A combination of flavours that deliver a delicious, comforting and filling dish. If you’re coming home after a hard day’s work on the apple press, this will be enough for 4 big servings, but in polite company, it will comfortably do 6 people! Good enough to serve for dinner guests, but quick enough for an everyday evening meal.
I have found that creamy risotto can work particularly well with perry, particularly those goats cheese risotto with a squeeze of lemon at the end. However, this more robust risotto with smoky, woody sage and rich, sweet squash needs a more powerful cider, so I use our Kingston Redstreak cider – off dry, but packed full of soft tannins and bittersweet character that complements the squash, sage and pancetta so very well! This would also be excellent with our Tidnor Wood cider, the oaky character again working well with these flavours, so if you prefer bone dry, go for the Tidnor.
Making risotto is almost meditative for me – the near constant stirring of wooden spoon against the creamy rice in the heavy pan is best done with a glass of cider in the other hand and some good tunes in the background – well that’s how I cook!
This can be made without the pancetta for a vegetarian option, perhaps replace with a teaspoon of smoked paprika to achieve that delicious autumnal note.
Serves 4-6. Cooking time approx 40 mins.
400g risotto rice
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 sticks of celery
1 red pepper
1 large butternut squash
A decent bunch of sage leaves
75g Cubed Pancetta or chopped smoked streaky bacon (or smoked paprika for a vegetarian dish)
90g of Parmesan cheese
1 litre of vegetable stock
Once Upon A Tree – Kingston Redstreak cider (1/2 bottle – but get a couple in as you’ll need to have a glass or two whilst you cook, and another to serve with the finished dish!)
- Preheat the oven to around 180 Celsius.
- Prepare the butternut squash by peeling, de-seeding and chopping into 2cm cubes.
- Use a shallow baking tray, add the squash with a good lug of olive oil and a little seasoning.
- Chop about half the sage leaves and scatter over the squash and stir to coat with the oil, and roast in the oven for about 30 -35 minutes. Stir about half way through cooking. They want to be browned and slightly crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. Once they’re in, get started with the risotto:
- Heat the veg stock. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic, trim and finely chop the celery. De-seed and chop the red pepper into 1cm pieces. Finely grate the Parmesan.
- Fry the remaining sage leaves in a small frying pan with olive oil for 2 minutes so they become crispy. Drain on kitchen towel for later.
- In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 small knob of butter over a low heat, add the onions, garlic and celery, and let them sweat for 15 minutes, or so until softened but not coloured.
- Add the pancetta or bacon (or paprika) if using, and turn up the heat – keep stirring it. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the rice and stir. After a minute or so the rice will look slightly translucent.
- Add ½ a bottle of Kingston Redstreak and keep stirring — relish the smell, and pour yourself a glass to enjoy whilst stirring!
- Once the cider has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock, and turn heat down to a simmer.
- As the stock is absorbed, add more, a ladle at a time. Keep stirring gently – you don’t want it sticking. After around 15 minutes, have a taste of the rice, it needs to be cooked, but retain a slight bite. Check the seasoning too. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
- When you get to the last ladle of stock, add the squash and crispy sage leaves. Stir and some of the squash will break down into the creamy rice. Remove the pan from the heat, add a knob of butter and the Parmesan, then stir well.
- Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes – this makes it really creamy and unctuous! Serve in large shallow bowls with crispy sage leaves scattered on top, a fresh grating of parmesan and a grind of black pepper.