Saturday and Sunday nights are experimental cooking nights in our house; I flick through recipe books through the week and then launch into making a huge mess in our tiny kitchen.

This recipe caught my eye because of the ingredients. We had an over abundance of feta cheese in the fridge due to a couple communication breakdown. It also contained one of my favourite vegetables in the world, butternut squash. Ahhh, pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potato and carrots; orangey sweet goodness that just makes me warm and gooey inside and hunger for more but I digress. So when I stumble on a recipe that has butternut squash and a cheese in it I am up for the challenge!

This recipe is quite easy but is labour intensive and takes time due to a continuous need to stir. However it is creamy and wonderful and makes a fine meal for two with left-overs and would work very well for four people, with maybe a side salad. It is heavy and carbohydrate-laden, if you are that way inclined but quite reasonable in the fat and protein stakes.

I found this gem in 100 Great Risottos by Valentina Harris.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 butternut squash
  • 40 g/1 ½ oz butter
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 2 fresh Sage leaves chopped (Dried sage works just as well)
  • 350g/13 0z Arborio rice
  • up to two litres/8 cups of rich chicken/vegetable stock, kept simmering
  • 200g/7 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • A few sage leaves finely chopped to garnish
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to serve with

Method

Take one whole butternut squash and bake it in the oven until it is softened slightly. I thought this was an odd way to prepare the squash but it left me free to do a number of jobs whilst I waited for it to cook. When it is cool enough to handle cut in half and peel away the skin from one half. Scrape away the seeds and then cut the flesh into cubes. The book suggested you could use the other half for soup but if you are feeding a number of people you could very well add the second half to the mix.

The following section could be used to cook almost any risotto, just change the main ingredients.

Now would be a good time to get your stock simmering and to talk about stock. A lot of people have good home made stock to hand, frozen in the freezer waiting for the time you need it. I don't. There are a couple of great stock recipes lurking in the nodegel but really I could not be bothered when I did this recipe. So, either you can go for a good quality liquid stock, or you can go down the stock cube route. Most chefs will tell you stock cubes are the spawn of the devil, and they are right, to a point. I used organic vegetable stock cubes from the health food shop; they look like sticky baby poo but smell heavenly, and four of these expensive suckers made some very nice 2 litres of stock. Set your stock to a slow simmer and cut up all your other ingredients if you did not do it whilst the squash was baking.

Now you need to find a large heavy based pan, ideally non-stick. Melt half the butter and add the onion, squash and sage. Gently fry the onion until soft, taking care not to brown. Stir in the rice and allow the grain to cook until it starts to crackle and spit.

Now add one small glass of white wine to the rice and pour one large glass for yourself. Store the rest in the fridge or just continue to drink it throughout the cooking process. Watch the rice soak up the wine like a thirsty rugby player and breathe in the fumes.

Hopefully your stock is now merrily simmering, as adding cold stock to your rice is going to make this bit so much longer. Add three ladlefuls of stock to the rice and stir gently until most of the liquid is absorbed. Gentle stirring is quite important. The rice will stick and burn if you don’t stir it. A wooden spoon is very helpful for this section, as you keep adding ladlefuls of stock until the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender. This can take quite a while, hence the bottle of wine.

Once the rice is cooked (and you are not swaying too much) remove the rice from the heat and stir in the rest of the butter until it is melted. Then add the feta and stir it through.

Cover and leave to rest for four minutes. This makes the risotto creamy and the feta melty. Serve up on warmed plates garnished with the sage leaves and the Parmigiano Reggiano on the side to add to taste.

Enjoy!


perhapsadingo8yrbaby says re Feta and butternut squash risotto: This dish is akin to CRACK ROCK IN CREAMY RICE-LIKE FORM. At least, that was the general consensus amongst my dinner guests last night. Laborious preparation, indeed, but worth it.

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