The story of the ravening monster and the pumpkin
This week, I’m starting with a very sad story of emerging life, and sudden loss. I had a pumpkin plant sprouting in my vegetable garden. Every day it unfurled its leaves and grew bigger and longer. Unfortunately, also the weeds around it basked in the warmth of the early Autumn sun and grew overnight into a giant forest of prickly heads that covered the valiant pumpkin plant from view. An ignorant monster (that would…ahem….be me), flew into a frenzy and pulled out all the weeds in large handfuls. In this fit of frantic gardening, the monster snagged some of the pumpkin plant and snapped the growing stem off at ground level. No amount of roaring and gnashing of teeth (nor superglue) could bring the pumpkin plant back to life, thus the monster was forced to go to the supermarket this year to buy pumpkins. And that my friends, is why you should never let the weeds in your garden grow too much.
A Fall-coloured risotto
So, I went to the supermarket and got a wonderful butternut squash to make this pumpkin and speck risotto. I know in my heart-of-hearts that the risotto I would have made with a pumpkin from my own departed pumpkin plant would have been much more satisfying, but what can you do? This pumpkin risotto is a wonderful way to kick off the Fall season. The orange of the pumpkin and the brown of the speck seem like sprinkles of falling Autumn leaves mixed in with the rice (aren’t I just so poetic today!). Of course leaves mixed in with rice would taste revolting, but pumpkin and speck make a very tasty combination.
If you can’t get speck, either use raw Italian ham, or bacon. The recipe I’ve written below is for making risotto in a pressure cooker. If you want the traditional way of making it, click here to read the instructions.
Travel Photo Of The Week
This photo comes from the area of Italy called the Veneto region, near Venice, where they often use pumpkin in pasta and risotto dishes. This hill town is called Bassano del Grappa, and if you haven’t guessed already, it’s where they are renown for making grappa, a strong liqueur made from the bits that are left over after the wine-making process. It has, of course, a museum dedicated to grappa, where you can have tastings then reel out of the museum and fall into the river. It also has a beautiful wooden bridge and old town to wander around in.
By Lisa Watson
Pumpkin and bacon risotto
- 250 g Butternut Squash 8.8 oz
- 1 half Onion
- 1 cup Carnaroli or Arborio Rice
- 1/3 cup White Wine
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Chicken or Vegetable Bouillion Cube
- 1 1/2 cups Hot Water
- 40 g Speck 1.4 oz or bacon
- 4 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
- Finely chop the onion. Peel the pumpkin and chop it into small cubes. Dissolve the bouillion cube and salt in the hot water.
- Heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a pressure cooker. When it is hot, fry the onion for 2 -3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and sauté it for 5 -10 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the rice and sauté, until it starts to brown slightly. Stir the mixture often.
- Add the wine and let it boil off.
- Add the water mixture and stir everything together.
- Put the lid on the pressure cooker. Let it start to whistle and then turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for 6 minutes.
- While the risotto is cooking, slice the speck finely.
- Take the lid off the pressure cooker and stir the risotto vigourously to crush some of the cubes of pumpkin.
- Add the speck and grated parmesan cheese and mix in.
- Serve immediately.