Pumpkin & oyster mushroom risotto with caramelised onions

Aaaaahhhh, risotto 🙂

Creamy, dreamy and delicious – you can dress it up or down, and make it as simple and subtle or as complex and elegant as you like. I like mine to be a bit on the fancy-pants side, hence the caramelised onions and oyster mushrooms, yes perleeez!! 😛

Here’s how to knock up a fancy-pants risotto that will make your belly smile…

Flavour: Subtle and elegant

Serves: 4 as a main meal (and if you have any left over, just chuck it in the fridge and make arancini with it the next day!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (see here for a from-scratch recipe that will see to it that your risotto tastes perfect)
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt – add more to taste if you like it salty
  • 1 tablespoon sugar – I use rapadura or palm sugar, but raw cane sugar would do just fine
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 whole butternut squash (another kind of pumpkin will do just as well, but I like the smoothness of butternut squash, and the subtle Autumn flavour)
  • Half cup of white wine – don’t skip this unless you’re teetotal (if it’s good wine, save it for drinking – you can cook with a bottom shelf wine, so long as it’s dry wine, not sweet wine – I’d use a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, riesling, or classic dry white)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast – this gives it a slightly cheesy flavour, so use as much or as little as you like the taste of
  • Generous grind of black pepper – to your own taste
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy spread (I use nuttelex)
  • 100 gram package of oyster mushrooms, torn into shreds (larger mushrooms will tear into 4 or 5 shreds, while the smallest ones won’t need shredding at all

Optional extras:

  • Small bunch of coarsely chopped basil – marries wonderfully with the pumpkin flavour (toss this in at the end, and stir through before serving)
    • You could use sage instead, as would be a more common pairing, but I think the world really ought to find out why pumpkin and basil should get married and have babies 😛
  • As much grated non-dairy cheese substitute as you like, preferably  parmesan-type flavour (toss this in at the same time as the butter, and give it the same treatment)

Directions:

  1. Finely slice your onion, and sautee it in a large frying pan (I actually use a wok, and it works great even for risotto) on a high heat with the olive oil until it turns translucent
  2. Pop your stock on the stove on a high heat while you’re cooking those onions off
    • Amateur tip: make your own stock – here’s a recipe that’ll turn out great stock every time 😉
  3. Turn the heat on your onions down to medium and add half of the salt – sautee until slightly browned
  4. Mince your garlic, and stir it into your onions
    • Amateur tip: see here for how to mince your garlic to a fine paste – it’s so simple, you’ll never go back to chunky chopped garlic!
  5. Cut your pumpkin in half, de-seed, peel, then chop into small 1cm cubes or smaller
  6. Add the sugar to your onions, stir well, and turn heat down to low – sautee until a deep brown colour
  7. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, and continue to sautee on the lowest heat possible for another 5 minutes while you prepare and assemble the rest of the ingredients
  8. Toss the pumpkin into the caramelised onions, stir through, and turn the heat back up to high – stir regularly until the pumpkin starts to brown, and then turn heat down to medium
  9. Cook your pumpkin until it’s soft enough to mash, mash it slightly, and add the rest of the salt
  10. While your pumpkin is cooking, heat up one tablespoon of your non-dairy spread in a small frying pan, and toss in your oyster mushrooms – cook these until they start to brown and go slightly crispy around the edges
  11. Stir the arborio rice into your caramelised onion and pumpkin mixture, whack the heat back up high again, and pour in a cup of stock and your half cup of white wine, stir gently
  12. Once the liquid has reduced to next to nothing and the alcohol smell has gone, now you’re cooking – you need to stand beside your risotto as it cooks like a loyal guardian, stirring it regularly, and adding the stock a cup at a time (no need to be precise with this – just make sure you do actually do it gradually) until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through
    • You’ll find the dedication to constant stirring a meditative act for sure 😛 (no, seriously – if you struggle to meditate, take this as your cue!) Your risotto will take 15-20 minutes to cook to perfection (use your discretion and don’t follow dogmatics who tell you “16 minutes; no more, no less”, because they don’t know your stove and the quality of your temperature control like you do 😉 )
  13. Once your rice is cooked through but still al dente, turn the heat down to low and stir in your nutritional yeast and oyster mushrooms
  14. Take off the heat and sprinkle your butter over the top of your resting risotto in small blobs (this is also when you add your non-dairy cheese, if you’re using it), grind as much black pepper over the top as you like, and leave it for a minute
  15. When that minute is up, stir it all well in (this is when you add your basil, if you’re using it)
  16. Your risotto should be creamy in texture, with a silky-smooth mouthfeel, and it should be wet enough to spread across your plate when you serve it up, but not so wet that it’s soupy – enjoy! ❤

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