When we think of pumpkin recipes, soup, breads and pumpkin pie are often the most popular in the UK. A staple of hundreds of dishes in many countries around the world, however, pumpkin is a particularly versatile cooking ingredient, with almost all parts of the fruit edible, including the fleshy shell, seeds, leaves, and flowers. This pumpkin and crab risotto, for instance, champions the squash’s taste, texture and versatility, gorgeously paired with crab meat.
Synonymous with Halloween and Thanksgiving in both North America and Canada, Jack-O’-Lantern pumpkins are some of the most commercially available, particularly during October, yet each year a staggering 15 million pumpkins are wasted in the UK. This pumpkin risotto recipe makes good use of leftover Jack-O’-Lanterns, though I’d suggest using a species with less water content, as Jack-O’-Lantern pumpkins are made up of 90 percent water, which has a profound effect on the final product’s flavour and texture.
Ironbark pumpkins are my personal favourite, particularly good for cooking, with drier texture and gorgeous, sweet tasting flesh. Ironbark pumpkins are less commonly available and can be harder to prepare than Jack-O’-Lanterns, given their size and thicker skin, yet they’re an absolutely delicious, severely underrated pumpkin variety. Moreover, pumpkin is also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, B2, C and E, plus iron, copper, manganese, and potassium.
This pumpkin and crab risotto recipe requires a fair amount of energy and concentration to get right, but the result is far greater than the sum of its basic parts. The rice also acts as a perfect canvas for countless other ingredients.
The pumpkin is diced and roasted, then reserved to be stirred into a party of slowly sweated shallots, a splash of white wine, stock, and arborio rice. Just before serving, shredded crab meat (tinned is also fine providing it’s drained and rinsed of its brine) is added alongside a pinch of chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice. The crab can even be omitted, replaced with a few fried sage leaves, and complete with fistfuls of parmesan.
- 500 g pumpkin or butternut squash peeled and cut into roughly 2cm chunks
- 2.5 l chicken stock alternatively use vegetable or fish stock to make the dish pescatarian
- 2 shallots finely chopped
- 400 g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 250 ml dry white wine
- 1 lemon juice only
- 100 g crab meat shredded and prepared for eating (tinned is fine, but rinse the brine off)
- 25 g chives finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil/rapeseed oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To begin, pre-heat the oven to 220/Gas 7.
- Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds (save for another dish), and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm dice. Add to a roasting tin alongside a generous pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil, then cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes until soft and lightly roasted.
- Heat the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Decrease the heat under the stock pot and continue to keep warm.
- While the stock is heating, heat a splash of oil in a separate large frying pan and add the shallots. Season with salt and cook the shallots over a low heat until translucent.
- When the shallots become translucent, add the rice to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and stir quickly until the shallots rice are well combined. This will take between a minute and 90 seconds. Pour the wine into the pan, increase the heat to high and stir until the wine is absorbed.
- Next, begin to add the stock to the pan containing the rice, one ladleful at a time, and stir almost continuously until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeating this process until the rice is al dente. This should take 15-20 minutes.
- After 10 minutes has passed, add the roasted pumpkin to the pan and continue to cook.
- Taste the rice and add 2/3 of the crab meat around 2 minutes before the rice is cooked.
- As soon as the rice is cooked al dente and a the risotto has good consistency, remove the pan from the heat, taste, and add a pinch of salt (if needed).
- Plate evenly between four bowls, then top each bowl with a spoonful of the reserved crab meat, chopped chives, and a generous crack of black pepper.