These days I’m all about simple dishes. And when I find one like this creamy, dairy-free pumpkin risotto, I feel as though I won the lottery. The first time I made this, both my beloved and I went back for seconds. The recipe comes courtesy of my friend, Stephanie Weaver, the author of The Migraine Relief Plan Cookbook.
While I don’t personally suffer from migraine headaches (thank goodness), I have friends who do. So it is helpful to know what recipes do not contain headache “triggers.” Now I don’t have to wonder whether my dishes are ok for friends with special dietary needs, including avoiding migraine-inducing foods.
The Migraine Relief Plan Cookbook is a treasure for those seeking low sugar and low sodium recipes that are free of known migraine triggers. Each of the 100+ recipes also has a code to indicate whether it is egg-free, dairy-free, grain-free, and vegan/vegetarian-friendly. What a gold mine!
The cookbook isn’t just for those who have migraines or have other dietary needs or restrictions. Leafing through my copy, I found many simple and appealing recipes that called out to me. I tried several and every one was delicious. A few are lovely versions of recipes I already loved. For example, Stephanie’s strata recipe has instructions for how to make it dairy-free, vegetarian, and even gluten-free, with specific directions on how to make it the night before.
The “Salads and Light Meals” section has two luscious-sounding glazes for salmon and a veggie burger that looks much more appealing than the high-sodium ones in grocery frozen food aisles.
However, it was the “Weekend Meals” and “Scrumptious Sides” sections that really caught my eye. The recipes looked simple, but enticing. For example, White Carrot-Ginger Soup, Chicken Chile, crispy Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs, Twice-Baked Thai-Spiced Potatoes, South Asian-Inspired Chickpea Masala. But once I made this dairy-free pumpkin risotto, the search was over. My beloved gave it a rave review and that sealed the deal.
This recipe is a South Asian-inspired version of a traditional Italian dish, risotto. Although it is dairy-free, the risotto is creamy. It is flavorful and filling without being heavy. Pairing it with a salad makes for a great summer meal. Even though it is served hot, it works well on a warm evening.
So, here is Stephanie’s recipe for Dairy-Free Pumpkin Risotto, from the Migraine Relief Plan Cookbook, with my notes and tips.
How to Make and Enjoy Dairy-Free Pumpkin Risotto
- Take your Time. Like my Vegetarian Barley Risotto, this version relies on slow-cooking. You add small amounts of liquid to the starch (rice in this case), stirring very frequently over 30-45 minutes. As the rice cooks (by absorbing the liquid), it swells. Plan accordingly. Put on good music. Don’t get distracted by texts or anything else. If you don’t stir the risotto enough, it will stick to the bottom of the pot/pan. So you have to pay attention to the risotto. You’ll be rewarded, I promise.The photos below show how the process goes.
- Use the Right Rice. You need arborio rice to make this (or traditional) risotto. The short, stubby kernels are essential to this slow-cooking method. Don’t even think of substituting another type of rice.
- Remember Mise En Place. Like most cooking, this recipe works best if you organize your ingredients, mincing the small items and measuring the spices before starting to heat the olive oil. Think of it as a cousin to the stir fry.
- Tailor the Result to Your Tastebuds. The recipe calls for garam masala, which is a spice mix, not a single spice. There are as many recipes for the mix as there are cooks who use it. In the book, Stephanie has a garam masala recipe using toasted and ground cumin, fenugreek, mustard, and fennel seeds with cardamom seed pods. I used the Kashmiri garam masala from my friend Ansh. Which garam masala you use of course affects the risotto, and you can make it spicy or leave it fragrant, but mild, as you like. Similarly, using vegetable broth with a heavily onion or tomato component, or using chicken broth, will change the taste of the final dish. So make it your own, using ingredients that suit you.
Dairy-free Pumpkin Risotto
This recipe takes the concept of traditional Italian risotto in a non-traditional direction with South Asian spices and pumpkin.
- 4 & 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced see note
- 2 cloves garlic see note
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger root (10g) minced
- 1 teaspoon garam masala either a no-salt-added store-bought version or Stephanie's (from the book)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup Arborio rice (235 g)
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (425 g)
Heat the broth in a saucepan on medium heat until simmering, then maintain a very low simmer as you continue with the following steps. (Motherwouldknow - see note on alternative method of heating broth)
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the shallot. Fry for 3 minutes, then add the ginger, garam masala, paprika, and the garlic and fry 2 minutes more.
Add the rice and cook, stirring about 2 minutes.
Ladle in about 1/2 cup of the hot broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any burnt bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir almost constantly until all the liquid is absorbed, then add another ladle full of broth. It should take 7 to 8 minutes to absorb about a cup of liquid. If it is taking a lot longer, turn up the heat just a little. If it is taking much less time, turn down the heat a little.
After about 30 minutes, when you have about a cup of broth left to add, add in the pumpkin and remaining broth. Continue cooking and stirring on low, uncovered, until the rice is tender. It should still have a loose texture.
- Instead of a pan, I used my 3 quart Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron pot.
- I am lazy and hate to wash multiple pots. So I microwaved my broth in a pyrex measuring cup (which can go in the dishwasher) on high for several minutes until it was steaming, During the process of cooking the rice, instead of keeping it on a low simmer, I periodically re-microwaved the broth to bring it back to steaming.
- How big a shallot, a clove of garlic, or a knob of ginger is can be subject to great variation. I used about 35 g of shallot, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, and about 1&1/2 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger.
- Try to use fresh garlic and ginger - the granulated and powdered versions just aren't the same. But if you must substitute, use this guide for garlic and this one for ginger.
- If you don't know how to easily skin a fresh piece of garlic, check out my instructions here.
- From the time I added the pumpkin until the rice was ready took me about 8-10 minutes. The time may vary for you.
- If you wish to use fresh pumpkin, roast a small pie pumpkin (350 to 450 g). the pumpkin should be roasted until tender, then peel and mince. Add 1 to 2 cups to this recipe in Step 6 in place of the pumpkin puree. Italian risotto would be cooked in Step 6 until al dente (having a slight bite to it). I prefer my rice a bit more tender.
- Serving suggestions: Service with South Asian-Inspired Chickpea Masala and Curried Coconut Greens (both from Stephanie's book). Or include in a Holiday Menu (also from the book).
I received an advance digital copy of the cookbook in order to do this post and permission to reprint Stephanie’s recipe for pumpkin risotto. However no one (not Stephanie or anyone from the publisher) saw or influenced the content of this post.