My friend Hugh doesn't like cheese. I know, I don't get it either.
I mean I love him and I respect his choice but I will never understand him; cheese is the glue that holds my life together. One of the proudest days of my life, sitting somewhere behind my wedding the birth of my daughter, was the day I realised I had eight different types of cheese in my fridge. EIGHT. Oh the tears of joy were flowing that afternoon, let me tell you...
In my mind there is almost nothing better than a good cheese, and every meal is made better by it's inclusion. Take risotto.
A bowl of warm, creamy risotto is my go-to comfort food for cold nights. You can flavour it with just about anything you have in the fridge and it's ready in about 30 minutes - hello budget-friendly weeknight winner. One of the things all risottos have in common is the inclusion of parmesan - it's salty, savoury tang lifts an already pretty good rice dish into something that dances on you tatstebuds. But it must - MUST - be freshly grated parmesan from a block. Don't confuse fresh parmesan for the powdered yellow stuff that smells like old, sweaty socks or even the packets of pre-grated parsemsan shards, you need to grate it yourself from the block.
This recipe calls for 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, which looks like a lot of cheese for a supposedly healthy dish, but packs a huge flavour hit and a cheesy, creamy glue to bind the whole thing together for a whopping - wait for it - 20g of cheese. There's not many other cheeses where 20g will provide enough flavour to satisfy a four person meal. Ahhh, the magic of parmesan.
I served mine with grilled chicken because I wanted to bump up my protein but it's also lovely on it's own as the remedy to a long, hard day. It's also important to add the pumpkin a little before the rice to give it time to cook down into a smooth, pumpkin sauce.
I made pumpkin risotto this time due to the abundance of pumpkins available at the farmers' market right now. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, which is promotes good eyesight (especially in low light) and healthy skin, teeth and bones. It's also high in fibre, helping you stay full for longer, but low in calories, helping to support weight loss.
Even if you're trying to lose weight there's no need to ban risotto, healthy weight loss and maintenance is all about portion control. Remember: there are no foods so bad for you that you should never let yourself eat them again, only bad portions relative to your needs. And as the French say: un repas sans fromage comme un journee sans soliel (a meal without cheese is like a day without sunshine). Sorry Hugh, I'm going to go with the French on this one.
Creamy Pumpkin Risotto
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 large pumpkin, grated (mine came to about 3 cups)
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine or verjuice
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1) Bring stock to the boil in small pan, then reduce to a very slow simmer.
2) Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then add your onion, garlic and grated pumpkin. Stir for 5 minutes or until the veg has softened.
3) Add the wine and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed.
4) Add the simmering stock, 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time, stirring regularly and allowing each lot of liquid to be absorbed before adding more stock.
5) Once the last of the stock has been absorbed (about 20-25 minutes) stir in the parmesan and seasoning.
6) Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan.
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