Sometimes I just itch to make something. Not so much that I want to eat it, but I just want to make it – go through the process of preparing the ingredients, cooking it and presenting it. I can’t really pinpoint why I have these sudden urges – they just come. So it was a great thing that Becky came over for dinner the other night and picked having a pumpkin and mushroom risotto over rice and chinese veg. I’ve been wanting to make risotto for a while, and have had the arborio rice and chicken stock staring me in the face in the pantry willing itself to be used.
Risottos are one of those things I love to cook and eat. I’m a bit particular with cooking risottos – the stock needs to be warm and that it is added in a ladle at a time (rather than all at once) and I believe in taking the time to watch over it over a stove (rather than put it in a rice-cooker). Besides, it’s also a perfect excuse to sneak in some downtime while watching those arborio rice grains plump up. Once I get all this right, I hope to make my own stock and pair them together.
I sort of made up the recipe and hoped that it would work, so the amounts aren’t exact but probably a good guide.
Risotto with pumpkin and Swiss brown mushrooms
- 400-500g butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-2 cm cubes
- 150g Swiss brown mushrooms
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 small glass of dry white wine (i.e. Chardonnay)
- 800 ml chicken / vegetable stock (this is a rough guide, you may need to add more or less depending on how fast the rice cooks – I usually dilute it with some warm water)
- Shaved parmesan to serve
Try to do this in some sort of order that the pumpkin will be ready just when the rice is. If you start on the rice first, and then whack in the pumpkin about 5 minutes after, it should be just about right.
Preheat the oven to 200oC. Place pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking paper (makes it so much easier). Drizzle about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over it and toss to coat. Pop into the oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Take it out and drizzle a bit of honey over the pumpkin and pop back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
Slice thickly (0.5 mm ish). Dust with a bit of cornflour (optional). Saute in pan until cooked. I do this about 5 minutes before the rice looks like it’ll be done.
Warm the stock in a saucepan or in the microwave. You want it to be lukewarm (not piping hot).
Heat a heavy base saucepan over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil and sweat off onions (this means that you want the onions to turn transluscent – avoid browning them!). After a minute or two, add in the garlic. Stir for a minute.
Add rice. Toast for 1-2 minutes.
Add wine and let the rice absorb all the wine.
Start adding the warm stock, about 1/2 cup at a time. I try to avoid stirring the mixture too much – just one or two stirs with a spoon, and then I just let it sit and shake the pan a bit. Allow the liquid to completely absorb first before adding the second lot of stock. Continue doing this until the rice becomes al dente. For me, this usually takes about 30 minutes but it depends (I believe) on the pan size to rice ratio.
Putting it altogether
When rice is done, fold in mushrooms and carefully fold in pumpkin; you don’t want pumpkin mash. Top with some shaved parmesan (I didn’t have any) and cracked black pepper .
When I first started making risottos, I found it pretty hard to tell when it was done. The best way to tell is by tasting it. The first couple of times I was tasting from the 20 minute mark and thus have eaten my fair share of semi cooked arborio rice grains. Nowadays, I gauge whether the rice is cooked by:
- The time I spend cooking it;
- If the rice grains look plump and opaque; and
- When I hear it ‘whistle’ and see bubbling – this is actually an interesting observation I made after cooking a couple of risottos, and it is when a risotto is ‘done’, it bubbles (in slow mo) like lava pools and makes a whistling sound. See if it is like that for you – it hasn’t failed me so far!