There is nothing more lovely and lulling than gently stirring a big pot of nourishing, oozy risotto, watching the little grains of rice swell up and get gorgeously plump. Another one of my favourite winter things is the combination of sweet roasted pumpkin, smoky pancetta or bacon with parsley and lemon. It is a flavour combination that works so well in so many different dishes – in a big green salad, on top of a wood fired pizza, or even in a soup.
In this recipe, nutty brown rice is used in place of traditional Arborio rice. A brown rice base is lifted with white wine, smoky pancetta, pumpkin and leek, lots of parsley, lemon, Parmesan and finished with a dollop of water buffalo milk yoghurt. Delicious and highly nutritious, this is my take on a winter warmer classic that is sure to kill the winter blues.
350g butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced into 1.5cm cubes
50g smoked pancetta*, diced into small 1cm pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup dry white wine
500 ml good quality chicken stock
1.5 litres water
1 cup medium or short-grain brown rice
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp water buffalo milk yoghurt**
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
Grilled leeks, for serving
Extra parsley, for serving
Extra Parmesan, for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
*Prosciutto or Serrano ham can be used if you can’t get your hands on any pancetta
**I used Shaw River Water Buffalo Yoghurt, a wonderful product made in Yambuk, Victoria, Australia. It is available at good food stores and delis. If you can’t find it you can substitute with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt
Preheat oven to 200C.
Drizzle some olive oil over the chopped pumpkin in a baking dish, toss with salt and pepper and roast for 30-35 minutes, until tender and lightly caramalised. Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a fry-pan oven medium-high heat and cook pancetta for 5-6 minutes. Drain on a piece of kitchen towel and set aside to cool.
Combine chicken stock and water in a large saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil, add leeks and cook very gently for 10 minutes, until soft but not browned. Add the rice and turn up the heat.
Stir the rice and leeks for a minute or so, until the rice begins to look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add 1 cup of the hot stock along with roasted pumpkin (reserve ½ cup for serving). Reduce the heat and let the rice simmer gently. Keep adding ladlefuls of the hot stock, stirring gently to help the starch out of the rice. Wait until each ladleful is absorbed before adding another. Repeat this process until the rice is soft but with a slight bite (al dente) – this should take about 45 minutes – don’t worry if you run out of the hot stock before the rice is cooked, simply add some boiling water.
Remove from heat and add Parmesan, water buffalo yoghurt, pancetta and parsley. Stir well. Season to taste. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
When ready to serve, remove the lid, squeeze in lemon juice and stir before dividing into serving bowls. Top risotto with reserved roast pumpkin, some grilled leeks, parsley and a grating of Parmesan. Serve immediately.