Traditional pumpkin has all but disappeared from the South African pantry and there is a very good reason for that – butternut. The butternut is simply a superior member of the squash family. Traditional rice has all but disappeared from my kitchen as well. With curry potjies, I generally go for basmati or jasmine rice; and with all other potjies I mostly serve mashed potatoes or fresh bread. That is, when I am not making risotto!
Most of the ingredients are to some extent non-perishable, making this recipe perfect for two things: a backup option in your kitchen when the braai craving speaks to you unexpectedly, and secondly, a camping trip. Please note that I am aware that the method I use to make risotto is not what you see in old dusty cookbooks. I call it my method, the intelligent method or the modern method. No need for spoon-by-spoon liquid and a struggle. You’re not an Italian in Italy in the 19th century. This is the modern world and there are easier ways to get to the same finish line.
- 1 butternut (600 g when peeled and grated)
- 1 tot olive oil
- 1 tot butter
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup risotto rice
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 100 g Parmesan or pecorino cheese (grated or shaved, optional, to serve)
- fresh coriander (optional, to garnish)
- Peel your butternut, cut it open and remove the pips and other untoward stuff clinging to the inside. Now grate the butternut using the coarser side of your grater. It’s absolutely fine not to grate that very last bit of butternut, as you might then destroy one or more of your fingertips on the grater and that is never ideal.
- Heat the oil and butter in your potjie by getting some flames under it, and fry the onion for a few minutes. Now add the garlic and the grated butternut, and stir-fry for a couple more minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, all at once – yes, everything can go in at the same time. Also add the white wine and coconut milk. Stir until everything is combined, then bring to the boil.
- Now you add the cup of rice, all of it and stir that in well. It will sink to the bottom of the pojtie – don’t panic. Place the lid on the pot. You should now have medium heat under your pot.
- Lift the lid and stir regularly to make sure that the rice sinking to the bottom of the potjie does not buy a plot there, stick to it and burn. ‘Regularly’ in this case means stirring every 5 minutes and it is a really great task to delegate to other members of your braai party. Total cooking time for the rice to go soft will be about 30–40 minutes.
- The risotto is ready when the rice is thick and creamy and soft. The butternut will be soft and fully cooked by that time as well. Should you run out of stock and coconut milk before the rice is completely soft (that is, you are scared it burns before it’s soft), use a bit of water to get you to the finish line.
- Flavour to taste with salt and pepper. Be very careful with the salt as the stock has already contributed salt to the meal.
- Serve with some fresh coriander and, optionally, some cheese.
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