This is a real life saver around here. Almost every time I look in the fridge and don't know what to cook, I end up cooking risotto. It's cheap, quick and easy, and of course, delicious. What did we ever do before risotto?
We love this version for the contrast of textures between the pearly rice and the sweet roasted pumpkin and the balance that the salty bacon bits lend to the dish. Roasting the pumpkin enhances the sweetness and you could use any cheese you like for the risotto, or leave it out altogether as we often do. If you don't have bacon, you could use ham or even a bit of feta cheese or cream cheese for the salty contrast.
For four generous serves
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups boiling water
4 stock cubes, any flavour
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 slice of middle bacon, fat and rind removed and diced finely
1 largish wedge of pumpkin or half a small pumpkin, peeled and cut into small chunks
A roasting dish
A microwave safe bowl
A large jug
Baking paper or cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Line a tray or spray it with the cooking spray, and place the pumpkin chunks on the tray. Scatter the pumpkin chunks with the diced onion and bacon, and put it in the hot oven for thirty minutes.
Wait about 20 minutes to give the pumpkin a bit of a head start in softening, and while that continues to cook, make the risotto. Just pierce the pumpkin chunks with a skewer before you start the risotto, to ensure they're close to being ready. You don't want the risotto sitting around going gluggy. The pumpkin needs to be soft to ensure a good result.
Boil your water, if you haven't already done so. Measure it into the jug and add the stock cubes, crumbling them and stirring well to encourage them to dissolve.
Put the Arborio rice in a large microwave safe bowl. I actually use a largish mixing bowl, so that there is enough space for the stock. Add the oil, toss the rice in the oil to coat it well, and microwave on HIGH for one minute.
Pour the water carefully onto the hot rice (it may splutter a bit), and stir it well. Pop it back into the microwave and cook on HIGH for 6 minutes.
Stir it after 3 minutes.
Stir again when it finishes the 6 minute cycle.
Check your pumpkin again, to make sure it's nearly ready.
If it's all okay, cook the risotto on HIGH for a further six minutes, stirring half way through. Otherwise cover the partially cooked risotto with foil or cling wrap and let it stand until the pumpkin is nearly ready (cooking time seems to vary with the variety of pumpkin). Reduce the next cooking cycle to about 3-4 minutes.
At the end of the second six minute cycle, if you find there is still liquid remaining, cover the bowl with cling wrap or foil and let it stand for a few minutes and the liquid will be absorbed. DO NOT cook it any further or you'll end up with sludge. You can add a knob of butter and a handful of grated cheese or parmesan at this point if you like, but we don't usually bother.
Get your bowls and serving implements ready on the bench. This is best served immediately to prevent aforementioned 'sludge'.
Now the next bit is variable according to your family preferences. We like to serve the risotto on the bottom of the plate or bowl, with the pumpkin, onion and bacon on top as a sort of garnish. Funnily enough though, we ALL stir it in and enjoy the flavours all mixed together, so it makes me wonder why I don't mix it all together before serving. You can do either.
This is honestly a restaurant quality meal and costs under $5, less if you grow your own pumpkins or can buy them inexpensively locally.
I've ordered Pumpkin Risotto at restaurants and café`s many times, paid $16-$26 a serve for it, and often got 'sludge' not risotto! So serve it up with pride, and enjoy!