Munching on Munchkins

I love these autumn days – curled up indoors and looking out at the leaves falling off of the trees. Plus, I love autumn food. Most of my favourite ingredients come into season in October and November – figs, pears, aubergines, mussels… and pumpkin!

When I was younger you’d only be able to get bog-standard pumpkins in the supermarket but nowadays you can pick up a 40kg monster “Sumo Pumpkin” as well as miniature pumpkins called “Munchkins” in Waitrose. I couldn’t resist buying a few Munchkins (rather than lugging one of the Sumo Pumpkins home!) and trying a risotto recipe using them. If you’re having a Halloween party, you can adapt this recipe to fill a regular pumpkin. I would hollow out the pumpkin first and then roast the flesh in an oven separately.

Risotto Stuffed Munchkins
Serves 4

Ingredients
– 4 Munchkins
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 400g risotto rice
– 125ml of white wine (optional)
– 1 litre vegetable stock
– 250g bacon lardons/pancetta
– 1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
– 20g salted butter
– 100g finely grated parmesan
– 150g soft goat’s cheese
– Spinach or rocket to serve (optional)

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 200°(Gas Mark 6). Pierce your Munchkins with a sharp knife and brush with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour until the Munchkins are soft when pierced again with a sharp knife. Set aside to cool.

2. While the Munckins are cooling, make up your stock according to the pack instructions. In another saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on a medium heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes or so until it is soft and translucent.

3. Add your rice to your onion and stir for about a minute until covered in the oil. At this point you can add the white wine if you are using. Cook until the rice has absorbed the wine.

4. Now add your stock a ladleful at a time and stir occasionally until it has absorbed. Wait for the rice to absorb the stock before adding another ladleful.

5. Meanwhile, when your Munchkins are cool enough to touch, slice off the tops and scoop out the flesh. Separate the seeds and discard them but keep the Munchkin shell and just set aside along with the flesh.

6. Heat the final tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until it is crispy. Add the chilli to the pan once you have cooked the bacon for a couple of minutes and it has released some fat into the pan.

7. By now, you should have finished with all of your stock. Give your risotto a quick taste to check it’s nice and al dente and if not, just add a little more water until it’s at the right texture. Now it’s just a case of adding everything to the pan – the butter, ¾ of the parmesan, the bacon and chilli with their oil and the Munchkin flesh all go in. Give the risotto a good mix and turn the heat down to low.

8. While all of that is combining, wash and steam your spinach over a pan of simmering water or use a steamer. Or serve the risotto with some dressed rocket leaves; it’s up to you!

9. Now the fun bit! Fill the Munchkin shells with your gooey, oozy risotto. Of course it will overflow – that’s good! Sit your Munchkin lid on top at an angle for effect but not before finishing with a dollop of the goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of the leftover parmesan.

Mmm Mmm Munchkins! Happy Halloween!

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