There's much more to a pumpkin than gurning Jack o' Lantern potential. Unwieldy it may be, but its sweet orange flesh makes velvety soups, sumptuous curries, eye-catching risotti and fine chutneys. Less starchy than potatoes, it blends well with other seasonal flavours like truffles and it warms to opulent whites and reds with concentrated fruit and a touch of oak. This recipe is inspired by a birthday lunch at da Fiore's restaurant, much the best place to be in Venice on a very rainy October day when a leaden sky merged with a distinctly choppy Grand Canal. It was served with shavings of white Alba truffle: for any other day of the year, white truffle oil will do the trick!
Roast Pumpkin Risotto with White Truffle and Marjoram
Serves 2 very generously or 4 as a starter
- 250g pumpkin cut into wedges, rind on.
(Roast and salt the seeds, for a crunchy snack)
- a tablespoon of chilli oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram or oregano leaves, roughly chopped
- 500ml well-flavoured chicken or vegetable stock
- 60g butter
- a tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 180g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
- A glass of white wine
- 75g parmesan cheese in one piece
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- White truffle oil
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/ Gas Mark 7. Put the pumpkin wedges in a roasting pan, scatter with some of the marjoram leaves and rub well with the chilli oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes or until slightly charred and just knife-point tender. Cool, slice away the rind, and dice the flesh. Bring the stock to a simmer and keep it hot.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan, and soften the shallots. Tip in the rice and stir to give the grains a good, buttery coating of oil. Add the white wine and let the rice absorb it. Add the pumpkin, followed by the stock, a ladle at a time until the rice is creamy but al dente, and any remaining liquid nicely viscous but not too sloppy. Next, add the rest of the butter, and grate in half the cheese. Cook for a minute, taste and season.
Serve in large bowls, sprinkled with the rest of the marjoram leaves, a generous drizzle of truffle oil, and the remainder of the Parmesan cheese, shaved.
Try a rich, oaked white – for example a New World chardonnay or a Graves-style white Bordeaux for that fullness of flavour and nutty wood that pumpkin needs. For those who prefer no oak, a white Rhône would work, and for the reds, head for Piedmont.