While peeling and cleaning a pumpkin or butternut squash, the skin and the seeds usually get discarded. From one point of view this is somehow understandable, because neither the hard skin, nor the stringy seeds have a pleasant texture. On the other side, they are edible and contain a lot of flavor, so it would be favorable to use the “waste” somehow. I had the idea to add the discarded pumpkin seeds and skin parts to a vegetable stock. The resulting orange colored stock can be added to a butternut squash soup, used for cooking pumpkin cubes or cylinders, which might also be blended into a fine puree – or for making this ultimate butternut squash risotto.
This is another recipe I created for this months Hungarian food blogger contest held by Zizi. The topic was to cook vegetarian dishes with pumpkin or butternut squash. Because the dish had to be vegetarian I was not allowed to use chicken stock for the risotto, so this was another motivation for me to enrich the base vegetable stock with flavor – in this case from the discarded parts of a butternut squash.
In this dish I used several components and textures to make the risotto more interesting. The squash itself is present in four different variations: a stock and a puree (both of them are responsible for the nice orange color of the risotto), small soft discs and more al dente halved cylinders. For making the puree I used rooibos tea, because its caramel taste really enhances the butternut flavor. I added the raw small squash discs just before finishing the risotto. A couple of minutes were enough to soften them, but they still kept their shape and didn’t fell apart. This idea was inspired by the lobster risotto I tasted at the Onyx Restaurant in Budapest, Hungary, where they added small disks of asparagus to the risotto and served the asparagus tips separately as garnish.
While continuously stirring the risotto I additionally flavored it with star anise, orange and lemon zest. You could add a cinnamon stick or ginger too, but I skipped them, because I didn’t want to have their heat in the final result. I removed the aromatics before stirring in the butter and the cheese. Many recipes advise to use freshly grated Parmesan for risottos. I think goat cheese works better with butternut squash, so I used a Pecorino like hard cheese made from goat’s milk. As an autumn inspired garnish I roasted some ceps and Brussels sprouts, which added complementary flavors and textures to the final risotto.
Butternut Squash Risotto with Ceps and Brussels Sprouts
- leavings (skin, pulpy seeds) of 1 butternut squash
- 1 carrot
- 1 parsley root
- 50 g celery root
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks parsley
- 2 stalks celery greens
- 250 g butternut squash
- 1 rooibos tea bag
- 6 Brussels sprouts
- 4 ceps / porcini mushrooms
- 125 g rice (carnaroli or vialone nano)
- 1 small onion
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 2 star anise
- 1 piece orange zest
- 1 piece lemon zest
- 50 g goat milk pecorino
- freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil
For the butternut squash stock
Wash and dice the carrot, parsley root, celery root, large onion and the skins and pulpy seeds of the discarded parts of a large butternut squash. Place in a pot and add 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns, 1 tsp salt and the parsley and celery stalks. Add as much water that everything is covered. Cover with a lid and cook gently over low heat for 2 hours. Using a fine meshed sieve drain the liquid to a separate bowl and gently press down on the solids to extract as much juices as possible. Discard the solids. Reduce the stock to half (or approximately to 650 ml). Season with salt, but don't make it taste too salty.
For the garnish
Using an apple core remover cut out long cylinders from the peeled squash. Try to use about the half of the squash for cylinders. Take one half of the cylinders and cut them to 2mm thin circles. Trim the other half of the cylinders to equal length. Add the trimmings to the other squash leavings. Cover both the thin slices and the cylinders with clingfilm and reserve.
Wash the Brussels sprouts and remove the outer brownish leaves. Cook in boiling salted water for 2,5 minutes, then immediately submerge in ice water to preserve its green color. Drain well and reserve.
Cook the squash cylinders in the same boiling salted water for 1 minute, then immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and reserve.
For the rooibos and squash puree
Finely dice the leftovers of the butternut squash (about 100g). Boil 150ml butternut squash stock, remove from the heat, add the rooibos tea bag and steep for 5-6 minutes. Remove the tea bag and add the squash dices to the liquid. Cover with a lid and cook on low heat until very tender (the squash should fall apart). Remove the lid, raise the heat and reduce the cooking liquid until almost nothing is left. Remove from the heat and blend to a fine puree. Keep warm.
For the risotto
Peel the small onion and 1 garlic clove and dice very finely. Add 2-3 tbsp olive oil to a pan and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute or until the rice begins to turn white. Add the white wine and reduce it completely. Add 1 piece lemon and 1 piece orange zest and 2 star anise to the rice. While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon add the squash stock ladle by ladle to the rice. Before adding the next ladle always allow the rice to absorb the liquid completely. Finally add the rooibos and squash puree and cook the rice al dente. Remove the zest pieces and the star anise. Add the reserved thin squash circles, 1 tbsp butter and the freshly grated goat cheese. Remove from the heat, stir well, cover with a lid and allow to set for some minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
While the risotto is having a rest, place a small pan over the hot stove and melt 1 tbsp butter. Clean the ceps with a pairing knife and cut in half. Place the ceps with their cut side down in the foaming butter. Halve the Brussels sprouts and place with their cut side down next to the ceps into the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Halve the squash cylinders crossqise and add to the butter. Occasionally scoop some butter on the ceps.
Divide the risotto between two warm plates and decorate with the ceps, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash.