Smashing Pumpkin Risotto

Saturday, 24 October 2009

A few weeks ago I shamelessly blagged my way into was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner party at one of the bot's wee chums whose father is a chef with a Michelin background. We had seven breathtakingly delicious courses, including scallops 'flown in by Rick Stein's people' and the most delicious pumpkin risotto I have even been introduced to. The chef is a delightful fireball of Spanish and Italian parentage, and his years of cooking for premier footballers have resulted in a spectacular four-star vocabulary. I was astounded to see a fair whack of the risotto disappear down the Colonel's neck - a solid meat-and-two-veg lad, his previous encounters with it (ugh, shudder, wet rice etc) are best forgotten. I asked Antonio exactly how he made it; pumpkin was a gift, premium Parmesan and chicken stock. "Always chicken stock. Even for da vegetarians." Pause while he sloshed more red wine into our glasses. "Eespecially for da faakin vegetarians."

So, this golden October afternoon, the bots, dog and Colonel jumped merrily to at my command. We donned adorable Gap hats and bright wellies and strolled along the river to the organic vegetable market to buy the perfect pumpkin to recreate Antonio's triumph. The dog didn't eat a single mouthful of slurry; the children skipped ahead hand in hand, leaping in delight, catching the leaves which twirled to the ground; the sun obligingly shone prettily through the oaks and glinted off the boats in the estuary.

As Antonio would say, deed we faaak. I left squabbly bots and Colonel debating TV choices - Sky Sports versus Disney, it's a constant narrative - and roared off in the car to Sainsburys, where I grabbed an intensively farmed pumpkin and whizzed home.

Here, with a little interpretation from me, is Antonio's Risotto:

Risotto cannot be hurried. You need to park yourself stoveside, glass in hand, with some chilled out music and plenty of time. I recommend a long cold vodka and tonic and JJ Cale. No telly schedule and not Golden Earring*. You know who you are.

Peel and dice a pumpkin. Heat olive oil and a knob of butter and gently cook a diced oinion until soft. Add the pumpkin and stir gently until it starts to colour. Chuck in a few handfuls of arborio rice and stir to coat in the oil. Here's where it starts to be relaxing. You will have prepared a jugful of warm stock, either because you did the right thing by last Sunday's chicken carcass, or because you have microwaved a tub of Joubere Stock or even added a cube to hot water. It depends how poncy you feel. Ladle by ladle, add the stock, SLOWLY, stirring between each ladleful until the rice has absorbed the liquid. When it starts to get sticky and dry, add the next lot. Stir constantly, enjoying the slow rythm and the thought you are following the motions of Italian mamas through the centuries. Alternatively, stir with one hand, slurping your v&t and refereeing the ongoing TV control war in the next room at the top of your voice.

Either way, eventually, you will end up with a gorgeous savoury mess of cooked (but still al dente - keep tasting to check, you don't want it to overcook) rice and tender bits of pumpkin. Add a splash of vermouth or white wine. Chuck in two handfulls of finely grated parmesan, stir till melted and serve immediately. If you can be arsed, or have somebody to seduce, hollow out the pumpkin shell and serve the risotto in it. It is an absolute show-stopper. Sprinkle prettily with parsley, sit on the TV control and enjoy.

* Hideous seventies one-hit-wonder rock band. From Holland.


  1. Loved the risotto. Not always keen on pumpkin, squash textures, but pleased with results.

    Id hollow out a pumpkin for yon Lady Gaga!

  2. This blog has already become too heady-ethereal and just too damned over the intellectual top for me.

  3. Guava, I'm sure Lady G would be thrilled with your pumpkin offering.

    ADG - heady, yep but not intellectual - have you seen the riff raff that's reading it??


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