Monday, August 2, 2010

Risotto - my favourite weekday dinner

The problem with working is that making dinner never seems like much fun when you get home after 8 or 9 hours of it, but somehow my stomach is always demanding food immediately on arriving home. I can shut it up for a while but it's a rare evening when I can face the prospect of more than about half an hour between me and my dinner.

Risotto is one of my favourite meals for worknights, because it doesn't take me more than half an hour (I do realise I'm probably not quite being authentic here, but hey, this is worknight version and it tastes good enough so I'm happy!), can be done with minimal mess, isn't overly unhealthy but is super comfort food, and it's pretty easy and I can pretty much do it blindfolded now. Just what I need after work. Oh, and it reheats pretty well so always lasts us two days.

Most often I make pumpkin risotto, because pumpkin is cheap, vibrant and tasty. But the magic of risotto is it's pretty versatile. I should probably be more adventurous, but I do love using fresh asparagus in the summer (cooked so lightly it's still crunchy and bright green), and mushrooms make a powerfully good dish, too, though often they do make it a little grey. One of the good parts of the process is you can use the pumpkin water - all full of pumpkiny goodness - in the risotto. More flavoursome and you get all the nutrients. Win!

This can also be a great vegie meal - we usually use bacon but it's definitely not essential, and mostly I prefer it without any other meat.

I'll provide my 'recipe' - but it's very loose, please do what seems right rather than playing by the numbers! And do taste as you go - the most important part of cooking. :-)

What's your favourite weekday dinner recipe - you know, the one you use over and over again, and don't even have to think about?

Pumpkin Risotto (makes 4-6 servings)
olive oil
1 onion
2-3 rashers of bacon (optional)
1 cup arborio rice 
500g pumpkin
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup peas
salt and pepper

Chop the pumpkin into bite-sized cubes, put in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until cooked but still firm.

In the meantime, dice the onion and bacon and fry in a little olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the rice and fry on medium heat, stirring, until the rice begins to go translucent - you may need to add a little more oil to stop the rice sticking. Add half the wine, and stir until the water is almost completely absorbed, then add the remainder. Do likewise with the stock, stirring all the while. When the pumpkin is cooked do likewise with the pumpkin water (though reserve the pumpkin - if you add it to the mix too early it will become pumpkin mash). I don't know precise quantities of liquid but feel free to switch things out - if we don't have stock I will use water, as it just becomes a bit less tasty, and if you don't drink wine you can use more stock.

When the rice is cooked through, add the pumpkin, peas, parmesan (to taste - I probably use about 2-3 Tbsp of the pre-grated stuff), and season with salt and pepper. Ensure the risotto still has enough water - it should have some liquid still when served, as it will continue to cook slightly even after removed from the heat - and cook for another minute or two, until the peas are cooked.

Serve with a little parmesan and a generous helping of freshly ground black pepper.

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