I guess I'd better declare November the "Squash & Pumpkin month" right away... for someone who didn't know what to do with these vegetables two months ago (apart from resorting to the one thing you can make with ANY vegetable on earth: soup), I've amassed an impressive list of recipes where they feature prominently. Canapés, purées, gratins... but do not fear, there's also a recipe for those among you who are not francophiles: a risotto!
This time, however, the squash merely seems to serve as a container at first, but make no mistake, there's nothing more sweet and comforting than roast squash. I was a bit disappointed with the type of truffle I bought (I don't know what it is, but despite better knowledge, I keep buying those wet, black truffles in a glass - I don't even know why they're still allowed to call them truffles, I think it's such an obvious con! A bit like crabsticks... they definitely don't do what it says on the tin!
The present recipe is a godsend for those who like risotto, but prefer to prepare in advance. No continuous stirring involved, instead, after some initial frying time, you shove the risotto into the squash, the squash into the oven, and wait for about an hour before serving - and if you have access to some fresh, wild mushrooms like chanterelles, cep and so on, I would even suggest that you leave the truffles aside and instead top the lot with those, pan-fried and seasoned with fresh thyme... chestnuts, squash and wild mushrooms, the perfect incarnation of autumn!
Chestnut risotto in kabocha squash
2 shallots (finely chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 kabocha squash
800 ml chicken stock
30 g butter
8 fresh chestnuts* (roughly chopped)
25 ml sherry
300 g risotto rice
30 g parmesan (finely grated)
2 tbsp mascarpon
Optional: 4 black truffles (the small, wet variety you can buy almost everywhere these days)
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Using a very sharp knife, carefully make incisions on the back of the chestnuts (the side doesn't really matter, but if you make the cut on the flat part, they're harder to peel), then transfer them to the oven. Roast for 20 minutes at 200 C, until they're soft and their shells have crecked open. Peel and cook in the sherry for 10 minutes. If you can, prepare this in advance and leave the chestnuts to soak in the sheery overnight.
Fry the shallots in the olive oil until soft. Finely chop the truffles (optional), add to the onions, together with the rice and roughly chopped chestnuts. Stir in, then take off the heat.
Cut the top off the squash, just enough to ve able to howllow it out. Take out all the seeds and strings, then divide the risotto mixture between them, leaving the top quarter of the squash unfilled. Pour over the stock in equal parts, top every squash with its top, place in a baking tray and transfer to the oven.
Cook for about an hour, until the stock has been absorbed, the rice is al dente and the squash is soft. Take off the lids, carefully stir in some more butter, mascarpone and parmesan to your liking.
Serve topped with parmesan shavings, alongside a crunchy salad.
* Use cooked and peeled ones out of a pack if pressed for time.