Still wearing pajamas, I locked myself out of the house today. That was around three o’clock in the afternoon. What can I say, the day started early and I never got around to getting dressed. I made two quarts of homemade yogurt and a pot of risotto, took almost two hundred photographs, and wrote ten sentences.
I looked through the rain streaked windows on the front porch. The houses across the street were damp and quiet and the push of cars uphill had slowed. I ran around the house through the mud in leopard print slippers and hoped that no one caught a pair of hot pink penguin pants running around the yellow bungalow on the corner.
As it turned out, the back door was unlocked. I removed my slippers and walked into the kitchen. Into the smells of roasted squash, homemade vegetable stock, and sweet stewed pears where I forgot all about the mud and the pajamas and the shower less morning(s).
Risotto turned this dark rain-soaked Sunday into a warm bowl of summer. Arborio rice simmered in dry white wine, caramelized onions, and homemade vegetable broth made with ginger, parsnips, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley, and black peppercorns with a light sprinkle of salt. When the rice was cooked, roasted kabocha squash, stewed pears, blue and Parmesan cheeses transformed the plain white risotto, which on its own is a thing of beauty, into salty sweet comfort.
The 2010 March Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion (quatered)
1 3/4 cups risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, Baldo, or Vialone Nano)
4 tablespoons white wine (I used 1/2 cup of dry white wine)
4 cups homemade vegetable stock (simmering)
1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).
2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don’t actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
6. Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 1/2 cup of stock for the final step.
7. Repeat, save 1/2 cup for the final stage.
8. Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled and cut into small cubes)
3/4 cup pumpkin (I used 1 1/2 cups roasted and pureed kabocha squash)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped)
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (I used 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan)
(2-4 ounces artisan blue cheese, to taste)
(2 ripe pears, stewed in wine and water)
sea salt (to taste)
1. Melt half the butter in a saucepan. Add roasted kabocha, stewed pears, thyme, and salt. Cook on low until flavors are combined. Add salt to taste. Set aside.
2. Make the base up until the end of step 8.
3. Stir through the kabocha squash mixture.
4. Add the final 1/2 cup of stock and the remaining butter and stir until both are completely absorbed. Stir in the Parmesan and blue cheeses then salt to taste. Cover with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes.