Leek and butternut squash risotto

The happy confluence of winter squash, leeks, and a batch of good stock naturally led to a favourite risotto recipe. I enjoy making risotto, but it has to be done in the traditional way. I make them fairly often, but tend to avoid them when eating out; they can be adulterated with ill conceived ingredients and the texture is too often rather stodgy. The combination of leeks and roasted squash, though, makes a delicious risotto.

Leek and butternut squash risotto

Leek and butternut squash risotto

The secret of a good risotto is the stock. In fact, I often add nothing more to the classic risotto recipe and rely solely on the flavour of the stock – this is, perhaps, my favourite risotto. A classic risotto involves softening some finely chopped onions or shallots in a little oil or butter, adding risotto rice, followed by a splash of white wine. This is reduced, then hot stock is added one ladle at a time, stirring more or less continuously, until the stock is absorbed. The risotto can be finished with a knob of butter, some Parmigiano Reggiano, and a generous twist of black pepper. As my homemade stock is quite highly flavoured, I find that 500ml is plenty, making up the remaining liquid with hot water, but this should be adjusted according to the stock available.

Whilst the stock is the key to the flavour, the creamy texture comes from the frequent stirring of the rice, which causes the grains to release starch. There are various sorts of rice that are suitable for making risottos; Arborio is perhaps the most common, but I prefer to use Carnaroli; its high starch content makes for a creamy dish, yet it retains a good bite.

The leek bed, in good condition for winter use

The leek bed, in good condition for winter use

In this recipe, the usual onions or shallots are replaced with leeks. Leeks are one of those crops that always seem to grow well for us, although they do tend to attract just a little leek rust. I usually grow Musselburgh, an old favourite, that has good flavour and stands well through the winter. I like to keep them until the summer and autumn crops have finished, so today was the first time I dipped into the leek bed. Aside from that, the only variation from the classic recipe is the addition of some roasted squash, which I think goes well with the risotto.

Ingredients

serves 4

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 400ml Carnaroli risotto rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 100gr Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Maldon salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut into a medium dice. Trim the leeks, split into quarters lengthways, and wash carefully to remove any grit, then finely slice. Peel and chop the garlic.

Method

Sauté the squash for 5 minutes or so in an oven proof frying pan, then pop into a medium hot oven – around 185C – to continue cooking. Keep an eye on it from time to time, removing when ready, although it should take just about as long as the risotto to be ready.

Place the stock and 500ml water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep the stock warm during the preparation of the risotto.

Add a good splash of olive to a large pan and a knob of butter. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Add the rice, stirring to coat each grain with the oil and butter. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time, then add the white wine. Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is completely absorbed.

Over a medium heat, add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring often, only adding more stock when the current ladleful has been completely absorbed. Cook until the rice is done; it should still have a bite to it. Add further hot water if needed.

Remove from the heat and finish the risotto with a good knob of butter, the cheese, and a generous twist of black pepper. Add the roasted squash to the rice and stir through gently. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes before serving.

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