Chicken, Butternut Squash and Swede Risotto

Chicken, Butternut Squash and Swede Risotto, with sage infused butter

Everything is pumpkin and squash right now. It’s autumn, for sure. Compared to this time last week it’s cold, damp and miserable here. And I’m really in need of comfort food. This chicken, butternut squash and swede risotto fitted the bill perfectly. And I’m looking forward to risotto cakes tomorrow with leftovers – one of the perks of cooking for one. Out of curiosity I Googled butternut risotto, after deciding to make this, and loads of recipes came up with it and sage. Fine. That’s what I wanted. As I’ve roasted butternut squash quite a few times I knew to expect a silky soft texture. Which isn’t really what I wanted. Let’s face it, risotto is all about that already. No, I needed texture of some sort. And that turned out to be the humble swede. I love to pan-fry thick slices of it in a little oil until nicely golden on both sides. Cut into small cubes they not only added colour and sheen but the necessary texture I was after. Just enough bite. And loaded with flavour. This was quite simply heaven on a plate. And I had to restrain myself from gorging!

This isn’t about spice. If anything, it’s more to do with spicy aromatics. With only whole black peppercorns and juniper berries added to the home-made chicken stock, albeit with ten less of the latter than per usual as that’s the end of them. They’re a must for this time of year. Must replenish. Sage. Well, I couldn’t get to the superstore where fresh sage would be on offer. Instead, I’ve gone with dried – sparingly. Which is why it’s only used within melted butter that’s simply poured over the risotto on the plate. Otherwise dried sage can be overwhelming in its flavour. Fresh is so much more refined and easier to use.

Chicken, Butternut Squash and Swede Risotto, with sage infused butter

  • Servings: 2 (or more as a starter)
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  1. 500ml (1.057 pint) x cold water
  2. 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
  3. 500g (1.10 pounds) x chicken leg quarters (both drumstick and thigh), skinned, excess fat removed and discarded and the chicken pieces well rinsed
  4. 2 x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
  5. 1 x onion, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
  6. 1 x large dried bay leaf, split
  7. 10 x juniper berries (use up to 20)
  8. 5 x whole black peppercorns


  • oil
  • 1 x medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthways, seeds scooped out and discarded
  • 1 x medium swede (yellow turnip/rutabaga), cut into thick slices crossways and peeled
  • up to 500ml x home-made chicken stock
  • cooked meat from the chicken leg quarters
  • 100g (3.527 oz) x arborio rice, thoroughly rinsed in cold water
  • single/light cream, amount used to personal taste
  • unsalted butter, to personal taste
  • ½ x teaspoon dried sage, more to personal taste
  • both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to serve

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


  • Add all numbered ingredients to a large saucepan with lid and put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for about an hour. If storing overnight switch off heat and allow the stock to cool before removing the chicken and adding both meat and stock to suitable containers. The stock can be strained, and the vegetables pressed with the back of a metal serving spoon to extract as much of their juice as possible before storing. When needed skim off any fat on the surface on the stock and discard.
  • Preheat oven to 200°C or 392°F.
  • Brush both cut sides of the butternut squash with olive oil and place cut side up on a suitable baking tray. If you want to season then do so to personal taste. Place into the preheated oven and roast for about 40 minutes. When golden on top check with a fork or skewer to make sure the flesh is fully cooked. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to do so remove the flesh with a spoon and add to a bowl.
  • Put a small heavy-based saucepan or pan on heat No 3 with a little oil. Place the sliced swede/rutabaga into the pan and add a lid. Allow about 5 or more minutes for each side, checking to make sure there’s no scorching. Remove lid, reduce heat and continue to cook until the slices are easily pierced with a fork. Take off heat and set aside. When cool enough to handle remove the slices of swede and cut into smallish cubes.
  • For the actual risotto add a good glug of olive oil to a large heavy-based pan and put on low heat to start with. Add the rice and stir occasionally for about 4 or 5 minutes. Have the stock to hand and start to add ladlefuls to the rice, upping the heat to either No 3 or 4. Allow enough time for the stock to be absorbed before adding more.
  • In the meantime remove the meat from the chicken and set aside.
  • Keep adding a little stock to the rice as before, and after about 15 minutes start checking individual grains of rice for how well it’s cooking. Around this time I’ll start to add some cream along with stock and stir through more often. And reduce the heat to prevent the possibility of any scorching.
  • In the meantime grab a small saucepan or pan (the one used for the swede would do nicely) and add the butter with the dried sage, if using. Put on lowest heat and allow to melt only. The butter must not turn brown, so take off heat if there’s any sign of bubbling.
  • When rice is cooked to personal taste add the chicken meat, butternut squash and swede and stir through. Add a little more stock and cream if the risotto is too thick at this stage. I tend to plonk on a lid, keep it on lowest heat and get everything else ready for lunch or sups. Including the sage infused butter which needs to be poured through a fine wire metal sieve just before serving.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Kitschnflavours:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny Hepburn

