Pumpkin, Pancetta and Sage Risotto with a poached egg

This seasons allotment pumpkin harvest certainly and surprisingly earnt its keep this year which is my excuse for the popular pumpkin theme these last few weeks. As ten chubby, overfed pumpkins sat apprehensively on the wall outside my backdoor, I had originally thought them unsuitable for eating, I had already devised a family tree of characters to make my own set of halloween faces! However, as I cut into their dense, creamy flesh, I realised they were much too good to waste.

So I knocked up a vat of oozing, cheesey, creamy and vibrantly orange halloween-themed risotto. Topped with a poached egg, or as pictured, a cool quinelle of mascarpone, it went down a treat. I roasted my pumpkin to get the most from its flavours with a little added crushed coriander seed to give you a crackle of surprise in every other mouthful.

Serves 4

  • 1 small pumpkin/butternut squash
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 3 garlic cloves, left in their skins
  • Olive oil
  • 200g risotto rice
  • Hot chicken or vegetable stock (about 1 pint)
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Few sprigs thyme
  • 25g butter
  • Parmesan, grated
  • Handful of sage leaves
  • 150g pancetta or smoked bacon
  • 1 egg/Mascarpone to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the pumpkin in halve and scoop out the seeds and reserve (you can fry these in oil). Cut into small quarters or large chunks and drizzle with oil, scatter with salt and pepper and the coriander seeds. I chucked in a few garlic cloves in their skins here too, as I never miss this opportunity as they go all sweet and sticky.
  2. Roast for about 40-50 minutes until the flesh is soft and scoopable. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out into a food processor or a large bowl and throw the skins away. Squeeze the sugary garlic from their skins and add to the pumpkin. Mash in a processor with a splash of hot stock to loosen or with a masher in a bowl. Set aside to keep warm.image
  3. Meanwhile or afterwards, begin the risotto base. Melt the butter with a splash of oil in a large pan over a medium low heat. Soften the onion until translucent and then add the thyme leaves and season.
  4. Add the rice and stir until beginning to turn translucent and it is hot to touch. Add the wine and simmer until absorbed.
  5. Now turn the heat down so that it gently simmers and add ladlefuls of your hot stock to the rice, adding another once each had been absorbed. Don’t let it dry out however. (For tips on the perfect risotto see here) The whole process should take about 15-18 minutes with continual stirring.
  6. Meanwhile, heat a hot frying pan and cook the pancetta or bacon until crisp. Add the sage leaves at the end for a minute until crisp then set aside.
  7. After about 15 minutes, test the risotto. The rice should be nearly done or a little al dente.
  8. Now stir in most of the pumpkin puree. It will thicken considerably so add more stock to get a oozy, loose and molten texture.
  9. Stir in the pancetta and sage and season to taste.
  10. Once the consistency is loose enough and the rice is cooked, take off the heat. Add the parmesan and a squeeze of lemon and cover with a lid and let it sit for a minute or so to rest. Then stir together when the cheese has melted.
  11. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with extra sage, and if wanted, a spoonful of creamy mascarpone or a ‘runny-in-the-middle’ poached egg!

This recipe is also lovely with walnuts or chestnuts for added crunchy texture!