Oven-baked risotto is a different beast to a traditionally-made risotto, but no less delicious. They have a different consistency, despite identical ingredients, but the benefit of this method is that the 20 minutes before it comes to the table your time is free to chat to your guests, pour drinks, lay the table, etc, whilst with a traditional risotto you would be at the hob, stirring constantly.
The texture of a baked risotto is a bit more like a pilaff.... still moist, but the grains are quite separate. The constant stirring in a traditional risotto releases the rice's starch which gives the dish its far creamier texture. I do love a really well-made traditional risotto, served straight from the pan without time to turn claggy, (this recent article in the Guardian How to Make the Perfect Risotto is well worth a read). But there are times when all that stirring just isn't going to happen, and a pretty, autumnal, baked centrepiece like this fits the bill perfectly.
Baked Pumpkin & Leek Risotto
- ½ pumpkin or large butternut squash
- 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- 2 leeks washed, trimmed and finely sliced
- 250 g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli are best)
- 200 ml white wine (check it is vegan)
- 650 ml vegetable stock
- handful fresh sage leaves (optional)
- handful flaked almonds (optional)
- Start by peeling your pumpkin or squash, and removing the seeds. Slice 8 slices 1cm thick and set aside. Chop the remainder of the pumpkin/squash into cubes roughly 2cm x 2cm.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4. Place your slices (not the chunks) of pumpkin/squash on a baking tray, drizzle or spray with a little oil on both sides, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes whilst you get on with the risotto. (They will finish cooking on top of the risotto).
- In a large hob/oven-proof casserole dish, heat 2 tbsp oil and add the garlic and leeks. Fry gently for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften
- Next, add the pumpkin/squash chunks (but not the slices from the baking tray!). Stir to combine, cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the rice. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the wine, and leave it to bubble for 2-3 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Finally, turn off the heat, pour over the stock, then arrange the pumpkin/squash slices from your baking tray on top of the risotto in a pretty spiral pattern.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the rice is soft and the pumpkin slices are golden brown.
- If you choose to top your risotto with crispy sage leaves and almonds (entirely optional, but very tasty!), simply heat 1 tbsp oil in a small frying pan, fry the sage leaves for a minute on each side until crispy, then remove to a piece of kitchen towel. Sprinkle with a little salt once they have cooled. Toast the flaked almonds in the empty pan until just beginning to brown - watch carefully, they turn black in seconds! Scatter the sage and almonds on top of the risotto and serve immediately.
For more inspiration take a look at my Pinterest board Rice: Vegetarian & Vegan.