Beetroot risotto with goat’s cheese

I have been enjoying my fair share of risottos lately. After attending a photo shoot where the chef made the most delicious black squid risotto, I have had cravings for risotto every day. It’s a bit of a trick risotto because it can go so thick and stodgy and it can be a bit annoying on the old arm as you have to stir for so long. I think one of the most important elements of risotto is the stock—don’t use stock powders/cubes. Ever since I started making my own vegetable stock, I can’t go back to the powdered kind. In this risotto, the beetroot cooks lightly in the stock and is added ladle by ladle to the risotto rice. The goat’s cheese is added at the end to give the whole thing a really delicious taste that’s earthy and rich. Lucas Hollweg in my opinion is the guru of delicious home cooking. He writes some really mouth-watering recipes for the Sunday Times and is one of the only reasons I subscribe to the paper. I’ve cooked so many things from his book Good Things to Eat that I am already running out of recipes and utterly depressed he hasn’t got a second book out yet.

Beetroot risotto with goat’s cheese

1 litre homemade vegetable stock

250g raw beetroot, peeled and grated

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1/2 stick of celery, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

175g risotto rice

100ml dry white wine

salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g mild, soft, rindless goat’s cheese

25g butter

a few chopped chives

Heat your stock in a large saucepan and add the beetroot. Simmer gently and keep it on a very low heat.

In a heavy pan, heat the oil and sweat the onion, garlic and celery over a gentle heat until soft but not browned. Add the rice and turn up the heat a little, stirring till the grains of rice are coated in the oil. Add the wine and stir until the liquid has completely absorbed. Now add 2 ladlefuls of the hot stock, including some of the beetroot bits at the same time, and cook over a medium heat, stirring often until the liquid absorbed. Season well with salt and pepper then add a third quantity of stock and stir in. Keep adding the stock like this until the rice grains are just al dente.

When your rice is cooked, taste it for seasoning. Stir in the butter and half the goat’s cheese then cover the pan and leave it off the heat for about 3 minutes. Serve with bits of goat’s cheese and some chopped chives scattered on top.

(Recipe from Good Things to Eat by Lucas Hollweg, Collins, 2011)

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Pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter

I think one of the nicest things would have to be pillowy lumps of gnocchi smothered in sage butter. What I love about this recipe is that pumpkin is included, one of my many loves. I had never tried Stephanie Alexander recipes before this, and once I had made this simple and delicious dish I became a Stephanie convert. I especially love how you can experiment with the kinds of pumpkin or squash that you can use for this and you can get a variety of different flavours. I used onion squash and it was just delicious. Onion squash has a really nice perfectly smooth texture, brightness in colour and intense sweetness along with a nuttiness which I think it works well here. Although a lot of gnocchi recipes say to boil the pumpkin, I prefer roasting it covered with some foil.

Pumpkin (or onion squash) gnocchi with sage butter sauce

250g potatoes (desiree)

300g pumpkin, butternut or onion squash (any dry-flesh variety)

160g flour, plus extra for dusting

2 Tablespoons grated parmasan

20 large sage leaves

150g butter

sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks then place into a saucepan with some salt, cold water, and cover generously. Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Once they are tender, drain and set aside. Peel and deseed the pumpkin and weigh to ensure you have 250g cut into bite-sized chunks. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle over a few sage leaves. Cover loosely with tin foil and bake in the oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin is soft and slightly browned at the edges.

Using a potato ricer, add the pumpkin and potato and squash through into a bowl. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and add some pepper. Sieve most of the flour over the vegetable mound and quickly but lightly combine. Knead briefly till the dough is smooth, using more flour if necessary. Be careful not to over knead because this will kill the pillow-like nature of your gnocchi. Cut the dough into four pieces and with your fingers, roll each into a sausage 2cm-3cm wide. Cut each ‘sausage’ into pieces 2cm long and place on a floured baking tray. Fill a large pan with water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil and drop in as man gnocchi as will fit in a layer. Adjust the heat to a simmer. When the gnocchi rises to the surface (after 3 minutes), lift out with a slotted spoon and place into a warmed serving dish. Return to the oven to keep warm after each batch of gnocchi.

To make the butter sauce, add butter to a non-stick frying pan and fry the sage leaves till crisp. Check the butter has become a medium-brown colour and spoon over the gnocchi. Serve with parmesan grated over the top.

This recipe was adapted from ‘Pumpkin gnocchi with sage-butter sauce’ published in The Independent, 28 August 2008.