My family came to visit a few weeks ago and we decided to go to Bordeaux for the weekend. Whenever we are together good food and lots of wine is a given, but put my family + SA in Bordeaux and the good food and wine hits a whole new level of indulgence.
We spent 2 days in the town of Bordeaux which has officially become runner up to Paris on my list of favourite French cities. Bordeaux is a picturesque city with beautiful old buildings, quaint streets and squares filled with bustling outdoor cafes hidden around every corner.
We also drove to St Emilion, a beautiful cobblestone town on top of a hill with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and vineyards. It is an incredibly beautiful place and if you are ever in south west France it’s definitely worth a detour. In St Emilion we enjoyed one of the most fantastic meals I have ever had, it was grand, it was completely over the top and it was absolutely spectacular, 3 weeks later and SA is still talking about his crayfish starter. There was at least 20 dishes which each looked like a piece of art, amazing wine and my favourite part, a cheese trolley that you could smell from across the room, I was very tempted to pull up a chair in front of it and dig in but decided our waiter may not have approved.
A highlight of the weekend was a cooking class we attended one evening at a local hotel. The staff were incredibly accommodating to any dietary requirements we had but I entered the kitchen with very low expectations considering it was going to be a french cooking class with no grain. Did I really want to spend an evening learning how to make consomme and a side salad?
Lo and behold, the menu was fantastic! Smoked Eel, a strawberry, basil and vinegar salad and my favourite, a pumpkin risotto. Yup grain free pumpkin risotto, my mind was blown, what a genius idea! I was giddy with excitement watching the teacher, mentally trying to remember every last detail.
Back home in my kitchen in London I set to work trying to recreate the dish. In the cooking class the risotto was made with marscarpone and lots of parmesan but I was convinced the same results could be achieved without dairy. I made one batch with goat cheese (for those who are only intolerant to cows milk) and one with coconut milk and made SA do a blind taste test. Success! Both dishes tasted better then the one we made in class and other then a slight tang from the goat cheese there was no discernible difference between the two (and trust me, if I had told SA there was coconut milk in one, it would have immediately been vetoed).
Small evenly cut pieces of pumpkin sauteed with onions, celery, pancetta, wine and stock until tender. It is rich and creamy, perfect for this time of year when the weather is getting colder and you begin to crave heartier dishes. There are so many reasons why you will prefer this dish to traditional risotto, 1) it’s healthier (1/4 the calories) 2) the colors are much more vibrant and appetizing then your average beige risotto and 3) it takes less then 20 minutes to make and doesn’t require you to stand beside the stove continuously stirring while closely watching it cook. I left the pumpkin skin on to fully maximize the bright orange color, but depending on the type of pumpkin you choose, the skin might be tougher so you may prefer to remove the skin before cutting the pumpkin into pieces. With the abundance of pumpkins in stores at the moment, give this dish a try, you won’t be disappointed.
- 3 cups pumpkin diced
- 1 onion
- 1 rib celery
- 1/3 cup beef broth*
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup pancetta finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp coconut milk chilled in the fridge for at least 2 hours or 1 1/2 tbsp goat cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil use if not using pancetta
Cut the pumpkin into cubes approximately 1/4 inch in size, try to make them all the same size to ensure they cook evenly
Finely dice the onion and celery
In a large pan on medium high heat, cook the pancetta until it becomes crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside, leave the excess oil from the pancetta in the pan
Add the celery, onion and pumpkin to the pan and cook until the onions become translucent (approx 5 minutes)
Add in the broth and white wine and continue to cook until the liquid has completely evaporated, if the pumpkin is still not tender, add a splash more of wine and continue to cook.
Once the pumpkin has become tender, turn the heat to low and add in the pancetta
If you are using goat cheese stir it into the pumpkin mixture. If using coconut milk, be sure to store the can in the fridge for at least 2 hours prior to use so that the milk separates from the cream. Ensure you do not shake the can prior to opening. Spoon 1 1/2 tbsp of the thick cream from the can and add to the pumpkin, stir through
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and parmesan (optional)
*To make this dish vegan substitute vegetable stock for the beef broth and omit the pancetta