Autumnal Comfort Food

With the transition into autumn well underway, I thought I would offer some wholesome cooking inspiration with one of my recipes, perfect for those colder autumn nights. Tasty, home-cooked food may also provide a comfort away from home, particularly if you are experiencing homesickness, or drowning in uni deadlines- we’ve all been there.

As a student, food must be both cheap and relatively easy to make, and by offering a vegetarian recipe, it is, therefore, enjoyable for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Despite not being vegan, this recipe can easily be made so, by substituting the butter and Italian hard cheese for vegan alternatives, such as olive oil and any strong non-dairy cheese (e.g. Violife Prosociano vegan cheese- priced at £3).

This recipe is designed to serve four people, which of course may encourage you to cook together with housemates and have some fun with it! I also thought it would be useful to include rough prices for some of the ingredients, the cost of which made even cheaper when split between friends.

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 1 large clove of garlic (16p)- finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 large butternut squash (around 90p)– chopped into small cubes 
  • 1 small onion (50p for 3)- finely diced
  • 70g Italian hard cheese (I find that parmesan or gran Padano are best in a risotto, costing around £2 for a 200g slab)- finely grated
  • 380g arborio risotto rice (costs around £2 per/kg)
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper- to season
  • 1.7L of vegetable stock- using 2 stock cubes (55p for a pack of 10 cubes)
  • 100ml of white wine (price varies, but I tend to spend around £4. However, there are numerous white whites available for £2 per bottle. The quality of wine doesn’t matter in this dish).
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika (optional)

To begin, preheat the oven to 200°C.

Then, peel and finely chop the butternut squash and place on a baking tray, making sure that it is spread evenly. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then place the squash in the oven to roast.

Finely chop the onion (or I recommend the finely chopped frozen onion from the supermarket), place a tablespoon of butter into a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and fry off for about 5 minutes, continuing to stir to avoid the onion becoming burnt.

Add the finely chopped garlic to the pan and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.

Pour in the white wine and leave to simmer until all of the liquid has bubbled away. Add the risotto rice and stir until it is fully combined with the onion and garlic.

Take a vegetable stock cube and a large jug. Pour in 850ml of boiling water and stir until the cube has fully dissolved, before adding to the pan. When the rice has fully absorbed the stock, take a second stock cube and again add 850ml of water, before mixing and adding to the pan.

Leave the risotto to simmer until all the veg stock has been soaked up by the rice. This usually takes around 40 minutes to absorb the whole 1.6L, but it doesn’t require continuous hovering over the pan- you can just keep checking and stirring!

When almost all of the stock has been absorbed, finely grate the cheese and stir into the risotto, along with salt, pepper and paprika (optional). To test whether the rice is cooked, it should have a little bite to it, but shouldn’t be hard or crunchy. 

By this time, the squash should be soft and beginning to brown, giving a caramelised taste. Take the squash out of the oven and serve over the top of the risotto. Serve with garlic bread to finish.

Tilly Hayes