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  1. This looks divine. Yes, fresh sage and butter is amazing. I just love this dish! I love how you used juniper berries in your stock. It may be cold and damp there but that’s ok as you now have wonderful comfort food to look forward to. Just lovely :)

    • Love fresh sage. Dread using dried as it can wreak havoc. Same with dried basil. As for juniper berries, you can tell I used to drink gin! Could easily drink the stuff neat. Well, if chilled enough. Yes, this turned out really well. So looking forward to risotto cakes breaded with my crumbed walnut, yoghurt and olive oil bread. Question will be if I go the healthy route and bake ‘em. Hmm, doesn’t shallow fried taste better…

  2. Dinner on a cool autumn night doesn’t get any better than this Johnny! I’m sure it was wonderful!
    I make a somewhat similar risotto, though I pan-fry small diced-up butternut squash with a little finely chopped rosemary – works well adding chicken too… Your addition of a little cream sounds great – making the risotto even more luscious! I’ll have to try it.

    • Or for a late Sunday lunch! Actually, your combination of rosemary and squash sounds delicious. Hah! The same thing with fresh rosemary. Can only buy it and sage at the superstore, which is such a trek. Anyway, a little cream in risotto can give that luxurious feel. Without tasting too heavy. Apparently, restaurant chefs will load it with butter. That’s too much for me. Just a little poured over the top, instead of cheese, was perfect!

    • You’re either the devil or the goody sitting on my shoulder and whispering that! Think I’ll take your advice and go with frying them. They’ll taste so much better! Certainly the last ones did. Thanks.

    • Hah! They leftover risotto’s in the fridge waiting. Just about to start the breadcrumbs. Actually, I’m hoping to take more photos of the bread itself as there’s better light today :)

  3. We just had 34°C on Sunday! If only we could get the average of our temperatures, right? Either way, the risotto sounds delightful, I like crumbling cheese over risotto, but your method with sage scented butter sounds positively decadent. And yes, definitely shallow fry. :-)

    • Yes, totally agree with you. Actually, 30C by the coast and I’m happy.

      I wasn’t sure about using cheese with the subtlety of both the squash and swede. Besides, I only had ricotta in the fridge. This, to me, really doesn’t need anything other than the buttery sage flavours mingling through. Especially as there’s a little cream already. Still very light tasting. Which is how I prefer risotto.

  4. Oh my, your risotto is amazing. I love everything about it, the squash, swede, gently spiced chicken broth it’s just so creamy and wonderful, if there are leftovers it would make amazing rice balls or cakes. Totally delicious!! You didn’t use cheese (parm)? Do you think it would taste alright with a bit of cheese?

    • Just about to start the risotto cakes! No, I’ve just responded to saucygander about the cheese. It’s very seldom I have hard cheese in the fridge, excepting during winter for some reason. I tend to have pastas and risottos sans cheese. Although, I’m curious about both Pecorino and Manchego, both fairly new to the stores here. Well, the ones nearby. Hmm, might start using them in my ‘quick’ breads. And yes, your favourite hard cheese freshly grated over the top of this would go. I just didn’t want to include butter, cream and cheese on the same plate!

  5. This looks really good and comforting! I was actually just thinking this weekend about needing to pull out the squash recipes and take advantage of all the fresh varieties available! :-) And I’ve got fresh sage in the garden I need to use up before the weather turns cooler so this would be perfect!

    • You’re lucky to have a choice! Here it’s butternut, and – would you believe it – onion squash right now. There’s never normally any other type, apart from actual pumpkin nearer Hallowe’en itself. And those are normally sold for decorative purposes. Pumpkin just isn’t a big deal over here. Which is such a shame as I loved pumpkin pie when in New York. Yes, fresh sage is so good. And very easy to dry.

  6. This sounds great, but I’m trying to figure out exactly what I’m seeing on the very top of the risotto–the big thing on the right of the crest. At first I thought it was a giant sliver of cheese, but that couldn’t be the case. Is it a piece of turnip? The chicken didn’t go back into the risotto, did it, or did I miss something? Thanks. Ken

    • It’s chicken meat! I had included, remove the meat from the chicken and set aside, within instructions but completely forgot to add it to the risotto. Thanks for pointing that out. And I’ve also updated the question mark! I usually put those in offline to remind me to add the symbol. And this time around, as well, I forgot to add swede (yellow turnip/rutabaga) to the ingredients list. Chef Mimi didn’t know what it was. All done and dusted. Until I realise there’s something else missing!

    • Thanks, Conor. This was good. Not as good as expected as risotto cakes, as in lunch today. The last risotto I made was much better as cakes – possibly as there was some bacon bits in it. And risottos I don’t cook very often. As the last two have turned out so well I think I’ll be making more of them.

