It is undeniable that there is something pretty special about the way pumpkin and risotto rice go together.
The natural sweetness of the pumpkin, contrasting with the starchy, creamy nature of risotto rice, making it just the ideal partner.
Just like all good relationships though, the secret is in the balance.
For me the perfect balance is achieved when the two almost melt together combining into each other. Just so there is no clear divide between where the risotto ends, and the flavour, or texture, of the pumpkin begins. Behind these blurred lines however, is just a simply delicious but surprisngly rich dish.
To achieve this, I actually cube the pumpkin pretty small, ranging up to no bigger than quarter inch chunks, and fry it off together with the onion at the onset of cooking. In so doing this means that during the cooking proces some of the pumpkin effectively dissolves during the cooking process of the risotto. Releasing more flavour, and imparting a beautiful colour.
Although many people prefer to add the pumpkin later in the cooking process and have the pumpkin maintain some texture, and contrast, so the choice is entirely in the hands of whoever is making it. Another option is to hold back some of the pumpkin cubes, and to fry them seperately, and then add them as a garnish right at the end.
As usual with a risotto, the stock used is critical to the taste. However most people will not have time to continually create fresh stocks, so a decent shop purchased fresh stock, or even a stock cube, will work excellently too.
My personal preference is to use a dilute fresh chicken stock, and to finish the risotto with lots of butter and parmesan, and finally drizzle some extra virgin olive oil when serving. For me that is pretty much perfect.
Incidentally, don't get confused or put off, if you spy a risotto recipe in a cook book which starts talking about "mantecatura". For some reason people like to confuse or over complicate things. It just means the last step of the process, where you incorporate, butter or oil, and usually a cheese such as parmesan, to "cream up" and finish the dish. Nothing hard really.
Just remember, Italian food, is the same as Italian men, always very simple.
2-3 tablespoons (approx) of olive oil,
1/2 a medium sized butternut squash, or culinary pumpkin, cut into approximately quarter inch cubes,
1 finely diced shallott (or a small onion),
14oz (400g) of Arborio risotto rice,
1 glass of a decent white wine,
1 pint of a dilute chicken stock
4 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan
4oz (approx) of butter
-In a medium sized pan, over a gentle heat, add the olive oil, the finely diced shallots and the pumpkin. You want to gently cook both until slightly soft, we are definitely not looking to colour anything, just to soften. Cook for around 4-5 minutes.
-Next you can add the Arborio rice, and gently stir so that the rice grains are all coated. Cook for around 2 or 3 minutes, and then add the white wine. Gently simmer until the wine has evaporated. It is quite important that you allow the alcohol to evaporate, or it will over power.
-Next add a small quantity of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Now while still simmering gently stir the risotto, and continue to do so, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Don't boil it dry though! Once almost dry, add another small quantity of stock, and repeat the process. You will need to continue to do this for around 15-18 minutes, taste the rice and check for "bite" before adding the next quantity of stock.
-Once your happy with the "bite" (cooked state) of the risotto, you can turn off the head and add the butter, and parmesan into the pan, and stir very vigorously! Keep doing this until the butter has melted, place a lid on the pan. Let the risotto sit for 2-3 minutes and serve immediately.
-Again no camera to hand, sorry, but rest assured there is another "dodgy" piece of phone camera action on display. You can however, I hope just about make out the textures I was waffling about earlier, and that it does turn out looking edible. And it was! Honest!