Pumpkin & spices
If pumpkins remind me of one place, it has to be the USA. Pumpkins are not only native to North America, they also seem to be engraved in the American culture: pumpkin decorations for Halloween, pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, the annual craze when the pumpkin spice latte is available again…
Personally I have never seen as many pumpkins together as in the weeks around Halloween in the USA. Right next to my house in Atlanta there was a pumpkin patch, where you could buy a pumpkin to make your own jack-o`-lantern. There were hundreds of pumpkins, and not one was the same: different sizes, colours, shapes. For several weeks, that piece of land was completely covered in shades of orange. Going around the pumpkins and picking one that was the right size and shape was not an easy task, with so many to choose from.
Once we had made our pick, carving the pumpkins turned out to be an incredibly fun task where creativity is needed and where you get your hands properly dirty. Quite difficult as well, as the skin can be tough to cut through. I discovered this later on again while cooking pumpkins: sometimes the cutting is the real challenge. Unfortunately our pumpkins for the lanterns had more seeds than flesh, so no pumpkin dinner after. But we did have great decorations of course!
My other clear memory about pumpkins in the USA is this “pumpkin spice latte”. This drink is a coffee with milk, heaps of sugar, pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and all spice), and of course pumpkin. I tried this coffee the first time because so many people were raving about it when its season started again. Although I´m normally not a big fan of sweet coffees, I have to admit that this one is an exception. It actually seems to have a proper flavour. And most importantly, it is a very comforting drink. In my experience perfect after tough exams and other challenges.
To respect my memories of pumpkins as both being part of a fun time and being comforting, I decided to take the recipe of pumpkin risotto I normally use as a starting point. For me, risotto is a classic comfort food that´s great to share with others. I additionally tried to incorporate that vibe of the pumpkin spice latte into the risotto.
Pumpkin and orange risotto
Ingredients (for 2 as a main course)
- Risotto rice, for example arborio rice – 140 grams
- Chicken or vegetable stock – 0.6 liter
- 1 small pumpkin
- 1 small onion
- Parmesan cheese – around 50 grams
- 2 oranges
- White wine – 1 glass
- Vermouth, can be red or white – 1 glass
- Butter – around 100 grams in total
- Olive oil
- Fresh rosemary – small bunch
- Cinnamon – 2 heaped teaspoons
- Ground cloves – 1 heaped teaspoon
- Salt, sugar, and black pepper
Start by chopping up your pumpkin. Carefully take off the skin, remove the core with the seeds, and chop the flesh in small dices. Don´t throw away the seeds! Roughly chop two-thirds of the rosemary. Place the pumpkin pieces in a bowl and add the vermouth, cinnamon, cloves, the chopped rosemary, black pepper, and a good pinch of salt and sugar. Set it aside to marinate.
Turn the oven up to around 160˚C. Now rinse the pumpkin seeds well so that there is no flesh stuck to them anymore and pat them dry. Spread them out into a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle a bit of olive oil over them and add a small pinch of salt. Place the tray in the oven and roast the pumpkin seeds for around 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so that they don´t burn. They´ll become nice and crispy, which goes well with the creamy risotto. And why would you throw those seeds away when you can even buy them separately for on salads?
While the seeds are in the oven and the pumpkin is marinating, prep the rest of the ingredients. Finely chop the onion and the left over rosemary. Grate the Parmesan cheese and zest the oranges. Warm up the stock and keep it warm during the cooking of the risotto.
When this is done, place a frying pan and a pot over medium fire, with a knob of butter in each. Add the pumpkin, without the marinade, to the frying pan. Fry for around 5 minutes over medium heat. After this time, add the vermouth that the pumpkin was marinated in and cover the pan. Leave it on a low heat during the time that you are preparing the risotto and stir now and again. It should have become soft and delicious by the time the risotto is ready, just taste to check if you need any additional seasoning.
Meanwhile, add the onion to the pot. Season with some pepper and salt and add the rosemary. When the onion is soft, after around 5 minutes, add the rice. Fry this with the onion for around a minute until the rice is covered in butter and slightly see through. Then add the glass of wine. When the wine has been absorbed, start adding the stock a ladle at the time. Each time the risotto becomes dry, add a new ladle of stock. Keep the risotto on a medium to low heat, so that it bubbles. You don´t have to stir all the time, but do stir regularly. It should take around 15 to 20 minutes and almost all of the stock before the risotto is cooked al dente. The rice should be soft but hold its shape and still be a little bit firm in the middle. Midway through the cooking process, add the juice and zest of the oranges to the risotto.
When the risotto is cooked to your liking, add half of the pieces of pumpkin. Stir in around two-thirds, a good handful, of the Parmesan cheese, and a knob of butter. Try if you need any more seasoning. Turn off the fire and cover the risotto. Leave it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
After the resting time, stir the risotto once more and serve with the pumpkin. Don´t forget to garnish with the pumpkin seeds and the Parmesan cheese.