Saturday, 28 November 2009

Empty plates

I have a real thing for empty plates. I seem to photograph them all them time. Often, I find them more appealing, than plates full of food. Weird, I know. Perhaps it is because usually the food that once occupied the plate in question is invariably in my stomach, and making me feel smug. Perhaps there is just something about the tines of a fork (because more often than not my empty plate shots involve forks). Perhaps it's just that I have no patience, and so my documentation of food becomes uselessly after the fact.Tonight, it was an empty bowl that caught my eye. This time, satisfyingly empty because the risotto that was in it was entirely my own recipe, and as a result gobbled down even more smugly than usual. Fortunately I made far too much than two could possibly eat in one sitting (although we tried, we really did) and here is plenty more sitting on the stove waiting to be packed into the fridge for frying into risotto cakes tomorrow.This is a nice autumnal dish. A hint of sweetness, a touch of spice, and an unctuous creaminess that balances well with a dry rose wine. Winter is fast approaching, but I refuse to give in the hearty meals entirely, instead I think you need something which can occupy the "in between" space, hence the rose. I hope you all enjoy this too.P.s. Who's stupid idea was it to attempt opening shop in one of the busiest months of the year? Eek!

Spiced Butternut and apple risotto (probably serves four (ish) )

1 small butternut squash
2 medium-sized sharp apples (I used bramleys)
one large leek
2 cloves garlic, minced
150g risotto rice
1 pint of good vegetable stock
2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried sage
glug of olive oil
glug of cider
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 190C. Peel the squash, cut it into quarters and scrap out the seeds. Douse with a smidgen of oil (I used chili oil to add a hint of heat to the eventual risotto) and roast until soft. Mine took about 20 mins, but it'll depend on your oven and the size of the squash. Remove from the oven and cool.

Slice the leek and heat a large glug of oil in a deep frying pan. Gently sweat the leeks, being careful that they don't brown. Once they begin to glisten, add the minced garlic and fry for another minute. Then add the sage, cumin and risotto rice and another small glug of oil. Coat the rice with oil and heat for two minutes and then begin adding your stock. You want to add this a ladle-full at a time, and wait until it is absorbed by the rice, before adding more. Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter your apples. Blend together with the roasted squash in a food processor. When you are three quarters of the way through adding the stock (eg. when there is only a quarter of a pint of stock left to be added) add the pureed squash and apple mixture to the pan, with a large pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, the bay leaf and a generous glug of cider. Wait until the liquid has been absorbed, and then add the final stock. When this is cooked down, check to make sure that the rice is soft, but retains a slight bite.

Serve immediately, topped with a generous helping of freshly grated parmesan and a large glass of dry rose!


  1. This looks amazing! I will be attempting this very soon- thanks!

  2. Update: Made it - loved it! My boyfriend said it was my best risotto yet! So thanks!

    I hope all is going well...enjoy the festive indulgencies and merriment :-)