Extreme comfort food: 1. butternut squash, gorgonzola and sage risotto 2. meatballs

I haven’t posted anything for a week or so because I’ve been doing a week’s trial for a completely new and different sort of job in a lovely foodie shop. I’ll tell you all about it if it all goes well….
But it has left me a bit shattered really. You know what it’s like – you’re on hyper-alert all the time when you start a new job, your face hurts from smiling and at the end of each day you simply want to climb onto the sofa with something comforting, soothing and a bit childish to eat while you have a good dose of rubbish telly (I highly recommend Fearne Cotton’s excruciating interview with Peaches Geldof – genuinely hideous).
So this week we enjoyed a warming bowl of butternut squash, gorgonzola and sage risotto which was just the thing to induce a catatonic sofa-state. And tonight we had a hearty pile of meatballs in a tomato and red pepper sauce on a pillowy mound of white rice topped with melted cheese. Not sophisticated dishes in any way – but just the things to wrap you up nice and cosily when you’re feeling a bit fragile.
Butternut squash, gorgonzola and sage risotto

Half a butternut squash, peeled and chopped
Enough risotto rice for 2 people
About 12 sage leaves (half chopped finely, half left whole)
2 cloves of garlic – crushed
1 white onion – finely chopped
A couple of pints of chicken stock
Big chunk of gorgonzola broken into chunks (a good handful)
A chunk of parmesan
A big knob of butter
A slosh of good olive oil
Put the squash in a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a medium oven (about 200 degrees) for 45 minutes. When the squash is done, get the chicken stock on the heat. Fry off the onion, chopped sage and garlic in a little olive oil and half the butter – taking care not to brown them. Add the squash and the risotto rice to the onion and garlic mixture mixing thoroughly to cover the rice in the buttery juices. Begin to add the hot stock one ladle at a time, stirring all the time and only adding more when the previous ladle-ful has been absorbed by the rice. Keep adding stock until the risotto is nearly ready, then add your handful of gorgonzola stirring until the cheese has melted into the rice. The consistency should be slightly soupy but the rice should still have a little bite to it. When you get there, add the rest of the butter and stir through. In a small saucepan heat the remaining olive oil and add the sage leaves – frying for a couple of seconds on each side and then placing on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve the risotto in bowls topped with a little grated parmesan and a couple of the crispy fried sage leaves.
Meatballs in tomato and red pepper sauce

A pack of pork mince
Handful of breadcrumbs
One egg
Small handful of herbs – I used some leftover sage and oregano
Small chunk of parmesan grated
One white onion – grated – yes grated!
One red onion chopped finely
A tin of tomatoes
A glug of red wine
Enough white rice for 2
Whatever cheese you have in the fridge
Put the pork mince in a mixing bowl. Grate in one onion. Add the egg, the grated parmesan and the chopped herbs. Form little meatballs and place on a plate. Using wet hands helps avoid the mixture sticking to your hands. I try to refrigerate the meatballs for half an hour before cooking them because it firms them up a little before browning them.
To make the sauce fry the red onion and red pepper in a little oil until soft. Slosh in some red wine and a tin of tomatoes and simmer until thickened. I blitzed mine with a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.
Fry off the meatballs (a couple at a time so you don’t reduce the temperature of the frying pan) making sure you get a good crust on all sides of the meatball. When all the meatballs are browned on the outside add them into the tomato sauce and simmer on a low heat for 15/20 minutes to ensure the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
Get some white rice onto cook. Crumble some cheese over the top of the meatballs and flash under the grill for a couple of minutes until melting and bubbly.
Serve a big spoonful of meatballs and melted cheese on top of the white rice – ideally with a big glass of something red and fruity….Valpolicella not Vimto.

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