Borscht Risotto

Using the flavours of the classic soup makes a delightful pink risotto. It may not be quite the thing for making mid-week, risotto rice always takes longer to cook than the packet would suggest, but it is heartily satisfying and brightly suggestive for an autumn evening.

Start by frying an onion, and two sticks of celery of you have them, for ten minutes over a low heat until the start to soften. While this is going, chop a packet of pre-cooked beetroot (the vacuum packed type, not the pickledy type), being careful to save the juice. Best not to wear a cream jumper while doing this.

Then add three chopped cloves of garlic and 250-300g of risotto rice to the pan and stir to cover the rice in the oil. This amount of rice will serve four. Slosh in a glass of wine, again if you have it. Although white is classic this is going to go pink anyway so red is perfectly appropriate here.

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Take a litre of beef stock (made with stock cubes, though of course you could use a fancy homemade one) and add, a ladleful at a time, until all the stock is dissolved and the rice is cooked. This should take about half an hour, start adding warm water if you need a bit more liquid. Once the rice is cooked stir through the chopped beetroot and its juice. Grate a good handful of parmesan and add in, off the heat. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt.

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If beetroot is not your thing but you still fancy a brightly coloured tea that’s full of stodge try this. Cube half a butternut squash (I had half left over from a disastrous cake, you could make soup with the rest). Fry together with a chopped onion then add 200g of pearl barley. Add a litre of chicken or veg stock and leave to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and squidging the squash against the side of the pan as it cooks to break it up. Stir in a good handful of strong cheddar cheese to finish, butternut squash needs a bit of a kick up the bum.

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