recipes from garden to hearth - sage

I love sage. I really really love this herb. I love its greyish green leaves, softly textured like velvet. I love its scent when bruised between your fingertips wise and savoury. Its ancient healing properties. This is a recipe I made up to incorpate two of my favourite things risotto and fresh sage.

Pumpkin Risotto with Burnt Butter Sage
Serves 4

*ripe butternut pumpkin
*onion, finely chopped
*button mushrooms, finely sliced
*6 whole garlic cloves
*dry white wine or verjuice
*2 cups aborio rice
*1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
*3/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan
*butter 2-3 tablespoons
*generous handful of sage leaves
*slithered almonds, lightly toasted
*salt and pepper
*pinch of smoked paprika (optional)

Preheat oven to 200'c. Now for baking the pumpkin two ways - chop half the pumpkin into 1-2 inch cubes and toss in a pan with olive oil, pinch of sea salt and whole garlic cloves. Slice the other half into wafer thin semicircles/moons and place in separate pan lined with baking paper - drizzle with olive oil, salt and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika (if you like). Bake for 30-40 minutes (you can do this as you prepare the risotto).

In a small saucepan bring stock to a simmer.

Give rice a good wash in lukewarm water and drain in a sieve. Meanwhile heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a medium-big saucepan. Saute onion until golden and translucent. Add mushrooms and stir until soft. Add rice to pan and add 1/2 cup of wine stir until liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of stock and stir until absorbed - continue to add stock and stir until the rice is al dente without letting it stick to the pan or burn (20 minutes or so).

In a small fry-pan melt two tablespoons of butter and bring to the simmer - add a drop of verjuice and just before burning the butter turn the heat off and drop in sage leaves and swish them around the pan - they will change colour and turn a dark green but be careful not to let them go black - that will mean they are burnt completely and shouldn't be eaten.

Take pumpkin from the oven and mix the roasted cubes of pumpkin and garlic cloves (skins off) into the risotto. Stir in parmesan.

Serve in bowls and top with crunchy roast pumpkin moons. Pour a little of the butter on top and a couple of sage leaves. Finally garnish with almonds.