Choose potimarron pumpkins (Hokkaido squash) for this dish: the shell is the perfect size for serving the risotto, the flesh stays firm and you can use the shell for soup when it’s fulfilled its purpose as a serving dish.

Serves 4-6
a medium-sized potimarron pumpkin + a knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
250g risotto rice
500-750ml (2-3 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
100g fromage blanc or blanc battu
some shaved Parmesan

  • Slice the top off the pumpkin and reserve, remove seeds and discard, scoop out the flesh, going as near to the skin as you dare
  • Measure out 2 cupfuls of pumpkin flesh (use the rest for soup)
  • Put butter in the pumpkin shell, wrap in foil and heat in a 100oC oven
  • About 30 minutes before serving the risotto, heat the oil and soften the onion and garlic without allowing them to brown
  • Add the rice and stir over moderate heat until the rice is glistening
  • Stir in the reserved pumpkin pieces and cook for a few minutes
  • Add the stock to the rice in several batches, stirring throughout
  • Cook for about 20 minutes until just al dente and still rather soupy, finish with the fromage blanc/blanc battu, check the seasoning
  • Tip the risotto into the hot shell (or as much as will fit), add shaved Parmesan and put the ‘lid’ back on again (recycle the shell – slice and roast it, or chop it up and make into soup).

Here’s a great, spring green risotto. If you have a few green asparagus spears loafing around, they make a nice addition. The method suggested is the one used in restaurants for risotto – you stop the cooking halfway through, let it cool down and finish it off later at your convenience.

Serves 4-6
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
300g round-grain (risotto) rice
200ml dry white wine
1 litre [about 4 cups] chicken or vegetable stock
a little butter
a handful of wild garlic leaves (about 40), trimmed and chopped
garnish: shavings of Parmesan/Grana Padano or some cooked, shelled prawns

  • Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or small casserole and soften the shallot gently in it without allowing it to brown
  • Stir in the rice and fry it gently for 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly glistening – it shouldn’t brown
  • Add the wine and cook, stirring, until completely absorbed
  • Add a cup of stock, and cook, stirring until absorbed once more
  • Add two more cups of stock, repeating the procedure each time. (You should have a cup of stock left). If you don’t want to complete the cooking yet, pull the pan off the heat and tip the rice into a shallow dish or plate so it can get quite cool. The risotto can then be refrigerated and finished later
  • About 10 minutes before serving, reheat the remaining stock
  • Put it in the blender with the wild garlic and blend till smooth
  • Melt a little butter in the pan, add the cooled risotto and the hot, garlic-infused stock
  • Cook, stirring, until the stock is absorbed
  • Start tasting – the risotto should be quite liquid, and the grains just. Add more stock if necessary
  • Serve with shavings of Parmesan or Grana Padano, pared off with a potato peeler, or with the prawns

A wonderful, ruby-hued risotto that will convert even the most hardened beet-haters.

Serves 4-6
2 medium beetroots (about 200g total weight)
1 red onion, finely chopped
olive oil
1 cup risotto rice (Carnaroli, Arborio)
1 litre/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (include some of the beet cooking water if possible)
salt and pepper
2tbsp Mascarpone or Greek yogurt
a splash of Balsamic vinegar
6 small fresh goat’s cheeses (e.g. Chèvretines)
chervil or flat-leaf parsley

  • If using raw beets, cover them with salted water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook till just tender and the skin rubs off easily (about 30 minutes depending on size)
  • Strain the beets and reserve the cooking water (filter it through a muslin)
  • Peel and grate the beets onto a plate and reserve
  • (If using ready-cooked and peeled beets, just grate them)
  • Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pan and soften the onion gently, about 5 minutes
  • Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes till glazed and glistening
  • Add a cup of stock and salt and pepper to taste
  • Cook briskly, stirring, till stock is absorbed by the rice
  • Add 1 more cup of stock and cook till absorbed
  • Finally stir in the grated cooked beets and (if you have it) 1 cup strained cooking water (or 1 cup stock)
  • Continue cooking and stirring till the rice is al dente; if still a little hard, add a bit more stock and cook longer – total cooking time with stock will be about 15-20 minutes
  • When rice is correctly al dente, stir in the Mascarpone or Greek yogurt
  • Serve in soup bowls with a splash of Balsamic vinegar and top each serving with a goat’s cheese and chervil or flat-leaf parsley

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