This week is one needing comfort food. No sanguine Thai noodles or salad is going to sort things out. There’s been a cold snap, a brisk shower of sleet and some nasty winds and everyone seems unsettled. At every dinnertime, the only interest I’ve had is in the warmest, most loving food possible.
Introducing…Butternut and Bacon Risotto
Butternut squash goes with smoked bacon for the same reason scrambled egg does; or macaroni cheese. The smooth, light texture turns up alternately chewy and crunchy bites and the flavours are rich and sharp, smoky and salty and that is what we want. Oh yessss siree.
Butternut and Bacon Risotto
Take 1 butternut (of indeterminate age is fine as it turns out), chop into squares and douse in EVOO, salt, garlic, thyme (or anything you have) and pepper. Be brave with the salt. Stick it in the oven on about 200 C for 15-20 mins.
Get the risotto on. This is the version of the day, even if anyone who knew what they were doing would hold their hands over their eyes in horror.
Chop an onion, clove or two of garlic, half a carrot, a celery stick and saute until mainly soft and translucent. Add a couple of handfuls of risotto rice (your guess is as good as mine) and coat the grains in the mulch. Sling in a wineglassful of wine, white or rose, all fine as long as its drinkable. (In my case, Pinot Grigio Rose that had been hanging about in the fridge for a day too long). Stir it until the wine is absorbed and then start adding glugs of stock. All you need do is stir and add stock. Whether you do it in a paranoid frenzy or unhurried and steady, the results will be the same.
As the rice begins to swell, pull out the roasting squash, mix it around and lay a few rashers of bacon over the top. Back into the oven.
This is where the choice of bacon makes all the difference. If you buy cheap, supermarket bacon, full of water and preservatives, it will most likely become hard and tough. Not the effect we’re looking for and even if it’s a cheap product, it doesn’t necessarily follow with a cheap price. If you buy expensive dry cure bacon, same price, usually less of it, it also hardens but becomes brittle and crunchy or chewy.
When the risotto grains are fluffy and unctuous, suspended in plenty of starchy squelch, tip the squash into the rice, mix until it looks balanced and scissor the more flexible bacon pieces over the top. Stir them in.
Dole out into bowls and crumble the well done (double smoked) bacon over the top and some fresh parsley if you want.