Autumn has definitely arrived in the produce section. From romanesco broccoli to the veg box full of squashes given us by Mr A&N’s mother (who runs such a formidable home vegetable garden she can just about sustain their two-person household all year) – as much as summer delights with its sweet berries and fresh greens, autumn holds a cornucopia of delights.
I like the fact that in the UK most of the pumpkins you'll find are intended to be eaten. Coming from America, I’m used to carving a pumpkin at Halloween or magically finding a pumpkin transformed into pie-state at Thanksgiving, but the pumpkin is never quite taken seriously as a food. Pumpkin can be fantastic roasted or made into soup, and home-roasted pumpkin seeds are as delicious to me as a big bowl of popcorn (and I rank that high on the deliciousness scale).
The petite pumpkin I picked up was designated in my mind to become a risotto; I had never tried it before, but the creaminess of a risotto seemed right to be paired with the pumpkin. It was also conveniently timed to let me join in the risotto relay event held at The Baker and the Curry Maker. I really wanted to include sage in my risotto (that, too, just felt right) but sage is a very hard herb to find fresh. After going to 3 grocery stores I had to admit defeat (and I also had, I vowed again, to grow a hearty sage plant in the garden once our building works are done). We have emergency dried whole sage leaves in the cupboard which are little more than a sad gesture but I used them in the risotto anyway.
I roasted the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil, salt, and plenty of pepper, and sprinkled the seeds on the top. The pumpkin was probably not as flavorful as it could have been, so along with the lack of real sage the risotto on the whole lacked a bit of a punch. Stoked up by generous amounts of parmesan, it was still a properly creamy and tasty risotto, and with an autumn full of pumpkins ahead I will probably be eating this again (if, please someone, I can find some fresh sage).
Pumpkin and Sage Risotto
Enough for 4 adults as a main course
- 1 small pumpkin (up to 1 kilo)
- 500 grams of risotto rice
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Handful of fresh sage, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 - 2 litres soup stock (chicken or vegetable)
- Knob of butter
- Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste
- Skin and dice the pumpkin into small cubes (about 1 cm square is ideal)
- Chop the onion and garlic into small pieces
- Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pan or good cast-iron pot, and sautee the onions until soft
- Add the garlic and sage and stir
- Add the risotto and pumpkin and stir to coat
- Add the stock a cupful or two at a time so that the pumpkin and rice are covered
- Stir the dish constantly, only adding more liquid when the stock added has been absorbed.
- Keep stirring and adding stock until the rice and pumpkin are soft; about 20/25 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add a knob of butter, and stir through the risotto.
- Add parmesean, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, with pumpkin seeds on top or on the side for a bit of crunch.