Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Pumpkin, Red Lentil and Caramelized Onion Risotto

It's national pumpkin day! Knowing that the Internet would be filled today with the gorgeous photos and recipes of fellow food bloggers' pumpkin spice delicacies, I thought I'd experiment with a savoury pumpkin dish. 

We love risotto! Or, as my daughter calls it, sticky rice. If you've read a few of my posts, you'll know that I'm a big one for experimenting with whatever ingredients we have available in our kitchen. So, this delightfully gooey and sticky rice is accented with nutritious pumpkin, red lentils, tomato and caramelized onion. I have garnished with a garlic infused thick yoghurt (Middle Eastern labaneh or Central Asian chaka) drizzle and a sprinkling of dried mint powder. A tiny bit of Sriracha and fresh coriander finishes off this fragrant dish very nicely.

What you'll need for the rice:

  • 2 cups of Arborio sticky rice, rinsed well
  • 4 1/2 cups of vegetable stock (or more, depending on how many other ingredients you choose to add)
  • 1 cup of red lentils, soaked (or however much you'd like - this is how much I had in the cupboard)
  • 1 small pumpkin (probably about 6 cups cubed)
  • 3 tbsp organic tomato paste
  • 4 medium onions
  • 2 tsp organic coconut pill

What you'll need for the garnish:

  • 1 cup labaneh, chaka or thick Greek style plain yoghurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp water, or as required to reach desired consistency
  • dried mint powder
  • Sriracha, to taste
  • fresh coriander (parsley would work too)

Start by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds. Then cut it in quarters and bake on a cookie sheet at 425F for approximately one hour, or until the flesh is a golden brown and curling at the edges. When nicely baked, it will be easy to peel. Peel, then cut into nice thick cubes (one inch by one inch at least) and add to a large soup pot.

While the pumpkin is baking, chop the onions and sauté in organic coconut oil (or any oil you'd like to use) for at least 40 minutes, until the onions are completely translucent, but not yet caramelized. Add 3 tbsp of organic tomato paste (or even some organic marinara sauce if you happen to have an open bottle in the fridge) and bring to a gentle bubble and let it cook for at least 20 minutes. The tomatoes in the paste or the marinara sauce will begin to release their own oils, turning the coconut oil a beautiful orangey brown colour. The onions will now be caramelized just beautifully. Add the tomato-onion mixture to the pot with the baked pumpkin. 

Add the rice rice to the pumpkin and tomato-onion mixture, then the soaked lentils. Pour in 3 cups of the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Stir very well, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot, then reduce to the lowest heat and let simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. You will likely need to add more liquid, depending on how much pumpkin/how many lentils you added. I actually had to add more stock 3 times, for a total of 4 1/2 cups of liquid. Be sure to stir occasionally so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.

You'll know it is ready when the rice has swelled to several times its original size, is very sticky and soft when tasted.

While the rice is simmering, mix one cup of labaneh, chaka or Greek yoghurt with a few tbsp of water and the garlic cloves. Mix very well until you've reached your desired consistency. We like it liquid-y enough that when poured on it spreads naturally across the rice and drips onto the plate. It's just fantastic! 

Serve the risotto, pour on some of your yoghurt sauce, then sprinkle with some dried mint powder, squirt on some Sriracha and finish it off with a beautifully fragrant stem of coriander.

Enjoy, and Happy National Pumpkin Day!

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