From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
1 small pumpkin (peeled and cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes)
120 ml olive oil
5 tblsp freshly grated parmesan
50 g fresh rocket
75 g unsalted butter
1 small onion (thinly sliced)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
350 g arborio rice (risotto)
150 ml dry white wine
1.5 l vegetable stock
50 g toasted pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper
If you do not have a mini blender or liquidiser to make the rocket pesto, just finely chop the rocket using a large sharp knife and stir in the Parmesan and olive oil until combined.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Scatter the pumpkin cubes into a roasting tin and drizzle over two tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast for 40-50 minutes or until tender and golden, turning occasionally.
To make the rocket pesto, place one tablespoon of the Parmesan in a mini blender or liquidiser with four tablespoons of the remaining olive oil and the rocket. Blend briefly to combine - it should retain some texture, you don't want it to be too smooth. Season to taste, transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm, then chill until ready to use.
Pour the stock into a pan and bring up to a gentle simmer. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of the oil and 50g (2oz) of the butter in a separate large pan. Add the onion, garlic and sage and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat of the pan and add the rice, then cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously until all of the grains are evenly coated and the rice is opaque. Pour in the wine and allow to reduce for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Reduce the heat to medium and then add a ladleful of stock and allow to reduce down, stirring until it is completely absorbed. Continue to add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently. Allow each stock addition to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful until the rice is 'al dente' - just tender but with a slight bite; should take between 20-25 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in the remaining 25g (1oz) of butter and the toasted pine nuts. Carefully fold in the roasted pumpkin, season to taste and divide among warmed wide-rimmed serving bowls. Drizzle each one with a little of the rocket pesto (any remaining can be served separately with a small bowl) and garnish with the reserved Parmesan. Serve immediately.