(not really) Pumpkin risotto

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I have a confession to make.

When I first arrived, I couldn’t afford to buy arborio rice here.  So, in that first year, I didn’t make any risotto, one of my customary meals back in the UK.  Thereafter I got so desperate for the comfort of cooking and eating risotto, I managed to convince myself that it didn’t matter if I used jasmine or ginger flower rice (a Cambodian medium grain rice) instead of arborio, carnaroli or any different type of risotto rice.  I’ve merrily been making and feeding this pumpkin ‘risotto’ to many of my friends, using whatever rice I had at hand.  Believe me, there were no complaints.  Spicy, and gloriously ochre with the sweetness of fresh coriander.  Who would turn down this dish?IMG_8847

However, a few months ago it all changed.  My friend Robert gave me some of his delicious bacon, mushroom and spinach risotto (which I need to try cooking myself!) made with arborio rice.   And the realisation of the error of my ways overwhelmed me.  It just ain’t a risotto without risotto rice! How had I duped myself into thinking that this chewier, creamier textured rice could be replaceable?

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So, yes.  You can make this not-really-risotto, pumpkin risotto (what am I supposed to call it now?) with any grain of rice that you have.  But don’t call it risotto.

It’s really simple to make.  I make it a lot as pumpkins are pretty much available all year round in Cambodia, but not always strictly as a risotto.  I really appreciate the fact that here you can buy however much of the pumpkin that you’re planning on cooking with: you just ask the market seller to cut off however much you need.  In contrast, I don’t think that I would have made this in the UK because I didn’t really buy pumpkins.  I didn’t really know what to do with a whole big pumpkin and I didn’t shop in those places that sold different varieties of smaller ones.

I adapted the original recipe to add in a bit more spice, with extra cumin, chilli and coriander.  Lastly, there’s the grown-up version with the added white wine.

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Recipe for Pumpkin Risotto, adapted from BBC Good Food

Ingredients

  • 400g pumpkin, seedless and peeled
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves (but garlic isn’t as strong here, so perhaps 2 if your garlic is strong)
  • 1 onion
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 litre of hot vegetable/chicken stock
  • 125-250ml (or more) dry white wine
  • 25g cold butter
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated (for vegetarians, choose an alternative or omit altogether)
  • generous bunch of coriander, roughly chopped up
  • spring onion, chopped up (optional)
  • 2 red chilli peppers
  • salt and pepper
  • optional lime wedges to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4/Cut the pumpkin into fairly even 1inch/2.5cm cubes.  As you can see from the photo, I don’t worry too much about being precise.  Coat it with 1tbsp of vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for about 30 mins.
  2. Meanwhile get started on the risotto.  Crush the garlic and chop up the onion.   If using spring onions, then finely chop up the whites of the spring onions, reserving the green part as a garnish for later.
  3. Heat the rest of the oil on a gentle heat in a medium sized pan and fry the onions, garlic and spring onion until the onions are soft.
  4. Now add the cumin and rice, being careful not to let it catch on the bottom of the pan.  Stir so that every grain of rice is coated in the spice.
  5. Add the wine and let it deglaze the pan, by stirring it around the bottom of the pan.
  6. Next, adding the stock about a ladleful at a time is the accepted wisdom but I’m pretty imprecise about this.  I think that add however much you need so that it just covers the rice and the rice won’t burn at the bottom of the pan.  Stir and stir until the stock has disappeared this helps release the starch from the rice).  Then add in a bit more stock.   *As you’re doing this, multi-task with step 7.*  Continue until the rice is cooked but still has a wee bit of bite – this is al dente.  Add another generous ladleful of stock, this helps to create a sauce,  and the butter.   Cover with the lid to help the butter melt.
  7. Check on the pumpkin and remove from the oven once they’ve been baked.  Grate the cheese, roughly chop up the coriander, finely slice the chilli peppers and the greens of the spring onions (if using).
  8. Once the rice has been cooked, add the pumpkin, cheese, coriander, spring onions and the chilli peppers. And stir through to mix well.  If you’d like a bit of zest, sprinkle some lime juice on top.  Et voila – enjoy.

The verdict?  A satisfying meat-free meal, which my friends, khmer and western, enjoy eating.  I especially like this paired with kimchi.

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Mulled Wine for 300


mulled wine syrup for 300

Mulled wine syrup for 300

For the past three years, we’ve put on a Winter Wonderland event for our Cryfield and Redfern students, with Christmas music, plenty mulled wine and mince pies to get them into the festive spirit. Of course, the first year we ran this, I realised how gauche I was about how one went around making mulled wine. My previous experiences of making mulled wine consisted of using a cheap bottle of red wine and dropping one of those mulled wine sachets into it. You know the kind I’m talking about right? The schwartz mulled wine spice bag.

