I need to begin this post by sending out a huge thank you to so many of you, from all around the world, for the wonderful thoughtfulness and kind wishes that you have kept coming my way since the Christchurch earthquake back in February.
It has been an extremely traumatic and disturbing time, and your constant messages have truly kept me going. We lost our home and our beautiful yoga school as a result of the earthquake, and have literally had to start building a completely new life for ourselves. I can tell you that when you are in your mid-50s; when the youthful part of you, who would once have thought this was an exciting new challenge, has been replaced by the wiser and more sensible one who knows it is just going to be damned hard work; when your nerves are so shot to pieces that you think just the rumble of a truck going past is the beginning of another earthquake - the world begins to feel like a very scarey place.
And then, just when you are wondering what the hell is going to become of your life, the blogging world opens its arms, and a complete stranger out there in the blogosphere does something wonderful and heart-warming and remarkable. Right when I was at a pretty low ebb, the lovely Alli of Pease Pudding (who I'd never met, but we'd connected a few times by visiting and commenting on each others blogs - as you do) emailed me and said that she had a flat attached to her cooking school (The Gourmet Gannet at Muriwai Beach) if I would like to come up and have a break away from Christchurch. Well, by this stage we were already thinking that a move to Auckland (my old home-town) was the only option for us, so I emailed Alli back and, long-story-cut-short, she and Phelan have truly opened their hearts and home to us and enabled us to stay in their flat until we find a permanent home in Auckland. To say that we are enormously grateful, is a gross understatement - we will forever be indebted for their kindness, and I hope that at some time in the future the opportunity will arise to repay some of that kindness in some way, by being as open-hearted and generous as they have been, to someone in need.
Oh, and did I mention the kitchen? Let me repeat - this flat is Alli's cooking school = chef's kitchen!! In my last kitchen - the one decimated by the earthquake (perhaps not so sadly, on reflection) - the sum total of my cooking equipment was: one solid hot-plate element, slightly rusty (repeat one!); a tiny "toastie" oven; a microwave; a Breville electric grill; and a crock-pot. Seriously - that was it - no surprise, now that you know, that I considered myself the queen of the one-pot-wonder!! Consequently, I now think that I have died and gone to kitchen-heaven - now that I'm here, Alli may not be able to move me on so quickly!! (It's ok, Alli, just joking)
And, thanks to having the opportunity to cook in this wonderful kitchen, and to relax and unwind in this beautiful part of the world, my "cooking mojo" which had seriously deserted me is slowly returning. Probably not at all surprisingly, I have done a lot of "comfort eating" since the earthquake; there have been occasions when I couldn't be bothered to cook, so have had toast instead, or crisps, or something else really crappy; and there have been innumerable "fails". But each day a little enthusiasm and confidence returns, and the other night I turned to this risotto which is one of my all-time favourites, and is especially good on a cool autumn evening. Yes this is definitely comfort food, and this variation is probably my go-to risotto - the one that I make over and over again; the one that never fails to warm my heart; the one that I can make with my eyes closed; the one that I make by instinct; the one that I want to share with you, if I can just put that into a recipe ....
Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto Recipe
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
2 to 3 cups diced pumpkin (about 2.5cm/1" dice)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
6 slices pancetta, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 generous handfuls of arborio rice (see note * below)
1/2 glass of white wine (see note ** below)
3 to 4 cups of chicken stock, hot
bunch fresh thyme leaves (about 2 tablespoons of leaves)
butter - a generous "glob"
freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
generous handful pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
extra parmesan and thyme sprigs to finish
Note *: If you plan on increasing this recipe to feed more people, I use the Gordon Ramsay method for measuring arborio rice, which is one large handful for each person plus one for the pot - hence 3 handfuls for two people
Note **: If I don't want to open a bottle of wine for this, I often substitute 1/2 glass of vermouth mixed with the juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 F). Meanwhile line a baking tray with parchment paper and dice the pumpkin. Toss the diced pumpkin with a little olive oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and spread out in a single layer on the lined baking tray. Place in the preheated oven and cook until the pumpkin is golden brown and starting to soften (probably around 20-30 minutes, depending on the pumpkin). Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) in a heavy based pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the pan (leaving as much of the fat behind as possible), and place on a paper towel to drain.
