There’s been a lot of hype about carbohydrates lately, should you eat them or is low carb the way to go? Well, it depends on your body and what suits you. But for me, I’m a fan of carbohydrates. They like me and I like them. Of course being Coeliac, my choice of carbohydrate foods are always of the gluten-free variety but nevertheless, many of my favourite carbohydrates and grains are naturally gluten-free. I’m thinking rice, quinoa, buckwheat, polenta and of course your good old starchy vegetables such as kumara, pumpkin and potato.
Let’s not be silly about it though, when I enjoy carbohydrates as part of a meal, they make up a modest proportion of my plate (about 25-30%) along with other foods such as lean meat, fish or eggs and plenty of fresh colourful vegetables and often with nuts or seeds too, because I just love them. This helps to slow down the release of energy into the bloodstream but most of all, it points out that meals are a collection of foods from different food groups, MOST OF THE TIME. There will be of course, exceptions to this and that’s okay because it’s not the norm. I’ll give you an example… in Italy where my husband was playing rugby, the after match meal was often simply of bowl of pasta accompanied by local olive oil and parmesan cheese. The pasta was provided to restore glycogen stores and we all know that sports nutrition is a little bit different to everyday nutrition. However, if you’re ever graciously cooked a lovely meal and that meal happens to be a big bowl of steaming pasta and no much else, then enjoy it – it’s what happens day in and day out that’s important! Just know that ideally in an everyday sense, a serve of vegetables and lean meat or fish would make it a more balanced meal.
I am particularly fond of risotto as when we lived in Italy it was often my go-to dish as I could almost always be guaranteed it was gluten-free. So when everyone around me had pasta sauce smeared across their face during Primi Piatti, I was devouring forkfuls of creamy risotto, often bound with delicate seafood but always, always with Parmigiano-Reggiano a plenty.
A blog post by the wonderful Jamie Oliver inspired me to make a weekend lunch of risotto using what I had on hand which happened to be pumpkin and peas. It’s a lovely hearty lunch or dinner and would be perfect served with a fresh rocket or spinach salad. It would also pair beautifully with roasted chicken thighs or pan fried fish.
Pumpkin & Pea Risotto – serves 4 as a main course of 6 as a side dish
1 Tbspn olive oil
2 Tbspn butter
2 brown onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed and diced
Iodised sea salt
2 cups Arborio rice
Splash white wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, kept warm
2 cups soft pumpkin flesh*
1 cup frozen peas
Parmesan cheese, grated
*To make the pumpkin flesh, simply pierce a whole raw pumpkin all over and place on an oven tray and bake at 150°C for 4-5 hours or until soft. Remove and scoop out the flesh reserving any extra in containers that you can pop in the freezer for later use. Alternatively, you can steam 2 cups of pumpkin for this recipe.
Add the olive oil and 1 Tbspn of butter to a deep pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook gently for 5-10minutes or until soft.
Add the rice and toast for a few minutes or until the rice goes slightly clear.
Add a splash of white wine and stir until the wine has evaporated.
Using the warm stock begin to add a ladle at a time, stirring the stock in each time and waiting until all of the liquid has been absorbed before adding another ladle.
After about 10 minutes, add the pumpkin and continue to add the stock a ladle at a time until the rice is just cooked (this will take about 20 minutes in total from the time you first start adding the stock).
During the final few minutes, add the peas and then once cooked add the remaining 1 Tbspn butter and a good helping of grated parmesan cheese (about 1/3 of a cup) and stir to combine. Taste and season if needed.
Serve with a small amount of grated parmesan and a lovely green salad.