Comfort food. It takes all shapes and forms. For some it’s ice cream (non-dairy of course), pasta for others. Could be a single square of dark chocolate for some people ( though if you ARE one of those people, please make yourself known so I can learn moderation from you!). For me, I’m not sure anything truly beats a huge plate of creamy filling risotto. The combination of soupy rice that still has a little bite to it, with richly flavoured stock, vibrant veggies and the sharp tang of Parmesan…. except, no parmesan now. You can get vegan parmesan but it costs a fortune and I’m not quite ready to sell a kidney for an alternative. Luckily, that creamy piquant flavour was easily replicated by adding apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast and Dijon mustard to the blended up butternut squash mixture, didn’t even miss the parmesan cheese!
Risotto can seem slightly labour intensive with all the stirring and stirring…and stirring….but it’s so worth it. The squash roasts while the risotto is cooking so all in all it takes less than an hour to create a beautifully filling and impressive dish that’s perfect for the cold wintery Irish evenings just now. Packed full of immune boosting vitamins and minerals, this is a dish that can be served again and again in this house without complaints ( minus the chilli for Coppertop).
I’ve definitely found a difference in my risotto since I started keeping the veg stock simmering in a pot beside the saute pan instead of gradually getting colder and colder in a measuring jug on the counter. The pumpkin puree could be optional if you had a bigger butternut squash and wanted to just blend more of it instead of adding the puree. The chilli is definitely optional. I like a tiny bit of heat but the risotto is just as gorgeous without it. Plus, of course, crispy fried sage leaves…let’s just take a minute to revel in the glory of fried sage leaves. I had no idea it was a ‘thing’ until dining out at a restaurant where I had a version of this risotto with the fried sage leaves on top. Well. That was me hooked. They only take seconds in very hot oil but the flavour is sensational, especially when paired with the squash risotto. I love the flavour of sage so this recipe is a perfect showcase for it.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PUMPKIN AND SAGE RISOTTO (serves 4)
- 4 cups of cubed butternut squash (1 small butternut squash)
- 1 medium leek, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced.
- 1 small red chilli , finely chopped (optional)
- 2 cups of risotto rice (Arborio or carnaroli are the most common)
- 7 cups of vegetable stock,or no-chicken stock
- 1 cup vegan white wine
- 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 large bunch of sage leaves
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Toss the butternut squash and 6 sage leaves in 1 tbsp of oil, a little salt and black pepper then lay them in a single layer on a baking tray.
Heat a tbsp of oil in a wide saute pan over a low-medium heat .Have the vegetable stock simmering in a pot beside it. Keep it on a low simmer. Add the leek and chilli (if using). Cook gently for 4-5 minutes until the leek is softened but not browned. Add the rice,stir thoroughly to coat the grains in the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the rice is almost translucent. Turn the heat up to medium, then add the cup of wine. Keep stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add a ladleful of stock at a time, stirring almost consistently, until the liquid is absorbed then adding another ladleful.
After 5 minutes of stirring, put the butternut squash in the oven.Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally so it cooks evenly. Once roasted, add roughly a third of the squash plus all the roasted sage leaves to a blender. Add the pumpkin puree, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and 1/4 cup of the simmering stock. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
When you add the final ladle of stock,take off the heat and add the blended mixture plus 4 finely chopped sage leaves. Judge for yourself if you think it needs to go back on the heat for a few minutes but generally I find that it’s the perfect consistency at that point (typically the time I want to photograph it for the blog, is the time that Coppertop needed me at the crucial moment so it ended up slightly thicker than usual :/ ) . Season to taste with a little coarse sea salt ( I use pink Himalayan) and freshly ground black pepper.
Now for my favourite part! Crispy fried sage leaves! Heat a little oil in a pan until hot. Add 8 large sage leaves for a few seconds , lift onto kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil and sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt.
Ladle onto plates, top with some of the roasted squash and then finish off by adding two of the fried sage leaves to the top. Voila!! Gorgeously satisfying rice and vegetable dish. We had this after spending the morning watching squirrels and hunting for pine cones on a beautifully sunny but freezing cold Sunday morning in the park, what a great way to heat ourselves up again 🙂
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