An impromptu dinner party this evening, and not a lot on hand. But, as Jill Dupleix says, “having stock in your freezer is the very definition of social security,” and there is some vegetable stock in the freezer, and a butternut squash in the cupboard. Since it’s unlikely that I’ll need to turn the squash into a coach for an incognito appearance at the Prince’s Ball, I decided to make risotto instead.
Firstly, the squash gets cut in half, seeds scooped out, and then scored deeply, but not so deeply as to break the skin. Some salt, pepper and a few pieces of butter, and into the oven at 180C for an hour.
Now, after half an hour, I checked and ooops, I’d put too much butter on, and it was starting to escape the baking tray. I poured some off, but since there was still plenty in the hollows, so I popped a gently squished clove of garlic in each, and returned to the oven.
Check whether it’s done by prodding with a skewer and making sure all the bits are soft. Don’t worry if there are a few burnt bits. Place the squash to one side, and allow to cool. This can be done earlier in the day, if convenient.
The risotto is a standard, by-the-numbers affair. One onion, 250g Arborio rice, butter, olive oil, stock, yada yada yada. I’ll write detailed instructions later on, if only to assuage the anxieties of Julian Barnes.
Whilst you’re doing the risotto, peel the cold roasted squash, and cut into half inch chunks. It will practically fall to pieces anyway, along the lines you scored earlier. The skin should slip off, but might need coaxing here and there. You can do this earlier if you don’t believe you can leave a risotto unattended for more than thirty seconds. (You can, but never leave the room.)
Once the risotto is at the resting phase, pop the squash in, pop the lid back on and leave for five minutes. Then stir very gently, so as not to break up the squash. There will inevitably be a few casualties, but they’ll just ooze some orange juice into the dish, which looks nice.
Pass the Parmesan.
The profiterôles afterwards were bought from the shop, but the chocolate and Armagnac sauce was homemade. No, I can’t remember precisely how I did it; I was drunk at the time. (Don’t try that yourself.)