time there were eight of us eating the risotto. We sat down and I served up the risotto. Yes, this was what I was after, the butternut squash was beautifully golden the sweetness balanced well with the spicy kick of the chorizo. The lemon gave a tangy note and the spinach added it’s lovely colour. The risotto was warming and comforting. We eight enjoyed the risotto. The next day one of them mentioned that they had been saying how good it had been in the car on the way home.
Chorizo, butternut squash and lemon risotto
650g/1lb4oz butternut squash will become 450g/1lb when peeled and deseeded
1 tbsp oil
salt and black pepper
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
10g lemon thyme
400g Arborio (risotto) rice
150 ml dry white wine
1.2 litres of ham or vegetable stock
100g/3 ½ oz fresh spinach
the rind of one lemon
100g/3 ½ oz parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas mark 4.
2. Peel and deseed the butternut squash and chop into 2.5cm/1” cubes. Put into a large roasting tin, pour over the oil and season, mix well. Put into the oven for 30 minutes.
3. While you wait for the squash to roast. Chop the chorizo into 1cm/ 3/8” cubes.
4. In a large saucepan dry fry the chorizo; the oil from the chorizo will release and fry the chorizo. When the chorizo is lightly browned remove from the pan, leaving the oil in the saucepan, but remove from the heat.
5. Thinly slice the onion and crush the garlic. Remove the thyme leaves from the stalks; if they are thin soft stalks they can remain. Roughly chop the thyme leaves still on stalks.
6. Add the butter to the chorizo oil and heat both over a medium heat. Fry the onion, garlic and thyme with the lid on until the onion is soft and translucent.
7. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Add the wine. Stir.
8. Keep stirring until all the wine is absorbed by the rice and then start adding the stock, little by little stirring frequently. Only add more stock when what is in the pan has already been absorbed. Keep going until all the rice is cooked. If you need more liquid just use hot water.
9. Add in the chorizo and the butternut squash to the risotto.
10. Stir in the spinach, which will wilt in the heat of the risotto.
11. Stir in the lemon rind and half the grated cheese. Cook for a minute, then season with black pepper and serve with the remaining cheese.
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