Mid-week cooking can be a drag – especially in the colder months. It’s dark when you get home from work and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking. This is where tried and true classics that are easy to do and essentially just use one pot really shine. Risotto falls into this category with the added bonus that you can create a different dish each time by adding the extras (meats, vegetables, herbs, spices) depending on what you’ve got and what you fancy.
This is my version of risotto I make quite frequently with chicken, mushrooms and peas, garnished with chunks of roasted pumpkin. Any one of these ‘extras’ could be the sole addition to the basic risotto so you can keep it very simple or build it’s complexity with each added element (you can easily keep it a vegetarian meal as it’s very filling even without the chicken).
There are a number of recipes around that use pumpkin but they all seem to puree the pumpkin and stir it through the risotto while I prefer my version with tender nuggets of caramelised sweetness set against the more savoury base.
Another couple of ideas that are great for this time of year:
- beetroot roasted and either pureed and stirred through the base to make a deep pink risotto or kept in chunks, much like the pumpkin for contrast in colour, finished off with chopped toasted walnuts and goats cheese;
- creamy roasted garlic, red wine, mushrooms and thyme topped with crisped pieces of pancetta
These do require one extra pan to do the roasting or crisping. However if you whack them into the oven before you begin the risotto they’ll be done by the time it’s finished. You can also choose to do a version without any of these and simply add ingredients that will cook in the risotto. For example this version of chicken and mushroom risotto minus the pumpkin:-
Chicken and Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin
500g butternut pumpkin cut into 2cm cubes
1 Tbl olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
200g arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1 litre chicken stock
300g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup frozen peas
250g mushrooms, sliced
seat salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated pecorino
1 Tbl butter
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 220C. Toss pumpkin in a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in small baking tin lined with baking paper and roast in oven for about 15 mins or until soft and slightly caramelised.
Pour stock into a microwave safe jug and zap on high until hot but not boiling furiously.
Heat oil on a low heat in a largish saucepan and fry onion and garlic gently until soft but not coloured. Add rice and stir to thoroughly coat the grains in the oil. Pour in white wine and stir until almost totally evaporated.
Now start adding stock in about 150ml amounts and stir often until almost evaporated each time before adding the next amount. Keep re-zapping stock in the microwave for short bursts between additions to keep hot.
Add the chicken when you have about 1/2 the stock remaining. Continue to add stock in 150ml amounts, stirring frequently.
When the chicken is cooked and the rice seems done (taste the rice to see if it’s cooked) add the mushrooms and peas and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until the mushrooms are tender.
Add the last 150ml of stock, the butter and the cheese and season.
Divide amongst 4 shallow bowls, top with pumpkin and scatter with parsley.