This risotto is one of my go-to homely comfort foods. The combination of the tender chicken, earthy mushrooms and sweet pumpkin create a satisfying complexity which keeps your taste buds awake from the first bite to the last.
It's simple and easy to cook for a group or works great for one since it keeps and reheats really well.
Ingredients 2 cups Arborio rice
4-5 cups Chicken stock
1 large Chicken breast
300g Butternut pumpkin
1/2 tbs Dried thyme
2 tsp Garlic powder
3 rashers Short-cut bacon
100g Shaved Parmesan cheese
2 cups Frozen baby peas
60g butter (half for frying and half to go in at the end)
1/2 tsp Salt and Pepper
First up you will be pre-cooking the chicken and the pumpkin. Pre-heat a large frying pan over medium heat.Using half of the butter (30g) grease the pan and add the chicken breast whole, sprinkling liberally with salt. This is the secret to juicy flavorful chicken as cooking it whole preserves the juices and stops the fibers tightening up and becoming tough.
While the chicken is cooking, dice the pumpkin and add it to the pan. Pumpkin gets very soft when it's cooked so to maintain its integrity I like to pre-cook it then add it back in at the very end.
The Pumpkin should take about five minutes to soften through. Transfer it to a covered dish, leaving the chicken to keep cooking.
Slice the mushrooms and bacon into bite-sized pieces and add them to the frying pan. They're done when the mushrooms have shrunk to about half the size and the bacon has begun to brown.
Now is a good time to get your stock ready. I use powder dissolved in hot water, but if you're using wet stock, pre-heat to steaming in the microwave. Then you add the thyme, salt, pepper and the garlic powder to your stock. This ensures that the flavors will penetrate all the way into the rice.
At this point the chicken should be ready, check by making a cut into the thickest part and seeing if there is still any pink. If it's ready, transfer the chicken to the covered dish with the pumpkin.
Now you add the dry rice and stir it through the bacon and mushrooms for a few minutes.
Turn down the heat to medium-low and add half a cup of the stock and stir through. In classic risotto-style, keep adding the stock half a cup at a time and stirring gently until all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next round. I find that the amount of liquid you need can vary quite a bit so I keep the kettle boiled with plain water in case I need a little more.
While you're going through the absorption process, take the chicken and slice it into bite-sized pieces then return it to the covered tray.
The risotto is ready when the rice is 'al dente' or mostly soft with a firm centre. Add the chicken, peas, pumpkin, cheese and the rest of the butter to the pan. There's no need to thaw the peas first since the heat of the pan is perfect to gently warm them up. Stir through for five minutes to make sure everything is rewarmed.