Butternut Squash Risotto with Parmesan Crisps

There are several components to this dish but many, including the risotto itself, can be prepared in advance. The vegetable stock, cubes of cooked butternut squash, the Parmesan crisp and the par-cooked risotto can all be made 2 days before serving if they are stored properly.



Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 1 ½ hours (but this can be split)

Serves 2-3 people

INGREDIENTS 2 sprigs of sage ½ a medium onion 1 medium butternut squash 200g Arborio or Carnaroli rice 60g butter 60g Parmigiano Reggiano Extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste For the stock 1 ½ medium onions 2 medium carrots 1 leek 1-2 stalks of green garlic ½ teaspoon black peppercorns


EQUIPMENT Chopping board and knife Medium sized pot Larger pot Rubber spatula or wooden spoon Strainer, sieve or colander Baking tray lined with baking paper Mixing bowl

METHOD

1. Begin by preparing the butternut squash and preheating an oven to 180C. Peel the butternut squash by chopping off the stalk end and the base end and running a knife along the edges to remove the peel.  Separate the bottom of the squash from the top if the shape is unwieldy to cut around. Use the top half of the squash with firmer flesh and no seeds to cut into 2cm cubes and set aside. Cut the bottom half of the squash in half and scoop the seeds out.


2. Drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and place them flat side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your squash) until tender. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from the inside of the squash, using a knife to help scrape off the skin if necessary. Chop up the flesh of the squash to break it down into a coarse puree and reserve.

You can place the skins back into the oven to crisp up further and enjoy as a garnish or enjoy a mid-risotto-cooking snack!


3. For the Parmesan crisp, begin by preheating an oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and using half of your grated cheese, create two small mounds and flatten them out into circles of roughly 5cm in diameter. Place into the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and reserve in an airtight container once they have cooled down to room temperature.

4. For the rest of the risotto, finely grate all the parmesan and peel and finely mince half of an onion. 

5. For the vegetable stock, peel the carrot and the remainder of the onions and slice them both into thin slices. Cut the leek in half through the core and rinse under cold running water, looking carefully between each layer to ensure there is no soil. Shake off excess water and slice thin. Remove any dried layers from the exterior of the green garlic and thinly slice.


6. Bring up 2 litres of water to the boil in a large pot and while the water is coming to a boil, add your chopped vegetables and half a teaspoon of black peppercorns. 

If you have any extra veggie scraps, parmesan rinds, hard herbs such as rosemary, thyme or any parsley stems feel free to add them to the pot, they will add extra flavour and complexity to your stock. 

7. Once the water is up to a boil, reduce to a moderate simmer and set a timer for 30 minutes. Once the time is over, strain the stock through a sieve and push any excess liquid from the vegetables. Reserve your stock for later use.



8. For the sauteed squash, place a saute pan over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cubes of butternut squash to the pan and colour one side well, turn the squash cubes over and colour further. Once a deep brown colour has been achieved on both sides, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and a sprig of sage, allow the butter to brown and bubble and turn off the heat of the pan. Toss the squash in the brown butter and pour the contents of the pan, butter and all, into a small bowl.


9. To start cooking the risotto, place a medium sized pot over medium heat and add a generous lug of olive oil or a knob of butter. Add the finely minced onion and a generous pinch of salt and allow to sweat without colouring for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

10. Once the onion has sweated down, add the rice to the pot and reduce the heat to low, stirring to toast the rice for 3-4 minutes.


11. Add roughly 500ml of stock to the pot and increase the heat to high. Stir gently to prevent the grains of rice from sticking to each other until the water comes up to a boil. Add the reserved pumpkin flesh and once the water is boiling, reduce to the heat to medium.


12. Allow the liquid in the pot to evaporate while stirring occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When there is no liquid covering the top layer of rice, add another 250ml of stock.


Alternatively, this is the point where instead of adding more stock, you can remove the rice from the pot, spread it out on a large tray or in a large bowl and allow it to cool down, reserving in the fridge once it has come to room temperature. This is a trick often used in restaurants. When you are ready to finish cooking the risotto you will only have the last 5 minutes of cooking to do! This is perfect for if you are preparing this for somebody and don’t want to be stuck to a stove for 30 minutes!

13. Cook the last 250ml of stock out while stirring occasionally and taste for consistency and seasoning. We want the rice to be almost cooked at this point and have a light saltiness to it. Add stock a few teaspoons at a time while stirring and tasting until the rice is tender but not mushy, you only want a small chew to each grain. You want the rice to be well seasoned but not salty as we will be adding salty cheese to it later.

14. Add in your butternut squash (save the brown butter it was cooked in!) and the extra sprig of sage and cook gently to warm them through and infuse with sage flavour.  Once the rice is cooked through you want to make sure your risotto isn’t too wet and soupy or too dry and clumped. You want a risotto that will slowly pour back once you run a spatula or spoon through it. 


15. Remove the risotto from the heat and allow it to cool down for 1 minute. At this point add the reserved grated cheese and 60g of cubed whole butter. Stir gently to combine until all the butter has melted into the risotto. Spoon onto warmed plates and garnish with shards of Parmesan crisp and a drizzle of brown butter.


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