Return the pan to the heat - you will want about two tablespoons of fat in the pan so, depending on how much fat was rendered from the pancetta, you may or may not need to add more olive oil to the pan. Add the shallot and garlic to the pan - cooking until the shallot and garlic just begin to soften - take care not to burn the garlic - almost as soon as you can smell the garlic it is time to add the rice to the pan. Also add in one-third of the thyme leaves. Continue cooking the rice with the shallot and garlic, stirring constantly, until every single grain of rice is coated with the oil - it will take on a kind of translucent look around the edges and will start to "squeak".
Now is the time to add the wine, and continue stirring until virtually all the wine has been absorbed by the rice. Then begin to add the chicken stock, one ladleful at a time - stirring constantly until each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next. (Note: You may want to turn your heat down during this process - sorry but you really have to feel and guage this for yourself, and a lot will depend on your pan, type of element/heat, etc - again, I apologise that I can't be more precise, but risotto-making is not an exact science - you really have to "feel" it.)
All of this stirring and adding of stock is going to take around 20 minutes, and in that time the grains of rice will swell up dramatically. Round about the 15 minute mark, have a taste test - once the grains are still a bit chalky, but taste as if they might not have too much longer to go, add in the pumpkin. You don't want to put the pumpkin in too early, otherwise it just turns to mush. On the other hand, I like to incorporate it before the risotto is finished cooking, so it amalgamates with the rice more than if it was just stirred through at the end.
Once the rice is cooked add another half ladle of stock, stir it through, and turn off the heat (don't worry if it seems a bit "soupy" - this extra stock will be absorbed during the resting time and the finished risotto should definitely not be "dry"). Add the pancetta, balance of thyme leaves, butter and parmesan cheese. Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine, then cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes to enable all the flavours to infuse.
Lastly, stir in the chopped pistachios and serve immediately, with a grating of parmesan over the top and some extra sprigs of thyme.
I hope you give this comforting and heart-warming dish a try, and enjoy it as much as I frequently do.
Thank you again to all of you for your kind thoughts and messages and for having the patience to keep visiting my blog while I've been trying to get my life back together again. Your love and support has reinforced for me the knowledge that this blog is not so much about trying to churn out great food and photos as it is about making those connections with each and everyone of you. A true reminder that our humanity grows when we understand and embrace the fact that we are all connected.
So happy to see you again! You and I have talked about risotto before, and I have yet to make any. This looks oh so comforting and I can't wait to try it. Glad to know you were offered the great friendship and a place to land after losing so much. Take care and I can't wait to see your next post because it will indicate you are further along to getting life back on track. Still keeping good thoughts coming your way!ReplyDelete
Welcome back Sue. I'm sure you'll love Auckland. The risotto sounds wonderful. I love anything with pumpkin in. If you decide to live on the north shore and need any advice about areas let me know.ReplyDelete
Melynda, thanks so much for stopping by and hanging in there with me :-) I feel incredibly lucky and very grateful for all the help we've received.ReplyDelete
I do hope you're going to give this a try - there is something incredibly comforting about standing over a pot and gently stirring away for 20 minutes. Taking the time to just slow down is always a good thing in my book.
Thanks Barbara - I am already loving being back in Auckland, especially being out at Muriwai Beach. Mostly likely will decide to live somewhere between here and north shore and probably eventually set up a yoga school somewhere on the north shore so any advice would be very welcome.ReplyDelete
I love anything with pumpkin too - one of my favourite vegetables.
