1 (2 1/2 pound) butternut squash
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, with a dash of sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 onion peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, mashed and chopped
1 cup raw arborio rice
1 cup de-alcoholized white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sweet red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley stalks


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut off the neck part of the squash. Trim off the stem and then cut the neck into 4 slices 1 inch thick, about 1 pound. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turn and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven. Set aside and keep warm. The rest of the squash is cut in half, peeled, seeded and diced small, about 1 pound of diced squash.
2. Heat the vegetable stock in a medium-sized saucepan and keep warm. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, cayenne and allspice. Pour the oil into a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture and stir well. Add the diced squash, stir well, cover and cook 5 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the warm stock and cook 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the squash juices through a sieve into the saucepan with the vegetable stock. Return the vegetables to their original saucepan.
3. Add the rice to the squash and shake together, to avoid stirring and breaking the squash pieces. Pour in the wine and 1 cup of the warm stock. Stir carefully and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, cooking and stirring, until you've used all the stock, about 30 minutes.
4. Stir in the remaining spice mixture, the cheese, salt and pepper. Fold in the red pepper and parsley stalks. Serve with squash slices.
Graham Kerr takes full advantage of the creamy texture of baked butternut squash, which lends a rich "mouthfeel" to this dish but not excess fat and calories.
Christmas Risotto
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