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
FOR THE CHICKEN STOCK:
- 500ml (1.057 pint) x cold water
- 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
- 500g (1.10 pounds) x chicken leg quarters (both drumstick and thigh), skinned, excess fat removed and discarded and the chicken pieces well rinsed
- 2 x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 1 x onion, peeled, trimmed and cut into quarters
- 1 x large dried bay leaf, split
- 10 x juniper berries (use up to 20)
- 5 x whole black peppercorns
FOR THE RISOTTO:
- 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.
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