Hi Sue, lovely to finally meet you on Saturday, risotto looks delish, great photos!:)ReplyDelete
Thanks Christina - was lovely to meet you too. I actually took the photos a couple of days before Saturday's workshop, and although I was reasonably pleased with them at the time, now I look at them and think of all the things I would have done differently. It's going to be lots of fun getting to know my camera a little better :-)ReplyDelete
Hi Sue! So glad to hear you're back in the kitchen and feeling better. Sad that you'll no longer be in Christchurch though!ReplyDelete
Have never made pumpkin risotto before but for some reason this looks really perfect right now. Thanks for the recipe and for the update :)
Hi, Sue! It's great to see you in my Google Reader again :) I am so happy to hear you are doing well!ReplyDelete
I can't tell you how happy I am to see you back. I have been thinking of you. Glad to hear that things are looking up. Take care. ;-)
So glad to see you back, Sue! This sounds like a really lovely, comforting recipe. I just love the idea of the pistachios in it - they are one of my favourite comfort foods!ReplyDelete
Dear Sue, I'm so glad you found such nice friends and a lovely place to stay ! your recipe is fantastic, I hope at least as your future is going to be !! BaciReplyDelete
Really glad to hear from you! Wanted to drop in a line today, when I saw your new post heading, over at my side bar! Alli is a wonderful and kind person! Bless her! I wish you all the best in finding a new home in Auckland.
Your risotto looks delicious. I have not tried cooking with risotto before. The addition of chopped pistachios must have given a wonderful crunch.
It has been a real comfort seeing your new post, Sue! Look forward to your next one. :)
You're back! Yay! I didn't get this into my Reader though which is why I'm so ate commenting, that's odd... Will have to check in manually and see, hopefully it was just a blip xReplyDelete
Hi Sue, lovely to meet you & good to see Couscous & Consciousness back too :)ReplyDelete
Hi Zo - yes it sure is good to be back in the kitchen. Although I'm somewhat relieved, I do also have some sadness about leaving Christchurch - I go back next week for the final pack up, and I think that will be a really sad time. Hope you give the pumpkin risotto a try :-)ReplyDelete
Hi Nico - thanks so much for stopping by and for your lovely kind wish :-)
Hi Deb - yes things are definitely beginning to look up - it's great to be blogging again and starting to catch up with all my blogger friends :-)
Thanks April - this risotto makes great comfort food, and the pistachios are a great addition - they give great texture. I often make little variations to this recipe, sometimes leaving out the pancetta (if I don't have any on hand), sometimes adding in a bit of chorizo, sometimes adding in some olives, maybe using a different herb, but I never leave out the pistachios :-)
Hi Natalia - thank you so much - I'm very lucky to have wound up here, and the future is definitely looking much brighter :-)
Hi kitchen flavours - thank you so much for visiting - it's lovely to hear from you. Yes, Alli is a wonderful person and I'm very lucky to have found her. I hope you give this risotto a try - the pistachios add great texture to the dish. Next post is in draft already :-)
Hi Sasa - thanks for stopping by. It's great to be back, and starting to catch up with all my blogger friends again. How is everything with you?
Thanks Mairi - great to meet you to and to have been inspired by getting together with fellow bloggers to get up and running again :-)
Great to see you posting again Sue and we just love having you as a neighbour and finding new friends in both you and Graham. AlliReplyDelete
Thanks so much Alli - you really are the greatest!!ReplyDelete
This sounds excellent! Wonderful flavors, thanks!ReplyDelete
Sue - I was so happy to see a post from you this morning! I am so sorry to hear you lost your home and yoga studio, but I am so pleased to hear you are safe and okay. The kindness of others is nothing short of amazing. I am so happy you have a new place to stay, and that you are so fond of it. Your risotto looks terrific! Take care.ReplyDelete
Glad you're back! And in good spirits. The risotto is beautiful.ReplyDelete
I have been watching for your return and praying for your safety. It is so good to have you back and hopefully, back to normalcy.ReplyDelete
We once had an experience where people all over the world,helped us out, so I understand completely, what you are talking about. People are good.
