Thursday, 29 September 2011

Butternut squash risotto with chorizo and sage

Here in London we are currently basking in unseasonably hot weather – just like earlier this year when we were sunbathing and barbecuing over the Easter weekend. It's quite surreal for those of us who love the change of season and autumn produce. However, I'm not complaining. So, if you're not too busy tracking down charcoal or preparing salads, here's an easy autumnal supper.

For two servings, peel, shred or finely chop a half a butternut squash. As uncooked squash is quite hard, this is easiest done in a food processor. Melt some butter in a deep sauté pan and sweat a finely chopped onion for a few minutes until translucent (you only need a small onion). Add the squash, stir around and then add 150g risotto rice (ideally arborio or carnaroli). Turn up the heat and stir well for a couple of minutes before pouring in a generous splash of white wine or vermouth, allowing it to bubble fiercely and reduce. Add about half a litre of vegetable or chicken stock (home-made or from a cube – most recently we used a Maggi vegetable bouillon cube) kept warm in a separate pan. A few strands of saffron are a good addition to this dish and can be sprinkled in at this stage.

I'm afraid I cheat with risottos and start off by adding about half a litre of stock, covering (drowning) the rice, stirring well and only adding more once it has been absorbed. In total I use about a litre or so. I don't use the traditional ladle-by-ladle method. I check the rice intermittently, stirring, adding more stock and letting it cook for longer. If I've run out of stock and the risotto looks a bit dry or if needs more cooking, just add some hot water (or more stock). I do this two or three times during the 20 minutes the risotto takes to cook. Once the rice is sufficiently tender, remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for a minute before adding cubed butter and, if you like, grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano), season and stir well.

This risotto is particularly good with a few fried slices of chorizo and sage leaves fried in butter. The chorizo bleeds delicious peppery oil into the risotto and all the colours combine beautifully.

A tasty way of using up leftover risotto is to shape them into patties (a bit like arancini, but without the stuffing) and shallow fry until golden and crisp. They make a great lunch with some salad leaves, topped with a fried egg (and a glass of chilled crisp white wine).

We spent part of our recent summer holiday in France on the Mediterranean, just south of Perpignan. Further down the coast is Collioure which makes some intriguing saline, savoury wines based on Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Marsanne, Rousanne and Vermentino, as well as the gutsy reds for which it is better known. Grapes from these old terraced vineyards also go into local port-like Banyuls. Our bottle of Collioure Blanc was unexpectedly good with the risotto – cutting through the richness and complimenting the sweet and spicy flavours. However, any number of Italian whites such as my current favourites Fiano and Falanghina would have refreshing, defined structure and plenty of flavour to partner this dish.

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