This risotto is a rustic, weeknight supper kind of a dish, not for an elegant dinner or to impress somebody with your culinary skills. But it isn’t quite as unsophisticated as it looks; alongside the butternut squash and sprigs of rosemary it has a few hidden secrets, more of which later.
As a baked risotto this is definitely not an authentic recipe, but it is the only sort that you can bung in the oven and ignore while you sit on the sofa finishing off those last bits of Easter egg. Personally I think I have reached the stage of being pretty much done with chocolate for the six weeks or so. First there were those chocolate kiwiberries, then a bit of neat chocolate (a sample of all three colour varieties) and last night we rounded it all off by making Bill Granger’s Molten Chocolate Puddings. If you too are so over all that chocolate then this is the perfect antidote; simple, wholesome and very savoury.
Anyway, back to those hidden secrets. Nearly invisible from the photo but very strong on flavour are a few dried porcini mushrooms and hint of truffle oil. And if you look really closely, you might just be able to see that this is a risotto made with brown rice. What on earth was I thinking I hear you ask? Well two things really. First, brown rice has that great nutty flavour which is fabulous with those strong flavours like the rosemary and the porcini mushrooms. Second, brown rice is a wholegrain, and white rice isn’t.
It is a bit confusing this wholegrain business but in the most basic sense wholegrains are foods made from the whole grain. For example, whole grain cereal flakes are made by taking entire grains (starchy endosperm, germ and bran and all – see wikipedia for a picture) and squashing them very hard to make big flat flakes. In the case of rice, brown rice is the whole grain version and white rice has been milled or ‘polished’, removing some of the nutritious outer coating. Not polishing the rice keeps the bran on the outside, making the rice much higher in fibre, and keeps the part of the grain that has all of those lovely B vitamins in it (you need those for lots of different things but largely to release energy from the food you eat so that your body can use it). Oh and it leaves the rice with much more flavour, did I mention that?
This recipe is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this time by Anh of Food Lover’s Journey. If a risotto doesn’t float your boat to recover from some of those seasonal chocolate excess then I’m sure there will be plenty of other ideas in the round-up, or if not I point you towards the chocolate offsetting calculator, as thoughtfully recommended to me by Nick over at The Tracing Paper.
Recipe for Oven-baked Butternut Squash and Rosemary Risotto
Serves 3 – 4
For added mushroominess add the soaking water from the dried mushrooms to the stock. If you are trying to cut back a little go easy on the parmesan and actually use a tablespoon to measure the olive oil :-)
250g Brown rice (ideally a sturdy short grained Italian variety rather than something like a brown basmati rice)
4 Shallots, finely chopped
Celery, one stick, finely sliced
600g Butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
1 Red pepper, cut into 2cm square pieces
1 springs of rosemary
Dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes then drained and chopped
1 tbsp Olive oil
600ml hot vegetable stock
2 tsp truffle oil (optional but good)
A couple of handfuls of grated parmesan
Put the oven on to heat up to 160 C, 325 F, Gas mark 3.
Using a fairly large pan with a lid (one that you can transfer to the oven), fry the shallots and celery in the olive oil over a medium heat for about five minutes, being careful not to brown them.
After the five minutes are up pour in the rice and stir about for a couple of minutes until all of the rice is coated and glossy.
Add the squash, peppers and rosemary to the pan and pour over stock. Put a lid on and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes but check it at 30 minutes so that you can add a little bit more hot water if it looks like it is drying out. It won’t look good at 30 minutes but by 45 minutes it should look a bit more sticky and risotto like.
Taste to check that the rice is soft (hopefully it will be soft and gooey round the edges but with a tiny bit of bite) and that the stock has nearly all been absorbed.
Season with black pepper and stir through the parmesan and truffle oil. Serve with a little of all three for people to add to their taste.