SO good to hear from you Sue and glad to know you are doing well in Auckland. How nice to know ur blogging friends have helped you :) Pumpkin risotto is wonderful!ReplyDelete
Thanks Debbi - yes it is a wonderful combination of flavours and textures too.ReplyDelete
Hi Kim - thanks so much for stopping by and your lovely message. Yes, we have much sadness over what we have lost and left behind in Christchurch, but we are now in a wonderful place and we ae beginning to experience a real sense of hopefulness about an exciting new future.
MM - thanks so much - good to hear from you :-)
Chaya - thank you so much for your lovely, kind thoughts. Experiences like this are good - we hear so often in the media and such like about all the bad in the world, that we forget that for the most part the majority of people are good and very caring and kind.
Hi Ananda - thanks so much for dropping by - yes, life is going well here and we are very lucky indeed :-)
When I opened Google Reader this morning at work and I saw you had updated, I was so very happy. I did not know how bad it was, and I feared you'd just let blogging drift away as I know you had much more important things to attend to...but I have to tell you - it was wonderful to see you back!!ReplyDelete
What to say. I can't imagine the heartache at losing your house and your business - but how about the kindness of strangers! What a lovely end to a sad story. Risotto is excellent comfort food - and I like to use vermouth in mine too :) glad to see you back on here.ReplyDelete
Tina Marie - thanks so much for dropping by. Don't think I would ever be able to let this blog slip away - I have made too many wonderful and special connections as a result of it. Sure is good to be back though :-)ReplyDelete
Thanks for your thoughts, Laura. Yes it has been pretty heartbreaking, but something good comes of everything and life has begun to take many exciting and positive new turns. Oh, pleased you are a vermouth in risotto woman too :-)
I am so happy that you're back, Sue!! I am so touched by your story (I'm a baby, basically...tears falling down my cheeks)...and am so happy to hear a story of human kindness and caring. How wonderful of them to open their lives to you. Makes me proud that there are still good people out there in the world. This risotto looks so comforting and I just love the flavors in it. Welcome back, Sue.ReplyDelete
It's so nice to be getting your blog again, I really missed it. Considering the fabulous dishes you created in your most basic of kitchens in Christchurch, the sky will be the limit now.
Good to see you back on track Sue.ReplyDelete
I can only imagine what you've been through, but I'm glad to read that you've found a new friendship through the generosity of Allison and you're on the way to build a new part of your life.
The risotto is definitely one of the best comfort food.
Whoa, I guess I haven't been here in a while because I had NO IDEA! I'm just so glad to hear you're okay though!ReplyDelete
I know you'll be able to fight through this hardship!
This risotto looks absolutely delicious. Pumpkin always speak to my soul.
What an amazing comforting dish, i'd like this for sure.ReplyDelete
Good to here that you're life is getting back to normal bit by bit. I can imagine that it is really hard dough, and in times like that it amazes me of all The kindness of people like opening there homes to a stranger. WOW!
Sue, welcome back!! You have been missed. I'm so happy you are slowly getting your life back to normal. What a touching story. Hugs....ReplyDelete
Heather, thank you so much for your beautiful message - you are such a softy :-) But you are so right - it is so good to hear stories like this and be reminded that basically most of the people in the world are good, kind, wonderful, generous, big-hearted people - it is a shame that it's the stories about the bad ones that we hear more often. Thanks for the lovely warm welcome back - it means a lot.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Clare. Am definitely enjoying getting back into blogging again - I do feel a little rusty though :-) And I sure am enjoying the current kitchen!
Hi Vanille - thanks so much for stopping by - it is so lovely to hear from you. Yes, I'm very lucky to have had Alli's help - I really appreciate her friendship.
I think my comment got deleted but I'm so glad to hear you guys are okay! This risotto looks absolutely delicious...pumpkin is always a favorite of mine!ReplyDelete
Thanks Joanne. I know you are a bit pumpkin lover, and this was really delicious.ReplyDelete