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I never really got the obsession with squash—butternut or otherwise—in risotto. There was a point, a few years ago, when it seemed as if every restaurant menu had butternut squash risotto as the vegetarian option, and I just began to roll my eyes at the monotony of it all. Not that I ever eat risotto in restaurants. But anyway.

So I'm not sure why I felt compelled to make it a few weeks ago. It was probably the acorn squash looking at me forlornly and me being in a slightly odd mood. You know, I'm pleased that I did. I even liked it enough to make it a second time. First time around, I made it with a purposefully roasted acorn squash. When I made it last night, I did it with half a butternut squash that I'd roasted a few days ago and was idling in the fridge. Both worked.

This is risotto; it's not quick to make. But it isn't difficult, either, just a lot of stirring. This recipe is sufficient for two. I don't recommend trying to make a risotto for more than four people as a main course, not unless you want to sacrifice your stirring arm to the god of large pans.

Ingrediments

  • 1 squash - butternut, acorn, crown prince...
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary - 1 tspn if dried, a bit more if fresh
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium fine
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 150g (5oz) risotto rice - arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano
  • 1 glass white wine - I used a Sauvignon Blanc, but a Semillon would also work
  • 1 litre hot vegetable stock - you might need a bit more liquid, if so, water (boiling from a kettle) will be fine
  • Rosemary - 1 tspn if dried, a bit more if fresh
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 4tbsp parmigiano reggiano, or to taste

Method

Begin with the squash. Place it whole in your oven at about 200° Celsius for around 30 minutes, or until the skin is beginning to blacken and pull away from the flesh, and the flesh is tender.

Slice the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the pith and seeds.

Cut the squash into large chunks (think roast potato size) and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, rosemary, and season. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes or so, until it looks as if it's roasted. You know, with crispy bits, caramelised bits, and a fluffy centre.

Depending on the size of the squash, you might want to reserve half and turn it into soup. You will, however, need to reduce approximately 200g (7oz) of it to a puree and chop another 200g (7oz) into 1cm (half-inch) chunks.

And then you can get on with the ricey bit. Heat about a tablespoon of olive with a teaspoon of butter in a large pan. Fry off the onion and garlic until glassy. Tip in the rice and move it around in the hot fat until every grain is coated, glistening, and beginning to go translucent.

Pour in the glass of wine and allow the rice to absorb it. Keep the flame medium-low and keep stirring. You're in this for the duration.

When the rice has absorbed the wine, add a few ladlefuls of stock, and yes, stir until it has been absorbed. This is when I usually season my risotto: pepper, whichever herbs I'm using, and a touch of salt. Be careful with the salt; stock can be salty and you'll be adding cheese later, too.

Add another few ladles of stock, and stir until it has been absorbed. Keep going, adding the stock a bit at a time. You might use all the stock, you might not, or you might need to add a touch of water. What you're aiming for is rice that is tender but neither mushy nor chalky and a consistency that doesn't collapse or resemble play-doh.

Just before the rice is ready, stir in the pureed squash and the chunks of squash to give them a chance to warm through. Taste the risotto and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

When the rice is ready, turn off the flame, add a knob of butter and the cheese. Place the lid on the pan and leave it for a few minutes. When you return to the pan, the butter and cheese should have melted. Stir carefully and then take it to the table. Put out some more parmigiano for you and your dining companion to add more if you want.

Serve with the rest of the wine and a salad if you're so inclined.


Music to cook to: Catching a Tiger, Lissie

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