Autumn squash, sage and mascarpone brown rice risotto

At first, I was slightly sceptical about the idea of substituting arborio rice with short grain brown rice as it seemed a little too healthy/too good for you to be appetising. But then I considered the amount of butter and mascarpone goodness that is also included so I thought I would give this a try. I think the risotto could also work really well with wild rice. I am not usually a fan of brown rice unless used in salads with freshly cooked salmon, peppers and lemon zest, but this was possibly one of the best squash-based risotto I have ever made.

The meal was very much inspired by Sophie Dahl’s recipe for Pumpkin, sage and mascarpone brown rice risotto in her book Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights. I was a little hesitant in the beginning to try the recipes in this book (to be honest I had never really thought of Sophie Dahl as a foodie). But one day I was browsing in Waterstone’s and came across her book and it surprised me how many recipes I was dying to try or seemed to appeal to my senses both in terms of the visual and my very excitable tastebuds. I bought the book and all the recipes I have tried so far have turned out delicious. I especially love the sea bass with tomatoes and olive salsa recipe, perfect for a summer’s day. The photographs are drool-worthy and well laid out, recipes are easy to follow and are concise (I love that she uses sizing such as pancakes which should be the size of a ‘chocolate coin’). Sophie Dahl’s reflections on memories, food and family are written like poetry. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book so far, my only complaint is that there were not enough recipes! I hope she does another cookbook.

It amazed me how as soon as the autumnal weather kicked in there appeared to be an abundance of winter squashes. My usual Abel and Cole orders now consist primarily of various squashes. It is my aim this autumn/winter to try all the squashes available. Although I am no hater of the pumpkin, I don’t particularly like having to break them open. It is just such injustice to my Sabatier knives or my meat cleaver, and also by the time I have cracked open an average sized pumpkin, I will have exhausted my energies and would be ready for a lie down opposed to making my meal. I am dying to try the Ironbark variety and also the Turk’s Turban.

I used a lot more butter and onion squash instead of pumpkin (but any sweet and rich tasting squash would work, as long as it is not fiborous in texture). Just to discuss the onion squash a little more: I love onion squash. This was new to me as in New Zealand I have never seen it on the market, not even at Moore Wilson! Moore Wilson is the greatest supermarket of them all, based in Wellington, it stocks heaps of deli food, fresh exotic veges and fruit, and a lot of international stuff that you can’t find in the normal supermarkets in Wellington, they also sell my favourite coffee Supreme beans. Oh how I miss Wellington’s coffee.

This recipe was inspired by Sophie Dahl’s Brown rice risotto with pumpkin, mascarpone, sage and almonds recipe in Miss Dahl’s voluptuous delights.

Pumpkin and mascarpone brown rice risotto

2 finely chopped white onions

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup of vermouth or white wine

1 cup brown rice

1.5 litres of vegetable stock (homemade)

2 cups chopped and peeled pumpkin/onion squash

1 tablespoon mascarpone

1 tablespoon freshly chopped sage

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Chop and skin the pumpkin or squash into large 2 cm chunks. Line a baking tray with tin foil and lightly oil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a few sage leaves. Cover loosly with another piece of foil and put into the oven for about 40 mins or until it is golden and soft. Leave to cool.

In a heavy-based pan, sweat the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter for about 30 mins. Once soft and translucent, add the rice and stir well till it is evenly coated in butter. Keep the heat on low and add the vermouth. Allow to absorb, then add a ladle full of warmed stock. Simmer and stir till absorbed. Keep doing this for about 45 mins as the rice will gently drink the stock up. Once the rice is soft and silky add the pumpkin, then follow with mascarpone and sage. Just before serving, add a teaspoon of butter.

Serves two.