Carrying on with our autumnal meals, this really does taste like autumn on a plate to us! Squash obviously is an autumn treat, and paired with the nutty brown butter and the earthy bittersweet sage leaves it is exactly what you want after digging out your scarves and hats and kicking some autumn leaves around (or the less romantic but more accurate long-day-at-the-office that we were recovering from!). Risotto does take time and love but it’s so worth it for a plate of that oozy, sticky, delicious rice.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 5-6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 butternut squash, mostly diced into roughly 1cm cubes, but with some of the round end reserved and cut into slices
- 200g arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
- 1 glass of white wine
- About 1.5l of chicken stock
- Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take half the butter and add it to a wide pan over a medium heat. Let this cook until it turns a brown colour and smells nutty, then add half of the oil to stop it burning any more and the finely chopped onion. Turn the heat down to low and gently sweat the onion for around 5 minutes until it is softened and turning translucent. Shred all except 2 of the sage leaves, add to the onions and cook for another minute.
Then tip in the chopped butternut squash and let it cook for around 10 minutes stirring regularly. Once the butternut squash has had around 10 minutes in the pan, throw in the arborio rice and stir around to coat in the oil, cook for 1 minute.
Then chuck in the wine, let it all bubble up and absorb into the rice and then you can start adding the chicken stock. This has got to be done slowly, don’t add more than a glug/ladleful at a time and make sure that it has all absorbed before adding more. Keep stirring it as much as possible, beating up the rice encourages all of the gluten to come out which is what makes it gorgeous and oozy. Keep adding and stirring, and also sipping at your glass of white wine (you only used a glass in the dinner… it would be rude to waste it!).
Meanwhile take the remaining sliced butternut squash, coat in the remaining oil and then place in a roasting tin in the hot oven. After the slices of butternut squash have had 10-15 minutes in the oven flip them over so they get golden on both sides, if they’re done long before the risotto they’ll keep warm in the oven, just turn it off and leave them in there. Our risotto normally takes at least 45 minutes of slowly adding stock and stirring, most recipes seem to suggest more like 20 minutes but we’re evidently very chilled out (it could be the wine). Anyway, keep testing it once it’s looking puffed up and close to cooked, you want the rice to still have a bit of texture and bite but no crunch! At this point take the remaining butter and brown it in a little saucepan and then add to the risotto – this may seem unnecessary seeing as you started off with brown butter but it’s such a great flavour which can get lost otherwise. Throw in as much or as little parmesan as you fancy and stir it over a low heat to melt in.
The final step is to heat the remaining oil in the same pan you used for browning the butter, and once it’s shimmering throw in the 2 sage leaves you kept, letting them cook for about 10 seconds per side. Take them out and drain on a piece of kitchen paper – once they’ve drained and cooled slightly they will be very fragile sage “crisps”! So whack the risotto on a plate, top with the golden, roasted slices of butternut squash and delicately plonk the fried sage on top, and enjoy! This dinner is like a big fluffy-jumper-cuddle on a plate, and can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock and the parmesan with a veggie-friendly cheese!