Butternut Squash Risotto

One of my favourite autumnal dishes, risotto ticks all the boxes when it comes to inexpensive comfort food. I am a great fan of butternut squashes, which are one of the vegetables I can’t wait to pick from the allotment each autumn. They are at their very best when split and roasted for about an hour at 200C until soft.

The cooled risotto (or any of the left-overs) is wonderful shaped into balls – a tablespoon per ball – with a chunk of mozzarella or camembert pushed into the centre. The balls are then dipped in beaten egg and coated lightly with seasoned flour before being deep-fried until golden brown and served with a good salsa. But made even smaller, they make great canapés.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto (serves 3 generously)

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  • 1 medium butternut squash, split in half lengthways, seeds removed.
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra for the squash
  • large knob of unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3-4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus extra if needed
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • small handful toasted pine nuts
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • about 10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • a few fresh whole sage leaves, optional
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rub a little oil over the butternut squash, season well with salt and pepper, sprinkle over some of the sage leaves and roast for about an hour at 200C until soft. Cool a little and peel off the skin. Discard the skin.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook gently until softened but not browned. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes before pouring in the wine. Cook for a minute or two until the wine has evaporated.
  3. Add a ladleful of stock and stir until the stock has almost evaporated. Add another ladle of stock along with just over half of the squash. Stir well and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated – the squash will break down into the stock and add flavour and a lovely natural yellow-orange colour.
  4. Add more of the stock, a ladle at a time as above, until the rice is cooked – it should be just soft but with a bit of bite – this should take 15-20 minutes; you might not need to use all of the stock. Remove from the heat and stir in most of the pine nuts and most of the parmesan. Gently add the remaining squash, trying not to break it up too much.
  5. Leave the risotto to stand for about 2-3 minutes. You should have a risotto that oozes (think lava!) rather than being thick and stodgy – if it is too thick (eg: if the wooden spoon can stand upright in it!) stir in more stock until the risotto flows slowly.
  6. While the risotto is standing heat a few tablespoons oil in a shallow pan and add the whole sage leaves. Fry for a minute or so until they curl and turn a little darker.  Remove the sage and drain on some kitchen towel. Reserve the sage-flavoured oil.
  7. Spoon the risotto onto plates or wide, shallow dishes and sprinkle over the remaining pine nuts and parmesan. Place a few of the crispy sage leaves on top and drizzle a little of the sage oil over.
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