Risotto for a Thursday night

Risotto is a really versatile dish than can be light and refreshing in summer or warm and comforting in the colder months. It is a great way to try out different flavour combinations, use up what you have in the cupboards, or just enjoy your favourite ingredients.

Using butternut squash and smoked mackerel in this recipe makes it quite filling and full of energy. The sweetness of the butternut squash works really well with the oiliness of the fish and adding some rocket on top or on the side of the plate gives the whole meal a bitter twist that taste great and adds colour to the plate. Try adding some dried chilli flakes to the butternut squash whilst it is roasting for an extra kick.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Mackerel Risotto (serves 2)

Oil

Salt and pepper

½ butternut squash

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

150g risotto rice

1 glass white wine

1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

1 tbsp rosemary (fresh if possible)

1-2 fillets smoked mackerel

1 bag rocket

Parmesan

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  1. First things first, heat the oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6. Whilst it is hotting up, put a roasting tin with a glug of olive oil on the middle shelf.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the butternut squash into chunks, about 1.5cm cubed, and once the oven is up to temperature, remove the roasting tray and add the butternut squash to it. Toss the squash in the oil and season with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and the rosemary. Return to the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes until soft and crispy round the edges.
  3. To start the risotto, gently fry the onion on a low-medium heat in a little oil. Use a medium-sized saucepan or a casserole dish that can be used on the hob. When it has softened, add the garlic and a drizzle more oil. Fry for a minute before adding the risotto rice and the herbs.
  4. Stir everything around the pan so that the rice is coated in the oil. To add extra flavour and richness, pour in a glass of white wine and let the rice start soaking it up!
  5. After a few minutes, add your first ladle of stock and give the mixture a good stir. You will need to stir the risotto throughout cooking to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Let the rice soak up the stock before adding another ladle. At this point, check on the butternut squash and toss the pieces in the oil, herbs, and chilli if you are using it.
  6. Continue to add stock and stir the risotto until the rice is fully cooked through. In total, this should take about 30 minutes from your first ladle. If the rice has soaked up all the stock and is still not cooked to your liking, add more or you can use hot water if you have no more or only need a little bit extra.
  7. Now, you are nearly done, so tear the mackerel fillets into the risotto and add the now cooked butternut squash. I used two mackerel fillets but, if you don’t want the fishy flavour to be too strong, use one.
  8. Give everything a good stir and leave to sit with the lid on for a minute before plating up. Sprinkle over a little pepper, a handful of rocket and grate some parmesan on each plate before serving.

Risotto does need a bit of babysitting but it is so worth it when you get a good one!

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