Slow cooked colourful veggie risotto with pea pesto

I actually cooked this a couple of weeks ago now, but it was just before we went away for 10 days and I was too busy finishing my posts on cloth nappies for Real Nappy Week (and getting ready to get the four of us off on holiday – that’s no easy feat!) so I didn’t get round to blogging this rather delicious meal until now. Risottos are a great way to use up things in the fridge that have seen better days and/or a great way to chuck in things from the store cupboard if you’re running low on fresh ingredients. These are the reasons why I cobbled this together just before going away, and the result was a yummy family meal.IMG_0678

Needless to say, Andrew loved it, as always. Joel is still not eating much, just a nibble here and there, but when he’s having a go at more variety of flavours and textures, this would be a great meal for him too. I’d say it works for a baby doing baby-led weaning because you can just choose which veg they like or which veg you want them to try, and decide what size of chunks they are confident with when adding ingredients, starting with bigger pieces (maybe not kidney beans like in this recipe straight away). The pea pesto adds a lovely flavour, a sweetness that makes it appealing to kids I think, and a lovely bright colour, which is also appealing, maybe even more so to kids than adults!

And of course using the slow cooker meant I could prep earlier in the day (it took about 10 minutes) and the risotto was ready for dinner at 6.30pm. Easy PEAsy…. have a go yourself if you like!


  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 200g long grain rice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 800ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • Glug of olive oil


  1. Chop the carrots into chunks.
  2. Put the carrots, kidney beans, rice and cornflour into the slow cooker pot.
  3. Add the stock and stir.
  4. Cook on low for 3 hours.
  5. After you’ve put the slow cooker on, make the pesto. Start by cooking the peas for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a pan of boiling water.
  6. Put the cooked peas, cheese and a glug of olive oil in a blender and whizz until a smooth paste – add a bit more oil if it’s too thick until you have the right consistency to stir through the risotto.
  7. When the slow cooker is finished, stir the pesto through the risotto until evenly distributed.
  8. Serve immediately; any leftovers can be frozen for a quick tasty meal another time.

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)


  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.

Traffic lights tart with home-made rocket pesto

Here’s a quick Saturday night tea that I made last weekend. Partly inspired by pizza, which I can’t currently eat due to my bread fast for Lent, and partly inspired by my love of pesto, which is pretty high in salt when you buy it from the shops, but if you make it yourself you can reduce or leave out the cheese which usually makes it so salty. Using rocket for the pesto gives it a really strong flavour so the salt is less necessary for flavouring purposes. If you haven’t guessed from the picture already, I called it ‘Traffic lights’ because it has red, yellow and green things on it!


  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (you can make it yourself if you have time, but I’ve had bad experiences with pastry before so I only make it when I know I’m not in a hurry – which is hardly ever these days. A decent food processor would help me too)
  • 1 bag of fresh rocket
  • olive oil
  • 1 tin of pinto beans
  • half a tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 large tomato (I wanted to use sundried tomatoes, but when I opened the pot that had been in the fridge, I discovered it had gone mouldy! It hadn’t even been opened long. I’m considering taking it back if I have time.)


  1. Roll out the pastry onto a lined baking sheet. Prick it with a fork several times all over the rectangle of pastry, leaving a border of about 2cm around all the edges.
  2. To make the pesto, whizz up the rocket with a decent glug of olive oil in a blender until you get a smooth paste.
  3. Spread the pesto over the pastry, leaving that 2cm border.
  4. Spread a mixture of sweetcorn and pinto beans all over the pesto until it is almost covered with a few green patches poking through.
  5. Cut the tomato into slices and add to the topping.
  6. Finish the topping by pouring a splash of olive oil over the top to keep it moist and brown the beans.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°c for about 20-25 minutes, until the border is puffed and golden.
My boys loved is Andrew tucking into his
My boys loved is Tom coming back for thirds to finish it off!