Risotto strangely reminds me of summer, which does not make sense at all because it is a delicious warming dish for winter.

Risotto is a fantastic dish, but the effort of adding stock a ladle at a time and stirring constantly is simply too much for a midweek meal, especially for the active amongst who train in the evening.

This is a ‘hands off’ risotto that can be whipped up in 40 minutes from start to finish and it’s my own go-to dish after a Tuesday evening grass session.

Divide the preparation tasks between two and it makes for an even speedier dinner – while also allowing time for a quick shower. This is a vegetarian dish but if you want to increase the protein content I would recommend serving with a chicken breast seasoned with lemon zest, black pepper, and salt.

As an added bonus it also makes a great left-over lunch, simply make a double batch and chill rapidly in the fridge. The recipe below calls for a large butternut squash, you don’t need all of this for the meal. I usually cook it all and either use in a salad or freeze for another meal. Indulgent. Nourishing. Easy.

Below is a quick video that will show you how easy this dish is to cook.

Prep time: 5 minutes – cooking time: 35 minutes – serves: 2

1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp light olive oil (Or fat of choice e.g. coconut/rapeseed)
700ml water
2 ‘Kallo’ vegetable stock
Pinch Saffron (optional)
1 large butternut squash
100g frozen peas
100g courgette, grated
50g parmesan (or vegan/vegetarian alternative)
200g arborio/risotto rice
Salt and pepper

Top tip: to reduce cooking time use frozen pre-prepared butternut squash and pre-cook onion and garlic.

Begin by preheating your oven to 220ᵒC.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half horizontally and then vertically. Scoop out the seeds and cut into bite-sized chunks. A smaller chunk size will cook faster if you are in a hurry – I would recommend doing this!

Place on a baking tray. Spray or drizzle with a bit of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a high shelf in the oven for 35 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, turn over squash using a fish slice.

Pre-heat a large lidded frying pan over a medium-high heat. Quickly peel and chop the onion and garlic. Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan, followed by the onion and garlic. This may sound like a lot of oil but onions need oil to cook properly! If you want to use less you can add a tbsp of water halfway through cooking.

Turn down the onions and garlic to a medium heat and put the lid on. Cook for 10 minutes or until softened. Stir occasionally to ensure they don’t burn or stick.

While the onions are cooking prepare the other ingredients. Boil the kettle and prepare your hot stock in a jug and mix in the saffron (if using). Then grate courgette and cheese. Take peas out of the freezer and put into a bowl.

Add the rice and stir to coat the rice grains. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock and saffron. Season with salt and pepper and bring back to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover with the lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Ensure to stir the risotto occasionally to stop it from sticking and achieve that perfect creamy texture.

After 20 minutes check the rice is cooked. Add the peas, parmesan and courgette and stir. Cook for a further two minutes.

Serve the risotto with the roasted butternut squash and more grated parmesan if you like.

Nutrition – per portion (2.5 portions of vegetables): 476 (kcal), protein 18g, carbohydrates 65g, fat 16g.

About the Author
Katie Kirk is a Northern Irish two time commonwealth games athlete, chef and food science student.