Alida says, “Tis the season to share all the pumpkin recipes. Except, for me this doesn’t make much sense because I live in South Africa and right now the last thing on anyone’s mind is autumnal vegetables and their huge comfort factor. Instead, we are all focused on braai’s, the Rugby World Cup and summer. But I have to confess; I am just not ready to give them up just yet. As we speak, my fridge is packed full of mushrooms, pumpkin, butternut squash and cauliflower. These are some of my favourite ingredients and even though it sometimes feels strange to cook with these hearty vegetables on warm days, I just can’t help myself.
Take this risotto for instance. There are few things that scream “COMFORT FOOD” as much as a creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto but I just couldn’t resist making it a few days ago. Even though we were having a really warm day, the repetitive motion of adding hot stock to a barely simmering pot of Arborio rice was just too tempting. Not to mention sitting down to a hug-in-a-bowl. Which is exactly what this risotto is. I flavoured the stock with fresh thyme and rosemary and added a bay leaf and this resulted in the stock taking on a seriously savoury flavour. Don’t you just love herbs?
To add a little textural interest, I decided to add a few cubes of fried haloumi because first of all cheese makes everything better. But also because I love that they added a milky squeakiness (admittedly not the most charming of descriptions) to the finished risotto. To emphasize the natural sweetness of the roasted pumpkin, I made a syrup that was flavoured with red chilli and a splash of yuzu juice. This Asian citrus has the most refreshing, delicious flavour and I find it works so well paired with anything spicy. I finished the risotto off with a generous grating of aged Parmesan (because again: Cheese) and that was it. Sure, risotto takes a little effort but in essence it is so simple and so absolutely worth the 20-odd minutes you have to stand stirring the pot. Plus, for me that stirring is 20 minutes out of my day that I can just zone out and focus on nothing. Except creating this insanely delicious risotto.”
Roasted pumpkin risotto with haloumi pops & chilli syrup
Preparation time 40 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
Total time 1 hour 5 minutes
for the roasted pumpkin
3 cups cubed pumpkin/butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, to taste
for the risotto
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
500g Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock with 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 sprig fresh rosemary and a bay leaf
roasted pumpkin cubes
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste
handful Parmesan, grated
for the haloumi pops
150g haloumi cheese, cubed
oil, for frying
for the chilli syrup
3 tablespoons water
¾ cup sugar
1 red chilli, sliced
salt, to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons yuzu juice
Pre-heat the oven to 200°c and place the pumpkin on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and place in the oven. Allow to roast for 30-40 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked and is starting to caramelise.
Remove then puree half of the pumpkin. Set aside.
To make the risotto, fry the onion in a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan.
When the onion is soft, add the garlic and fry for another 20 seconds or so then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice in the oil and aromatics then add the wine. Allow the wine to reduce then stir in the stock, ladle by ladle. Allow the rice to absorb the stock before adding more and stir continuously. It is this continuous stirring that creates the creaminess risotto is known for.
While you are making the risotto, combine all the ingredients for the syrup and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
When the risotto has absorbed approximately half of the liquid, start tasting it regularly as a good risotto can quickly be ruined by over cooking. Your risotto might also not need all the stock or it might need more, it all depends on the rice’s absorbency.
Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan and fry the haloumi until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
When the risotto is done to your preference, beat in the butter and Parmesan and season to taste. Stir in the reserved cubes of butternut.
Serve the risotto drizzled with the chilli syrup and topped with a few haloumi pops.
Finish with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese.
Michael’s wine recommendation – CLICK HERE
Alida Ryder is one of my favourite food people. Excellent cook, recipe developer, great photographer. Her website has a huge following and she is doing things she could only have dreamed of a few years ago. She’s written two books Simple & Delicious and Cook from the heart. Click here to go to her fabulous website. Click here to buy her first e-book.