Butternut squash risotto with pea and rosemary pesto: non-smelly cooking!

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a few weeks, you probably know that since I was about 6 weeks pregnant, I haven’t been able to smell food cooking without feeling nauseous. Until about week 15, it wasn’t just nausea – I would be physically sick whenever I smelled it. I didn’t actually realise that it was the food cooking smell that was such a major trigger to my sickness until we went on holiday for a week when I was 10 weeks pregnant: one evening we went out for a meal, and although I didn’t stay long or eat anything except some bread at the pub, when I went back to the house where we were staying I felt better than I had been all week at that time in the evening – it dawned on me that nobody had cooked anything there that evening. Since we got back from that holiday, we’ve not cooked anything in the flat. Don’t feel too sorry for my boys though, because Tom gets a free cooked lunch at work (Cambridge colleges seem to look after their staff), and Andrew has one meal a day heated up from the freezer that were very helpfully cooked by Granny at her house 80 miles away 🙂

Yummy! And my tasters thought so too - Andrew even asked for more!

Until recently we’ve mainly been eating salad, bread, cooked meats, cheese etc. I realised a while ago that boiling things like pasta, potatoes, rice was OK, because it didn’t smell that bad – the main trigger seems to be anything frying in oil/fat, particularly meat but also veg, or anything roasting in oil/fat, again particularly meat but also veg. So we’ve been able to make simple pasta and potato salads and eat them cold. I also found out relatively recently that putting a pizza in the oven for just 5-10 mins (all it needs in our efficient oven) is bearable, I guess because all it’s doing is melting cheese and heating up rather than actually cooking it. The past few weeks I’ve been able to stand the smell of baking (cakes, biscuits, bread etc.) much more than before.

Pea and rosemary pesto ready to go in the risotto when the rice is done. I love the bright green colour from the peas.

In the past week or so I’ve been feeling more adventurous in terms of thinking of things that I could ‘cook’ that don’t smell – basically this means avoiding frying or roasting. So instead of eating just cold things, we’ve actually had some ‘cooked’ meals. One of the dishes I came up with was a risotto, and it went down very well with both my tasters (aka Tom and Andrew) so I thought I’d blog it, because it’s so quick and easy to do, and really does taste as good as something that requires more ingredients and proper cooking. I don’t add salt to any of our food, both for Andrew’s sake and because I’m not a big fan of even slightly salty food – but this risotto could be made with a stock cube if you’d prefer, by just adding it to the boiling water as the rice and squash boil. I prefer to get all the flavour from the peas, cheese and rosemary in the homemade pesto. The first time I made it I left it veggie, but the second time I added a tin of tuna, because since being pregnant I’ve been more concerned that I get enough protein. It would also work with pulses as protein – I often stick beans in veggie risottos to give them a source of protein.

Anyway, here’s the recipe….

Ingredients – serves 2 adults and a toddler

  • 1 medium butternut squash, skin off and cut into small-ish cubes
  • 1 large mug of rice (I just use long grain for risottos to save on the cost of risotto rice)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g cheese (I used cheddar because I’m not sure I can have parmesan at the moment as all the packs in the supermarket said unpasteurised – I’d probably try parmesan when I’m not pregnant)
  • olive oil – a few glugs
  • handful of fresh rosemary (we’re lucky that we have some growing in pots on our balcony – it’s amazing what you can grown even if you live in a flat – we have tomatoes, herbs and lettuce)

Method

  1. Place the squash cubes and rice in a large pan and add boiling water. Leave to boil for about 10 minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary once it starts to get absorbed into the rice.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the frozen peas in the microwave (or in a pan of boiling water). Once cooked, drain any excess water and place in a food processor. (I have one of those small whizzers, so I do half at a time).
  3. Chop the cheese into chunks and place in the food processor, along with the rosemary – remove the leaves from the stalky bits.
  4. Drizzle a glug or two of olive oil into the food processor.
  5. Whizz all the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste, adding more oil if necessary.
  6. Once the rice and squash are cooked, add the pesto to them and stir well to spread it around evenly. (If there is excess water in the pan, drain before adding the pesto, but it’s best to add a bit of water at a time to the rice and squash when they’re cooking, so you don’t end up with an excess in the first place.)
  7. Serve straight away. It also freezes well for another day – just make sure it’s thoroughly defrosted and heated through again.

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