When it comes to food, Autumn is the most exciting season. By the time the end of November rolls around, one hankers for rich, big, warming flavours and hearty platefuls to ease the depression of driving home in the dark and fighting through increasingly bad weather.
Large jumpers can hide expanding waistlines and the only way to achieve a healthy glow is by supping an extra glass of wine. It truly is the season for gourmands.
Those earthy flavours so reminiscent of Autumn are a delight to cook with. Their versatility offers infinite combinations, each one guaranteed to be tasty. Pick three of the following and you’re almost certain to achieve deliciousness in perfect harmony:
Pheasant. Bacon. Mushrooms. Pears. Truffles. Pumpkins. Squashes. Rabbit. Potatoes. Pigeon. Chestnuts. Garlic. Thyme. Apples.
In fact, you could probably put all of the above together and create something lip-smackingly good.
I didn’t quite go that far with this risotto but came pretty close.
First step was to roast off a small squash – sliced and cooked until tender in a hot oven, squash develops a rich sweetness that demands to be matched with something salty. In this case bacon, although some melted blue cheese with it would make a good meal on its own.
Once the bacon had been crisped up nicely in a hot pan, the fat rendered out into a tasty sizzling liquid, it was put to one side and a finely chopped red onion softened in a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat – using the same pan to make the most of the flavours in there (and minimise washing up)
A handful of chestnuts were roasted in the oven until the insides were sweet and the skins had split open. Half were then chopped finely, the others merely split in two to act as a textural contrast.
The risotto was made in the usual way – toast rice, add onions and spoon stock in until rice is tender but still in possession of some integrity. Right at the end, along with the requisite Parmesan and butter, the bacon, roasted squash and chestnuts were stirred in.
The whole thing was topped off with thinly sliced pheasant breast that had been fried off in a little butter, chestnut halves and a little of the reserved bacon. Finally, it was seasoned with a small pinch of ground coffee to add the merest hint of bitterness.
A big, steaming, delicious bowl of Autumn.