Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Roasted Butternut, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto

Welcome to installment #32,851 (or thereabouts) of "apparently I'm obsessed with butternut squash and you should be too". Honestly, I never knew I was such a fan of the orange behemoth but like Shakira's hips, these posts don't lie: chilli, salad, muffin, bake, galette, soup and another salad. And today, risotto! Does that count as variety? Wait, don't answer that.

The weird thing is that I don't think we ever had butternut squash when I was young. It just didn't exist in my world, like Mexican food or pomegranates. It's not that I knew of it but didn't like it - although as a heinously fussy child, there were more than enough foodstuffs in that particular category - but it never impinged on my consciousness. And there were only four channels on the TV. Things were different back then.

Like so many revelations in my diet and my life, university was where it all changed for me. Living with different people, going to different places, eating different foods and doing different things - my horizons expanded far, far beyond my pre-18 self. And, although I can't remember the exact moment when I first laid eyes on a butternut squash, at some point between then and now, it became part of my regular routine. Hence all the butternut-love on this site and hence today's offering, a gorgeously autumnal risotto.

We roasted the butternut with some rosemary, adding chestnuts and bacon near the end to crisp up. Once roasted, the whole lot was stirred through a basic risotto along with some fresh spinach and a good grating of parmesan. It was then devoured, with no leftovers and no regrets. Honestly, this is some good butternut squash action. Incidentally, some of the credit may belong to the fact that, rather than normal white wine, we made the risotto with a splash of cava. I know, fancy! It was just what we were drinking at the time and rather than opening a whole new bottle for the sake of the risotto, I decided to experiment with the bubbles and you'll be glad to hear that it worked perfectly. Hic.

On a misty, dark evening, when the leaves were dripping and the wind was howling, this risotto hit the spot perfectly. I make no further apologies for a butternut obsession. What did people eat in the 1980s? Would this have been a potato risotto? And would we have watched only 4 channels - or just turned the telly off? It doesn't bear thinking about. Thank goodness the world has changed since then.

Roasted Butternut, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto

- half a butternut squash, cut into bitesize chunks
- a couple of rashers of bacon or pancetta
- half a pack of vacuum-wrapped, prepared chestnuts
- olive oil, salt and pepper, butter
- about a tablespoonful of rosemary, fresh or dried
- an onion, finely chopped
- a fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
- a stick of celery, finely chopped
- 100g of risotto rice
- half a glass of white wine
- about 400ml of stock (we used chicken)
- a few good handfuls of fresh spinach
- some parmesan to grate over the top

Start off by preheating the oven to about 200C and lining a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Toss the butternut chunks with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, spread them out on the tray and roast them in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the butternut is on the go, get a big saucepan and melt a knob of butter with a drizzle of oil. Add the onion, garlic and celery and cook gently over a low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Turn the heat up to medium-high, chuck in the rice and stir it around for a few minutes until the rice is sizzling and crackling. 

Pour in the wine, stir until it's cooked off, then pour in the first big ladleful of stock. Stir, stir, stir until the stock has been absorbed, then add more stock and stir some more. Stock, stir, more stock, more stir - you know the drill. After about fifteen minutes, the rice should be almost tender.

At some point while you were stirring and stocking, the timer on the squash should have beeped to say 20 minutes is up. Add the chestnuts to the baking tray, drape the bacon over the top and put the whole lot back in for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is caramelised around the edges and the bacon is crisp.

Ok, back to the rice - is it done yet? Is it too dry? Keep adding stock and stirring until it's the right sort of consistency and tenderness. If you use up all your stock but it's still a bit crunchy, just use boiling water from the kettle. When it's done, turn the heat off and wait for the oven stuff to be ready - there should only be a few minutes between them depending on how speedily you did all your chopping.

Once everything in the oven looks good, take it out and scoop off the bacon and chestnuts to a chopping board, cutting them into bitesize bits. Then chuck the squash, bacon and chestnuts straight into the risotto, along with the spinach. Stir it all in well, along with a knob of butter (and a final splash of stock/water if it's looking too dry), then leave it to sit and chill out for a few minutes while you pour some wine. Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over the top.    


  1. I love butternut too! I tend to get a bit mortified when someone had never tried it too! Will be adding this to my rissoto repatour quite soon I hope - my knda soul food!

  2. Hi Gemma, thanks for your comment - hope you enjoy it! I have to say, we really liked it and it was just right for this cold, drizzly weather. I'm already wondering when I can make it again...


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