Ele’s pumpkin risotto
Some years back, I was sharing my flat with a girl from Italy’s rice belt. Our compatible timings and tastes brought us together around the dinner table many a times, sharing our food and exchanging thoughts. I cooked many batches of pumpkin & lentil soup that winter, as Ele had developed a special fondness for it.
When Ele cooked, she would often make risotto, using high-quality rice from her region and different combinations of vegetables. One day, inspired by our common love for pumpkin, she decided to try her hands on a risotto alla zucca. The taste of that pumpkin risotto has lingered on in my memory ever since.
Several years later, I attempted recreating it from memory. Although the dish has now become part of my repertory, I still owe it to her. I am therefore sharing this recipe on Ele’s behalf as well, thanking her for initiating me to a great culinary experience.
For two persons you will need:
Half a small pumpkin or butternut, (steamed) peeled and cut in pieces
1 dl of round, (organic) whole grain rice
2 big garlic cloves, chopped
half a cinnamon stick
500/600 ml broth
50 ml white wine
oil and/or butter
- Steam the pumpkin, peel it and cut it in small pieces. Clean and rinse the rice and strain it in a colander.
- Prepare the broth, by using a vegetable stock cube, or by boiling a carrot, an onion and a bay leaf.
- In a sauce pan, heat up 2 tsp of oil or butter and add the finely chopped garlic and the cinnamon stick. When the garlic has turned golden, add the rice and let it get coated by the oil before you add the white wine (if you like a stronger wine taste, you can increase the amount to 100 ml).
- When the wine has almost evaporated, add another teaspoon of oil and the pumpkin cut in pieces, not forgetting to stir. Add some broth, a pinch of salt, and switch to low heat (i.e. 2/9), covering the pan with the lid.
A risotto is like a toddler that demands your full attention. You don’t want to over-protect it and overwhelm it with your care, but rather create the right conditions for it to grow and develop safely; similarly, when cooking a risotto, you need to nurture it, but also set it free. Gradually add the broth stirring so that the rice will not stick to the bottom of the pan. Leaving a risotto unattended is like asking for trouble.
- When the pumpkin has become creamy and soft and the rice is tender, yet slightly al dente, add some more broth, a generous amount of grated nutmeg, a bit of oil and/or butter, combine, and turn off the heat; you can place a clean kitchen towel between the pan and the lid and let the risotto rest on the stove for an extra steam-treatment.
- Round rice has this amazing capacity of expanding by absorbing liquid and your risotto will become creamier and richer if you let it while away.
- Decorate the dish with some chives or salad rocket and top it with grated Parmesan, or chopped almonds that you will have dry-roasted in a pan with some drops of tamari soy – a combination that results into a very Parmesan-like taste.