Saturday, 3 December 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

The winter cold season is well and truly upon us and there are people coughing and sneezing wherever I look. I’ve started using my newspaper as a shield during my commute (has covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze gone out of fashion?) in a feeble attempt to avoid the inevitable. So far so good though I’ve probably jinxed myself by saying that! Whether you are currently suffering or if you, like me, are desperately trying to dodge the sniffles that are doing the rounds, you could help yourself by eating right. Butternut nut squash is a fantastic versatile ingredient and it’s packed full of vitamin C (great for boosting your immune system!) and calcium as well as other fantastic vitamins and minerals. Despite its luxuriously silky texture, it’s also low in saturated fat.

We’re coming to the end of the winter squash season but they keep for up to three months in a cool dark environment so there’s still time to squirrel some away under the stairs or in your larder cupboard. I like to buy them up when they’re in season and cheap in the supermarket then peel and roast them when I’ve got the oven on anyway to save on energy. This is a great excuse, if you’re in need of one, to make a cake or maybe some cookies! You can then box or bag it up and freeze it cooked ready for winter salads, warming soups and hearty risottos.

Butternut Squash Risotto with sage
Serves two amply 

½  medium-sized butternut squash, seeds removed
½ onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
150g risotto rice
80ml white wine or dry vermouth
500ml vegetable stock
1 small bunch of fresh sage, chopped or 2 tsp dried sage
50g butter
50g parmesan

-          Preheat the oven to 190C. Peel and chop the squash into 1.5cm chunks. Pop them on a non-stick baking tray and stick them in the oven for 30 minutes or so while you make the risotto. Check the squash every so often and turn it with a spoon to ensure that it cooks evenly. The squash is cooked when its soft and slightly golden. If you are using pre-cooked butternut squash, you can obviously skip this step and commend yourself for being well organised.
-          Heat a little oil in a heavy-based saucepan and sweat the onion, carrot and celery until soft and sweet.
-          Tip in the rice and stir until it has absorbed all of the juices of the vegetables in the pan. Pour in the wine and keep stirring while that absorbs to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick.
-          Add the garlic and then the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed before adding more.
-          Check the butternut squash, which should be cooked through. (If it isn’t, cover the risotto and turn off the heat below it.)  Mash half of it to a course purée and stir this into the risotto with the butter, sage and parmesan. Fold in or top with the rest of the roasted squash.

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