Butternut squash risotto

I didn’t used to like risotto in the past, and only started liking it when I started making my own. These days I have a couple of ones I keep going back to in my kitchen, a butternut squash one and a beetroot one (click here for recipe). They are also both good vegetarian recipes (apart from these risottos and a couple of other recipes I don’t cook much vegetarian), however make a great meal even for a carnivore like me.

serves 3-4
1 butternut squash
700 ml vegetable stock (I use water mixed with Bouillon powder)
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stick
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
250g Arborio risotto rice
4 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
200ml white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is good)
80g grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 180°C / 355°F. Cut, peel and deseed the squash. Place half of the prepared squash in an oven dish. Drizzle with half the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Place the other half of the squash in a pan together with the vegetable stock, bring to simmer.


2. Finely chop the onion, and place in a pan with the remaining olive oil, and half the butter. Whilst the onion is frying for few minutes, finely chop the garlic and celery. Together with the herbs, add to the onions, and cook for couple of minutes.


3. Add the rice, and stir together. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced.


4. Start adding the stock, one ladle at a time. Let the liquid absorb before adding more. Keep stirring the mixture.


5. When there is only a little bit of stock left, mash until pureed, and add to the rice. If the rice isn’t yet cooked enough, you can also add the puree little by little.


6. Add most of the roasted squash pieces, remaining butter and most of the cheese. Mix together, and let stand for couple of minutes. Season if required, and give another stir. Serve with the remaining roasted pieces and parmesan cheese.


Crab risotto

I went on a wild goose chase trying to get uncooked crabs for this dish. It seems it’s something people don’t ask for much around where I live, so I in the end had to get cooked one from my fishmongers. I would have steamed mine, to have sweeter meat, the ones I bought were boiled (I think boiling is the more common method). A word of warning thought, if you’re not used to handling crab, and taking the meat out yourself. It is pretty fiddly! Now, I could’ve also bought crab at the fishmongers, where the meat had already been taken out, served on the big back shell (this excludes the claws and legs). I, however wanted all the pieces of shell, for making the stock, to use it in the risotto.

Crab stock
1 large crab, all the shells once the meat has been removed
1 onion
1 celery stick
1 carrot
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
2 stalks of parsley
3 stalks of thyme
150ml brandy
2 litres water
1 tbsp tomato paste
Crab risotto
250g uncooked arborio risotto rice
150ml dry white wine (I use Sauvignon Blanc)
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
black pepper
handful of chopped dill
meat from 1 whole crab
800ml stock (made from the shells)

1. Pull the claws and legs out of their joints. A good way to do this is twisting (rotating the whole joint) and pulling out at the same time.

2. Remove the meat from the crab shell. This can be fiddly and time consuming. Make sure you scoop out all the cavities of the mid-body, legs and claws. Also, there can be cartilage pieces inside bigger pieces of meat, holding the meat strands together, make sure to check and remove these.

3. Place the shells (including the mid-body carcass), onion, garlic, celery, peppercorns, carrot, bay leaves, parsley and thyme in a large pan with the splash of olive oil, and fry for about 5 minutes until it starts getting fragrant. Add the brandy, and bring to boil, until the mixture doesn’t smell of alcohol anymore. Add the water, salt and tomato paste. Bring to boil, and boil uncovered for about an hour.

4. Strain through a fine sieve. I would recommend using an additional piece of muslin, to leave all the muck behind, and getting a very nice, fine stock. When straining the stock through, you will need to keep scraping the bottom of the sieve with a wooden spoon, as the muck will collect at the bottom, stopping the liquid draining through.


5. Place the oil, butter and shallots in a pan, and fry for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, celery and bay leaves, and fry for 1 minute.

6. Tip all the rice in, and stir, to coat it all in the oil / butter mixture, for about 3-5 minutes. Add the white wine and let it bubble, stirring the rice.

7. Little by little, start adding the stock, stirring the rice until the liquid has disappeared, then adding more.


8. Once all the liquid has been used, stir all the crab meat in. Season to taste, and stir some cut dill in.


Beetroot risotto

This dish is one of my husband’s all time favourite dishes. I actually never used to like risotto, until I started making my own.

500g fresh, raw beetroots, peeled, trimmed and cut into wedges
splash of olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
250g risotto rice (I use Arborio)
150ml dry white wine (I use Sauvignon Blanc)
700ml hot vegetable stock (for this I mix Bouillon powder with water)
handful of grated parmesan cheese
crème fraiche

1. Heat oven to 160°C (fan).

2. Put chopped beetroot in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, season and cook for about an hour, until soft.

3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, and cook the onion and garlic for about 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the rice and white wine, and let bubble on medium heat until the wine has disappeared (about 3 minutes).

4. Little by little, add the vegetable stock, stirring in between, letting most of it be absorbed before adding more liquid. This whole stage should take around 20 minutes. Once the rice is desired texture, move on to the next stage.

5. Remove the cooked beetroot from the oven and take about a 1/4 aside, to blend into a puree. Chop the remaining 3/4 into small cubes. Then add the pureed and chopped pieces to the risotto.

6. Stir in some parmesan cheese and chopped dill. To serve, add a dollop of crème fraiche on top, and sprinkle some more parmesan cheese and dill.