Golden saffron pumpkin risotto

Ingredients to serve 4 to 6

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60ml olive oil
1 small onion, quartered
400g Vialone Nano rice
60ml white wine
Up to 1 litre good-quality chicken or vegetable stock, simmering
200g butternut pumpkin, cut into 1cm dice
15 saffron threads, lightly toasted and crushed
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped celery-heart leaves
100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g parmesan, grated

There is nothing hard about making risotto; it simply requires supervision and constant stirring to create the proper creamy texture. Risotto is ready when the individual grains are tender but with some residual bite. One other thing: risotto is not for those watching their cholesterol and calories. The final compulsory touch is a handful of grated parmesan and a big knob of butter – these help to thicken the final dish, enrich it and add a lovely glossy sheen. Here, the sweet starchiness of pumpkin and mysterious bittersweet pungency of saffron transform the rice into a glorious, golden-hued meal. You could serve this as an accompaniment, or ideally as a vegetarian starter or main course, along with a salad of bitter leaves or peppery watercress.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil, then discard the onion. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with the oil.

Add the wine and let it bubble away until it has evaporated. Next, ladle in enough simmering stock to cover the rice by a finger's width. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock is absorbed. Add the same quantity of stock. Again, cook on medium heat, stirring from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed. Add a third amount of stock (reserve about 100ml for the final stage) and when half of the liquid has been absorbed, add the pumpkin, saffron, parsley and celery leaves. Stir gently until the stock is absorbed.

Add the final 100 ml of stock and the butter and stir until both are completely absorbed. Adjust the seasoning, if need be, then stir in the parmesan, cover the pot and allow to rest away from the heat for a few minutes. Serve straight away, accompanied by a lightly dressed salad.

Taken from 'Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food' by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant, £30)

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