So, that first year, I was marshalled into the mulled wine making army. We were inside this tiny kitchen, mixing vast quantities of homemade mulled wine syrup with bottles and bottles of red wine, adding sugar and dropping oranges into stock pots. Passing vats of the stuff outside to the thirsty punters, without making too much a mess, proved one step too far. Cleanliness was sacrificed for speed. I’m not sure that the redfern subwarden’s kitchen ever survived it.

It’s an understatement to say that it was somewhat of a revelation on how to make mulled wine. But you know what? That mulled wine tasted sweetly spiced wine with the tanginess of oranges, more akin to glühwein, and far superior than my previous homemade mulled wine. And that was even when we were doing it in bulk! The experience revolutionised my approach to making mulled wine.

The following year, I volunteered to make the mulled wine. A bit of research and arithmetic later, I began to compose my email to our deputy warden and organise my mulled wine making team.

Cha, Han-na
Actions
In response to the message from Border, Daniel, 21/11/2011
Sent Items
24 November 2011 00:45

Hi Dan,
I’ve put the costcutter order into one email.
I’ve gone for the Guardian’s mulled wine recipe – with a wee bit adaptation, think it’ll be tasty. –http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/dec/09/how-to-make-perfect-mulled-wine.
Chris and Dan – a few questions at the end which need your okaying to.

Here’s the mulled wine order for 300.

50 bottles of wine
25 oranges
25 lemons
4.5kg granulated sugar
8 jars of cinnamon sticks
2 jars of cloves
6 packets of whole star anise
3 jars of whole nutmeg
4 jars of whole cardamon pods

Hot chocolate order for 60:
12 litres of semi-skimmed milk
1200g hot chocolate powder

Pies and Biscuits:
300 mince pies (6×50 packets)
150 apple pies (6×25 packets)
2 packets of dark choc digestives
2 packets of milk choc digestives
3 packets of ginger nut biscuits
3 packets of bourbons

Could we have it ordered for Wednesday 30th November for 5pm pick up, rather than the Thursday and store it in Chris’s flat? Pinar said that she could store some of the milk in her fridge too.

If we have it on the Wednesday then Pinar and I can make the mulled wine syrup the night before, making it less stressful on the Thursday.

I’ll send an email to the wider group with an update and also request for manpower on the Wednesday, if Wednesday delivery is okay? Also have queries about urns/stock pans etc, which i’ll include in the email.

thanks,
Han-Na

For the next few days, I couldn’t quite get over the fact that I had ordered 50 bottles of wine!

Pinar and Rumana came round the evening before to make the mulled wine syrup with me, studding oranges with cloves, peeling lemons…

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2 hours and plenty of chatter later, we produced about 7.5 litres of mulled wine syrup. Later that night, I got the calculator out again to work out the mulled wine syrup to wine ratio.

This is what happened on the night.

cheeky Jueadding wine to the syrup

We had 47 bottles of red wine to mull and 2 hours to do it. I’d printed off the instructions in the morning and stuck it up on a cupboard.

For 500-550ml of mulled wine syrup, add 3 bottles of wine and 2 oranges. Heat it on a gentle heat so that all the alcohol doesn’t burn off. Empty the pan and start again 🙂

Rumana and Jue took charge of the mulling of the wine, whilst the rest of us began putting up decorations and heating up the pies. They were super-efficient and had it all done before 7pm before our first punters arrived. Shortly after the event began, I nipped off to a friend’s birthday party, confident that my job had been done.

laying out the mince piesmulled wine urns

I guess it’s becoming a tradition now to make the mulled wine from scratch for this annual event because this year I find that I’m initiating the new Cryfield team recruits into the art of making mulled wine syrup for the masses. We follow the success of last year and make the syrup a few nights before. Sarah needs a plaster when her finger exchanges sharp words with a vegetable peeler and Rumana shows off her skill for removing citrus peel. Glugs of orange juice and red wine are added into the pans by Dan. The good old calculator comes out as I work out the amount of spices that’s going into each stock pan and the ratio of syrup to wine when it comes to mulling.

But this time, it’s all happening out of my Redfern kitchen and I’m in charge of organising the whole event. What a difference a year makes!

So there you have it. Mulled wine for 300. Rather simple with a bit of organisation, preparation and a team of hardworking, happy helpers.