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Vegan lemon, pumpkin & pea risotto

This has always been a dish that I regularly love to cook. I came up with this recipe for the first catering competition that I entered back in about 2010; The Paul Rankin Challenge. Back then it had chicken in it as well, but here is a vegan version. You can add most vegetables to this depending on your preference. Asparagus and wild garlic are lovely additions to really get that springtime feel. Or you can replace the pumpkin with almost anything; a whole portobello mushroom roasted with garlic and thyme, or a meat alternative. The world is your tofu.

Ingredients

Serves 4
300g arborio risotto rice, or carnaroli rice for a creamier risotto
1L hot vegetable stock

300g pumpkin or butternut squash, diced
1 large shallot (or 1 small onion), finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 sage leaves, chopped (also chop the stalks but keep separate)
150g mushrooms, finely diced
100g frozen petit pois
150ml white wine
2 lemons, 3 if you like things really lemony
75g dairy free butter
100g vegan parmesan, if desired
½ bunch of chopped chives

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c.

 

Dice the pumpkin into medium sized chunks. Put onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and add a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper and the sage stalks. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, depending on size, until they have softened and started to colour. 

 

Heat a couple of splashes of oil in a pan and gently sweat the shallot for around 2 minutes until slightly softened, however, you don’t want any colour. 

 

Add the garlic and chopped sage leaves and fry for a further 2 minutes. If the vegetables are starting to look a little dry then add another splash of oil or a small knob of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Season the veg at this point (if you add salt to the raw mushrooms it will draw out the moisture and make the whole pan wet). 

 

Add the risotto rice to the vegetables and stir for about a minute, coating the rice in the oil. Add the white wine and cook down until the wine is almost fully evaporated. Once all of the wine has been absorbed, start to slowly add the vegetable stock, one ladle at a time. You need to wait for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next, otherwise, you won’t get that creamy finish. 

 

Carry on adding stock and stirring in for approximately 15-20 minutes. How much stock you add will depend upon how you like your risotto rice to be cooked. Some like it slightly al dente, some prefer it cooked all the way through. You may not need all the stock, but when you’ve nearly used it all, test a grain of rice to see if it’s cooked to your satisfaction. If you have run out of stock and wish to cook it slightly more, then add a splash of water. 

 

When the risotto is nearly cooked, add the frozen peas and a good pinch of salt. Carry on cooking this until the peas are fully defrosted. If it starts to look a little dry, you may need to add another splash of stock. 

 

Fold in the dairy free butter, the pumpkin, the vegan parmesan if you’re using, the chives and the juice of 1 lemon. Now’s time for your final taste, check for seasoning and if it needs that other lemon, add that now. 

 

I personally like this dish to taste quite lemony so I always end up adding more lemon at the end. I like to serve this dish with a piece of buttered baguette, or crusty roll, which some might call sacrilege. 

 

Alternatively, you can dice the pumpkin a little smaller and add to risotto when you start adding the stock. I prefer to roast the pumpkin as this creates more flavour. Or if you want your risotto to be more orange, then finely chop the pumpkin and cook in some vegetable stock. Once tender, blitz it to a smooth puree. Fold this through the risotto towards the end. If you do it this way then you may want to use less lemon and you probably won’t need the chives.

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