IT'S PUMPKIN RISOTTO, ONLY BAKED IN THE OVEN.
Here’s what to do with all that lovely winter pumpkin you have. That's okay, any time.
It’s one of the precious rites of winter, along with saying jeeeeezuzzchriiist every time you walk outside. You spy your first pumpkin of the year at the market, and take it home like a puppy. And like a puppy, it seems to grow and grow, until you have run out of things to do with it and still have a quarter of it left.
Here’s what to do with it. Roast pumpkin risotto.
So much more interesting than pumpkin soup. And as a special bonus treat for those who can’t be blowed chopping pumpkin into tiny dice - don’t. Just roughly chop and bake in the oven first, then peel off the skin. And what about all that hovering and stirring over the risotto? Don’t do that, either ( unless you want to, of course).
I’ve been experimenting with oven-baking risotto, and I think it really works. You get started as per tradition with onion in butter and oil, then toast the rice and add the white wine – and then you bung the lot in the oven.
No pumpkin or cheese at this stage, you just want the rice to cook in the broth.
Bake the pumpkin alongside, roughly chopped and skin-on, until soft. Whip off the skins, and you’ll probably have some soft and mushy, some a bit firmer. Good.
To finish, chuck the pumpkin and cheese into the rice, and beat it in with a wooden spoon, which releases all the starches from the rice and brings it all together.
And yes, I know it’s not real risotto, but it’s bloody good, and that’s all that counts.
# Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a few gratings of lemon zest at the end, and serve with toasted walnuts.
# Finely sliced spinach or silverbeet leaves make a better garnish than herbs. Wash the leaves, cut out any stalk, roll up the greenery and finely slice across the roll (that is, to chiffonade). For silverbeet, which can be a little bitter, place the leaves in a strainer and pour boiling water over, then shake dry. Toss with a little sea salt and throw on top.
# Top your risotto with a fried egg and a crumble of chopped bacon, fried until crisp.
# Hack off a couple of thin wedges of pumpkin before you chop the rest, and bake alongside until golden and caramelised. Serve with the risotto for more pumpkin-on-pumpkin action.
# For a masterclass on ‘proper’ risotto, see my technique for green herb risotto here. In fact, that green herb emulsion would be beautiful spooned over or swirled through pumpkin risotto as well.
PUMPKIN RISOTTO, BUT BAKED IN THE OVEN.
700 g pumpkin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
250 g risotto (arborio or carnaroli) rice
150 ml dry white wine
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, heated
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
HEAT the oven to 190C. Chop the pumpkin roughly, skin-on, and arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
TOSS with 1 tbsp olive oil, scatter with sea salt and bake for 30 minutes until soft but not mushy.
MELT the butter and remaining olive oil in a (heavy-bottomed, oven proof and heat proof, lidded) pot, and cook the onion over low heat for 5 minutes until it softens, stirring with a wooden spoon.
ADD the unwashed rice, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly until well-coated.
ADD the wine and let it bubble away, stirring. When absorbed, add the hot stock and sea salt. Give it a stir and seal the lid on tightly and transfer to the oven.
BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes, then check – it should be lightly soupy, and the rice should be swollen and softened but not mushy. By now, the pumpkin should be cooked as well.
PEEL the skins from the roasted pumpkin and cut the flesh into cubes, and just mash any mushy ones.
ADD the pumpkin to the risotto with the butter and parmesan, sea salt and pepper, and beat through with a wooden spoon. Adjust with a little broth if it doesn’t flow like lava.
LADLE onto warm plates and serve with extra grated parmesan and a dot of butter.
Advantages of oven-baking risotto: Cooking the pumpkin at the same time ( roasting it reduces water content and intensifies pumpkininess). This method also uses less broth, because it’s not evaporating in an open saucepan. The rice gets to absorb the stock and swell, before giving up it starches in the final beating. It’s biddable - if you like your risotto all’onde, which moves in a wave when you tip the plate, just add more liquid towards the end of cooking. I like mine as shown here, where it sort of slowly oozes outwards when placed on a plate. On no account should you be able to build a pyramid of your risotto, a sure sign it is too dry.
Disadvantages: Can’t think of any.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to subscribe for more Jill Dupleix Eats in your inbox every Thursday. And special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for – no, he didn’t chop the pumpkin for me, I am perfectly capable of chopping it myself. Besides, his arm was dodgy from carrying home a box of wine. Which was for me, too, actually, so thanks are due after all.
I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution. It’s about time, folks.