This dish proves that risotto doesn’t have to be a fancy weekend endeavour: It takes about 20 minutes and minimal effort to make. The best part is the stirring: perfect for winding down after a day of action and decision making. Our recipe is inspired by one from Eric Kim and his wonderful column on Food52. He often cooks risotto just for himself, and this is what he has to say about the Zen-ness of the process:
“When I'm feeling most stressed about life's pressures, I appreciate the calmness of having to stand there by the stove, watching the shallot and butter–slicked rice soak up ladleful by ladleful of stock. Stirring my soon-to-be dinner for 18 minutes straight is my own way of practicing mindfulness, how I like to be, as they say, with myself.”
This recipe pairs creamy, herbed-flecked rice with roasted pumpkin that's marinaded with warming spices like coriander and cumin. Pop the pumpkin into the oven before starting the risotto, and both will be done at the same time. Enjoy warm, pair with a crisp white wine if you’re so inclined.
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Pumpkin
For the risotto:
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 medium white onion (about 100 gm) finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock, heated
5—6 tablespoons (about 120—150 gm) of your favourite green pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pumpkin:
250 gm Hokkaido pumpkin, preferably organic, with the skin on, cut into 1 1/2 cm cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 · Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the pumpkin cubes on a baking tray, pour/ sprinkle over with the marinade ingredients and mix well with your hands to coat evenly. Bake in the oven until tender, about 10—12 minutes, turning once. If possible, turn the grill on for the last 2—3 minutes so the pumpkin gets nicely browned in spots. Remove and set aside.
2 · Meanwhile heat the butter or ghee in a large pot or pan on a medium flame. Saute the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes, then add the rice and stir well, so each grain gets well coated with the buttery mix. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s absorbed completely.
3 · Once the wine has evaporated, lower the heat and slowly add the hot stock, one or two ladlefuls at a time. Stir constantly, and make sure the stock is absorbed by the rice between each addition. Keep adding stock and cooking until the rice is done to your liking—16 minutes is al dente with a slight bite, at 18 minutes the rice is softer.
4 · Once the rice is done, stir in the pesto and mix well. Turn off the heat, cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Season with fresh pepper and check for salt. Serve onto plates and top with the pumpkin cubes. Eat immediately!
Text & Images: Vatsala Murthy