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.
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.
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.