    • You are so right! Especially today as cakes. They really needed an extra flavour as I didn’t add any sage infused butter as that would’ve made the rice too sticky to roll. Eating them I kept thinking that a little bit of pan-fried Parma ham crispy bits included would’ve been so much nicer. The risotto itself was far better when I ate it yesterday.

    • 40?! Whew, I’ve never lived anywhere that hot. Mid 30’s and I’m okay with. Anything hotter is excessive. I think I’d be on a liquid diet with those temps – and I ain’t just talkin’ lush, sweet lush neither!

  7. This looks ***incredibly delicious*** and mouthwatering and I venture to guess that once you make risotto cakes and up the ante I may just up and swoon!

    • Well, not to disappoint you but I did make the cakes. Ouch! Knew I should’ve baked them rather than shallow fry. The crunch wasn’t great, neither was the overall taste. Yet, as a risotto this kicks a**. So I haven’t decided to go with the post, as yet. ‘Disappointing’ isn’t perhaps the best opening description I’ve ever gone with :)

      Hope you’ve enjoyed your time off!

      • Oh definitely enjoying time off! Laziness comes naturally to me! ha ha. sorry to hear about the risotto cake going awry. I think “disappointing result” posts are kind of interesting actually but hopefully you’ll give the cake another good old fashioned try?

            • Yes. I know nothing about Martha Stewart, apart from the obvious. Have to admit I found her comments patronising, to say the least. ‘They’re not experts’. Just to quote one of them. Running scared? I’m curious about the effect Pinterest is having on publishing right now. Apparently, fashion blogs are so successful that they’re influencing not only what’s currently fashionable (on a street level) but that fashion mags are following suit – is it going to get to the stage where bloggers are influencing the food industry?

  8. great post, love pumpkin. Was wondering what you were up to, I am sure you have also made great pumpkin bread. I however, have just made some terrible pumpkin bread (doubled all quantities but the sugar, made pumpkin puree to add, got impatient and added it to the flour while still hot (the puree not the flour) and the gluten went all stringy on me, edible but not edifying, must focus! And not make bread straight from the airport…..Anyhow – love the way you use swede and not pumpkin in the risotto, I agree that pumpkin is too smooth already and you need texture. Sage is lovely, the dried stuff is deadly however, I have a pot on my balcony, great having it ready to go when you need it.

    • Thank you! You’re wrong, though. About the pumpkin bread. Pumpkins are very difficult to get here, and most are sold as decorative. Trying to find a smallish pumpkin is tough going. And the large ones are too tough to cook with, in my opinion. I was actually really pleased to find onion squash on sale recently, for the first time! It’s only ever butternut squash that’s on sale throughout the year. Pumpkins are for carving for Hallowe’en, even though the Brits used to carve swede! Why am I using so many exclamation marks? Anyway, I’ll be carving swede to be trad.

      So right about dried sage. Must buy a pot of fresh next time at the superstore as I’m nearly certain I’ve seen those for sale. Fresh sage is so good to have to hand at this time of year.

      Shame about your bread. I’ve yet to add anything hot to flour, excepting roasted walnuts that were cooling down. Those didn’t make any difference. I really would love to make bread and pie out of pumpkin, if I get the pumpkin :) Shall be bookmarking recipes galore, no doubt.

  9. Hhm great recipe, I love risottos, the classical porcini and frutti di mare, but I also love making up funky flavour combinations… its a bit like making jam haha

    • I’m getting more and more into risottos. In fact, I’m cooking one right now. Even though it’s late. Just leek and bacon with home-made chicken stock. Will hopefully do risotto cakes tomorrow with leftovers :)

  10. Gorgeous comfort food! It’s spring over here, so we’re experiencing entirely the opposite to you (less squash and more spring vegetables in the shops… salad days are here!) but I do love myself a good risotto, regardless of the weather. Love the look of that beautifully glossy squash and rice. Yum!

    • It’s almost spring-like here right now. Very mild. Which is slightly confusing appetite wise, or in wanting seasonal variations. As I tend to keep my risottos light and as flavourful as possible it’s okay to go with at any time of year. And I’m loving risotto cakes. Just made another small batch tonight, as in leek and bacon with home-made chicken stock, and that cake was so good. Must go with a post on them. Especially as I can now gorge on anything with breadcrumbs! Never was able to before when I had to rely on shop-bought bread for the crumbs.

      Enjoy Spring for me! It’s usually my favourite time of year.

    • Thank you. Hope it works out okay. I’m finding that with vegetarian risottos they turn out great. But, when I go to use leftovers as cakes the next day they’re never quite as good. Hmm, me thinks I’ll have to eat more of it the night I make ‘em!

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