November 14, 2008

Pumpkin Sage and Sausage Reverse Risotto!

This recipe came about the other night while I was trying to find a use for the multiple food groups searching for a home in my fridge. My lovely neighbour had brought over some freshly made pumpkin purée the other day, and although we are inundated with the remainder of our pumpkin harvest, I still could not let this go to waste.

My favourite one-pot meal for a busy week-night is a fragrant, creamy risotto. I love the aromatic qualities of using white wine in cooking and nearly 1 cup goes in my risotto every time, along with some home-made chicken or veggie stock and a choice of seasonal vegetables (some fruit added to the mix will work beautifully too). I suppose the thing I like most about risotto is its flexibility. You can make this dish with a combination of any vegetables and if you have leftover pancetta, chicken, flaked fish, or sausage then this will make the dish into more of a meal and will add further richness.

In this case I used spicy buffalo sausage. Buffalo meat is really low fat and generally free range so I like using it from time to time, and as I found out, it makes a really nice sausage.
This is a reverse risotto because instead of sautéing the usual celery and onion together in oil at the beginning (in Italian this is called a soffrito), I first boiled the brown rice as it takes roughly 35 minutes to cook. At the time I used water, but using some chicken or vegetable stock would intensify the dish. The brown rice adds some more nutrition to this carbohydrate-intensive meal and also has a gorgeous nutty flavour that works particularly well with the pumpkin.

Makes 2 large portions:

Add 1 cup of washed brown organic rice to 3 cups water and/or stock that has been brought to a boil.

Add 1 bay leaf to the boiling rice and take 4 finely chopped sage leaves adding about 2/3rds to the boiling rice and reserving the rest.

Reduce heat to a low setting, give the rice a quick stir, and cover with the lid to cook for 30 minutes.

Take 1 long and thick mildly spicy sausage (or two regular sized sausages)
If the sausage is really long then chop it in half. What we want to achieve is one part of the sausage cut open, removing the outer casing if possible, so that when you fry it you're left with crumbly sausage meat, which you will then add to the boiling rice to impart more flavour to the risotto. The second part of the sausage (or the second whole sausage) you will leave whole and fry in a pan until completely cooked. When cooked then slice into bite-size pieces and add to the rice towards the end of making the risotto.

1 leak finely chopped- add this now.

Add 1 roughly chopped clove of garlic to the rice.

When the sausages are nearly finished cooking, take one of the sausages and break up the meat (make it crumbly) and add it to the boiling rice; the sausage will add more flavour if added to the rice at this stage and will finish cooking just after it hits the boiling water.

Have on hand at least 3/4 cup white wine. When most of the water has evaporated and the rice starts to stick then add the wine. This will be absorbed into the rice and will also de-glaze the pan. Stir well to incorporate. At this stage you want to work quickly being sure the rice no longer sticks to the pan.

Add the remaining sage leaves and 1 cup of organic* pumpkin purée. Stir and cook for several more minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat. Add 2-3 teaspoons of butter to the top of the risotto - this will give it a silky texture and a little shine. Once melted then stir in the butter, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve.
Optional: Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is generally stirred into the rice before serving, however this risotto was so full of flavour it didn't even occur to me to finish the dish in the usual way, so the cheese can be optional. Apart from its wonderful flavour the cheese gives the risotto a silkier, creamier texture- probably the most alluring part of the dish, however in this case the pumpkin purée provides most of the desired creaminess.

*Pumpkins are naturally good at absorbing contaminants/toxins in the soil, so either eat pumpkins that are grown organically, or be sure of where your pumpkins are coming from.

November 6, 2008

Fresh November

When it reaches the time of year when the clouds start settling in and blanketing the sky, and the cold rains start to fall signalling the first snows of winter, I think you can understand me when I say that it simply feels weird picking tomatoes in November.

However weird, it's incredibly satisfying. After taking advice from numerous organic gardening books and from fellow gardeners I dug up my tomato plants in early October before the first frosts, and brought them inside to hang upside down from the doorknobs of our foyer closets to allow the plants the chance to ripen the tomatoes from green to red.

Let me just say that the sensation of harvesting tomatoes indoors is so bizarre. Crouching down on the tile floor, absent of the soil under your feet and the cool breeze around your ears, everything is really quite comfortable. No taking off muddy boots, no sniffly nose, and no forgetting to bring enough bowls outside to collect the harvest. I can't emphasise more the joys of harvesting tomatoes inside and in comfort. In addition, and most importantly, nearly all of my tomatoes aside from literally a few, have turned red. I just picked the last crop today and it's November 6th...and the cold November rains have definitely started. So excuse me if I do a little leap in the air in defiance of the cold weather and let out at a jolly "HA HA HA!"followed by the biggest smile, because I have the last little balls of summer sunshine in my hand just begging to be enjoyed!

Now I suppose it's time to come up with a great recipe to celebrate the last harvest. But I can honestly say that there is no recipe that is quite as satisfying as popping one of these sweet, simple, unadulterated tomatoes straight into your mouth and savouring the last products of the summer's sun.

Happy harvesting everyone!