Thursday, 21 March 2013

The long and short of it

Pumpkin Mushroom Risotto (By Amruta Nargundkar)

After being cooped up in the house the whole day, we kids - cousins spending summer holidays with grandparents, and a resident aunt not much older than us - have been sent out to loosen our limbs (read - get out of the adults’ hair). 

Returning home, we are oblivious to the lengthening shadows dissolving into the growing darkness and streetlights flickering to life. We chat, laugh, skip and play step games, while the aunt urges us to walk faster. 

“Be home before it gets dark” is our curfew. सातच्या आत घरात !!

Strange people – adults. They can't wait to get you out of the house, but then they want you right back in…

We are passing the “waddar wadi”, a hutment of stone workers. We get distracted by the tableau –kids running around, dogs wandering aimlessly, men huddled on their haunches, women crouching over earthen pots propped on three stones over a wood fires, stirring some mysterious stuff that smells very nice… we are hungry! When you are that famished, even humble food seems very appetising.

Those pastoral smells and sounds are soon replaced by the orderly rows of bungalows with hedges, fences and gates, where the only signs of life and activity are pressure cooker whistles from inside the houses. And then, that fragrance assails our senses and leads us by the nose like the Pied Piper.  

It’s the warm aroma of mango blossoms – it’s the ambey mohor rice! 

From that moment onwards, how we get home, wash our hands and feet, recite the “parvacha” (परवचा) or “shubham karoti” (शुभं करोति ), our evening prayers, is but a blur...

I am sure the lord must have forgiven us for praying only a lip service, one ear on the clanging of the crockery from the dining room and the nose hungrily sniffing in the clouds of the aroma of the rice and the sweet and sour goda masalyachi amti (spiced dhal) and the generous dollop of fragrant homemade ghee…

The situation isn’t any different to now, when I sit with my girls, home after a long and tiring day at work. I am hungry and no amount of snacking helps. The husband is not home for dinner, so we plan on something  he doesn’t care for much.

But who will make these “things”?

Not me, says me. Not me, says the younger one. No takeaway, we all agree. Eating out is out of question, we three are too tired.

The older daughter then rises to the occasion- to regale us with her rendition of risotto.

I sit watching, waiting.  A mise en place of thoughts and ideas - a story cooking as she labours over the arborio rice.  

Ah, the lovely fragrance of the buttery bay leaves, the sage adding a bit of snoot…the robust roastedness of the pumpkin and mushrooms, the piquant pepper and the sweet caramelising of the onions…

It’s a privilege to be served a most delicious creamy risotto- by your child, this time….and riding on the aromas I waft back to my childhood, to the mango blossom.

Pumpkin Mushroom Risotto (By Amruta Nargundkar)

200g butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
100 g sliced button mushroom 
2 tbsp olive oil
2+1 tbsp butter 
1 onion, chopped  
2 garlic cloves, crushed 
2 bay leaves
5-6 sage leaves
1 ½ cups arborio rice 
4-5 cups vegetable stock (kept hot)
1cup hot milk (full cream)
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar 
A pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped parsley 

Note: You can make fresh, salt free stock at home by boiling stalks, discarded hard stems of broccoli, cabbage, some onion, garlic, one potato, some beans and any other vegetables, peels and skins.

Pan roast the pumpkin without any oil in a Stonewell pan – or in a non-stick fry pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Keep aside. Do the same with the mushrooms.

Heat remaining oil and 2 tbsp of butter in large non-stick saucepan and add the bay leaves and the sage leaves. Once the sage leaves are sautéed, remove them. Then add onions and garlic and sauté on very low heat until the onion has caramelised. Add the vinegar and brown sugar. Add the arborio rice and stir through until the rice is coated glossy. 

Add half a cup of hot stock to the rice and stir through until absorbed. Continue to add the stock little by little, stirring and waiting until it has absorbed before adding next cup. In the last batch, add the cup of hot milk – again very gradually. 

Add the salt, nutmeg, pepper to taste and mix well. 

Add a spoonful of butter and mix vigorously. 

Add roast pumpkin, mushroom and the sautéed sage leaves and mix through. 

Cook for a few minutes more and then remove from heat and rest covered for a few minutes. 

Garnish with parsley and serve hot.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic recipe. I've become a fan of using squash in risottos. And thanks for taking me down the memory lane...'Parvacha' and 'Shubham Karoti' remind me of simpler/better times!


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