Two risottos for autumn

I’ve written before about my love of risotto and its comforting properties. So, as a follow on from my ‘Summersotto’ post, here are a couple of suggestions for autumnal risottos:

(both recipes serve two)

Roasted butternut squash and blue cheese risotto

Ingredients

  • 500-600g butternut squash (about half a large one), peeled and cut into chunks
  • Nutmeg (optional)
  • About 40g pine nuts
  • A glug of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • An onion, chopped
  • A stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 150-165g risotto rice
  • 700ml hot vegetable stock
  • A tablespoonful of fresh sage, finely chopped, or a teaspoonful of dried sage
  • About 100g blue cheese
  • Black pepper
  • Truffle flavoured oil, for drizzling (optional)

Start by roasting the butternut squash. Place the chunks of squash into a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grate on some nutmeg if you fancy it. Scrunch with clean hands to coat the squash in oil. Roast at gas mark 5 (190⁰C) for about 45 minutes or until the squash is tender enough for a knife to easily go into it. Set aside.

When you’re ready to make your risotto, get all your ingredients ready.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan (use the same pan that you plan on using for your risotto) until they start to turn golden but without burning them. Set them aside in a bowl.

Heat the olive oil and butter in the pan, then add the onion and celery and fry them gently until they are translucent. Add the risotto rice and stir it in until it’s covered in buttery oil.

Begin to add the stock a ladleful at a time as you normally would with any risotto. After the first couple of ladlefuls of stock have been absorbed, stir in the sage before continuing to add the stock.

When you’ve used up all your stock, test a couple of grains of rice to see if they’re cooked. If not, add a bit more stock or boiling water and keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the heat and crumble in the blue cheese, stirring it in until it’s nicely melted. Season well with black pepper and divide between bowls. Scatter the butternut squash and pine nuts on top and serve.

I like a drizzle of truffle flavoured oil on this, but it’s just as nice without.

Mushroom risotto with bacon

Ingredients

  • 4 rashers of bacon
  • A glug of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • An onion, chopped
  • A stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 150-165g risotto rice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Sherry
  • 650ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • A tablespoonful of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried
  • Parmesan

Grill the bacon until crispy and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the mushrooms, onion and celery. Fry until the onion and celery are translucent and the mushrooms are softened. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat with oil and butter. Add the garlic and fry gently for a couple more minutes.

Turn up the heat and add a generous glug of sherry. Allow it to bubble down a bit before beginning to add the stock a ladleful at a time. Add the thyme after the first couple of ladlefuls have been absorbed.

When you’ve used up all your stock, test a couple of grains of rice to see if they’re cooked. If not, add a bit more stock or boiling water and keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Turn off the heat and grate in a decent amount of parmesan, stirring to melt it in.

Divide between bowls and trim the bacon into strips on top.

Note added 9th January, 2012

I made this mushroom risotto tonight, but used a pack of fresh shiitake mushrooms (which we like to pronounce ‘shit-ache’ in our household because we’re childish) which were in the reduced bit at Sainsbury’s. I also added several chopped chestnut mushrooms and a few dried porcini mushrooms, which I soaked in boiling water to rehydrate them. I then used the soaking water in the stock. I can definitely recommend the porcini mushrooms for an extra mushroomy flavour hit. You don’t need to use many of them- I find a pack of dried ones (stored in a kilner jar) goes a long way.

Bank Holiday blowout food

This weekend was the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas, and I managed to wangle a shift off from work to enable me to enjoy the whole three days off. In classic British Bank Holiday fashion, the weather forecast was for rain all weekend. “There goes my nice long bike ride in the sun,” I thought. However, yesterday was lovely and sunny and while we didn’t cycle the longer route I’d originally planned, we did have a nice cycle around the park in the sunshine (sitting down to enjoy a cheeky Calippo under a tree along the way). As I’d thought the weather was going to be rubbish all weekend, I was feeling a bit indulgent and planned a menu of tasty treats for our three days off together.

We started off on Saturday with a nice lay in (interrupted by needing to answer the door, bleary eyed and Russell Brand-haired, to the postman to take delivery of some packages from Amazon). We then enjoyed a pot of coffee and some pain au chocolat while still in our dressing gowns, watching re-runs of Time Team on the telly. Lovely. I won’t bore you with this level of detail about the rest of the weekend but it’s worth mentioning how much I appreciate not having to set an alarm and having a home filled with the smell of fresh coffee first thing in the morning.

I decided to make cream teas on Saturday, the original plan being to cycle to the park and enjoy them in the sun. As it was pissing down with rain, we enjoyed them in the comfort of our own home instead. The scone recipe I used was this one (don’t do what I did and absent-mindedly use plain flour instead of self-raising- I had to chuck out the first batch and start again when I realised they weren’t rising in the oven). We had our usual debate about whether to put the jam on first or the clotted cream- I always put my cream on first with the strawberry jam on top because I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing (which is the Devon way of doing it). However, Owen spent a large portion of his childhood and teens in Cornwall, and he and his mum will argue until they’re blue in the face that the Cornish way (jam first, cream on top) is the only correct way to serve a cream tea.

Cream teas (the Devon way). I got a bit carried away and decided to put them on my extra chintzy bone china plates.

Yesterday’s breakfast was pancakes with bacon and maple syrup- one of my favourite weekend breakfasts when I can be bothered to make it. I use the following ingredients for the two of us, adjusted from this Jamie Oliver recipe.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80g plain flour
  • 95ml milk
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Breakfast pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Owen did a roast for dinner last night. I’m not very good at roasts, but I do always contribute by making the stuffing balls (chopped onion, grated apple, sage and breadcrumbs bound with an egg) and Yorkshire puds. A roast is one of those meals, like a full English breakfast, which always tastes that much better when someone else cooks it for you. Owen happens to be very good at making a roast dinner (his roast potatoes in particular are excellent), which works out well for me…

Owen’s yummy roast potatoes.

I made tomato soup for lunch today using this Felicity Cloake recipe (which is my standard ‘go to’ tomato soup recipe- the balsamic vinegar lifts the flavours perfectly). I quite often make soup for lunch on a weekend, especially if the weather’s a bit miserable- I find it quite comforting with a nice bit of crusty bread for dippage.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these before they went in the oven- I just thought they looked pretty…

Tomato soup

One of the aforementioned Amazon deliveries was Lorraine Pascale’s latest book, which provided the inspiration for tonight’s dinner- prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce (the recipe wasn’t on her usual BBC page so the link is to the Mail Online- sorry about that). The only adjustments I made were to use one tin of tomatoes instead of two and enough linguine for two people instead of four. There are loads of recipes in this book that I want to try, so you’ll no doubt be hearing more about them soon…

Lorraine Pascale’s prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce

So, we’re back to work tomorrow. After all this culinary naughtiness (I’ve not even mentioned the Tesco’s jumbo chocolate croissants and copious amounts of beer and wine we washed everything down with until now), I think I’ll need to get on the exercise bike and cook a few healthy meals this week to restore the balance…