I was born on clear, cool autumn morning, and a love of autumn was born into me. To this day, I never feel as content as on a clear, cold, colorful autumn afternoon. Growing up in southern Ontario, our favorite parks prepared for winter by shedding their leaves in showers of color. But even this display of brilliance paled in comparison to the vast carpets of hues covering the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where I spent a few years of my childhood, and where my mom grew up. The colorful season is dwindling away here in Sweden, with most of the reds and oranges gone, leaving only the golden tones to linger for the last few weeks of autumn. As the sun diminishes, I start to crave dishes that warm the body and soul, such as this stuffed pumpkin, a perfect meal to hunker down with as the evenings get darker and colder.
Tip: Omit the bacon and use vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish!
Pumpkin weighing approximately 1kg (2.2 lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) mixed mushrooms, chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) Arborio rice
400ml (1 3/4 cup) chicken or vegetable broth
4 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Tip: Add a dash of nutmeg for some extra depth of flavor.
Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then add shallots. Sautée shallots until beginning to soften, then add mushrooms. Sautée for 5-10 minutes, until most of the moisture from the mushrooms is cooked off. Add rice and thyme, and stir until the rice is coated with shallot and mushroom mixture. Add a quarter of the broth and stir. Turn heat down to medium-low and let simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, adding approximately the same amount of broth each time, until the rice has absorbed most of it. Remove from heat.
Prepare the bacon, and toast the hazelnuts. When done, add both to the risotto and stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Pierce pumpkin at a forty-five degree angle about 2 inches from the stem, and cut in a circle to create a top witch can be removed, just as you would for a Jack-o-Lantern. Remove top and scoop out seeds and pulp. Fill the cavity with risotto, and replace top.
Bake for about 90 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft and easily pierced. Carefully transfer to platter, slice into wedges, and serve!