Baked chicken and pumpkin risotto: Sarah Schmidt

This post is part of a new segment where I recreate the recipes of those around me. I am forever curious about the homecooked food my friends and family subsist on and nourish themselves with – what are their lazy day go-to meals? What do they turn to when they feel like making a splash in the kitchen? What is their definition of comfort food? I will explore these questions through my histamine-intolerant lens, but will include the original recipes for those who don’t get bloated off everything.

What: “Literally the easiest recipe of all time”

Who: Lilting Librarian i.e. Sarah Schmidt

Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream

I have a whole tupperware full of arborio rice that I’ve been too lazy to cook into a risotto because I dread the hours of stirring broth into rice, which is why I yelped with joy when I saw Lilting Librarian post a picture of an oven-baked risotto (i.e. a risotto sans the stirring) that she made. Lilting Librarian has the most melodic voice, so much so I watch her every Instagram story (which luckily for me, includes a lot of sumptuous recipes and book recommendations) while letting the canorous cadence of her voice wash over me.

Lilting Librarian got this recipe from an old Donna Hay cookbook and swears by it, often tweaking it according to what she has in her pantry.

“I find I always have to add more stock during the oven cooking because the pumpkin doesn’t always quite cook in time. I didn’t have chicken, so I cooked up some zucchini, mushrooms and spring onions and then mixed it in with fresh basil at the end. I also like to serve with extra parmesan cheese and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

“It’s literally the easiest recipe of all time.”

I decided to follow the original chicken recipe, but made a few changes. I used Nuttelex instead of butter and because my oven is maybe the most ineffective contraption of its kind to exist, I pre-heated it to 220 degrees instead.

As though proving my oven’s inefficacy, my risotto mix had too much stock after 30 minutes, unlike Lilting Librarian’s, and my pumpkin was nowhere near cooked, so I let it stay in the oven for another 15–30 minutes (I can’t remember exactly) until all the stock had been absorbed and the pumpkin was cooked.

Donna Hay’s lovely simple instructions on how to cook the chicken also didn’t work out for me because I had monstrous chicken breast fillets that I stupidly didn’t pound beforehand, so I’ve included alternative instructions below because I think poaching the chicken breasts would be a lot easier and wouldn’t result in overcooked meat. Alternatively, go meat-free and cook the vegetarian topping that Lilting Librarian suggested above – I’m going to do that the next time I make this.

I used Massel stock cubes which were plenty salty enough so I didn’t have to add much salt after, and word to the wise, use an ovenproof dish that’s big enough – I had to get my more dextrous partner to juggle an ovenproof dish teetering with liquid because I was too clumsy.

The result is a warming and comforting meal that, like Lilting Librarian said, is one of the easiest risotto recipes. The rice was fluffy and moist, and hadn’t suffered at all from the lack of stirring.

I’ve included Lilting Librarian’s original instructions below, with my additional comments in italics.

Baked chicken and pumpkin risotto (a recipe by Sarah Schmidt based on a Donna Hay recipe)
Serves: 4

2 cups arborio
5 cups chicken stock (I diluted Massel stock cubes)
60g butter (I used Nuttelex)
700g pumpkin, peeled and diced
3 chicken breast fillets / a mix of zucchini, mushrooms and spring onions if you want to make this vegetarian
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan and more
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Olive oil
Salt and cracked black pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. (I pre-heated mine to 220 degrees because, see above)

Place the rice, stock, butter (or Nuttelex) and diced pumpkin in an ovenproof dish and cover tightly with a lid or aluminium foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until the rice is soft. (I had to bake mine for closer to an hour until my pumpkin had cooked and all the stock had been absorbed. I took off the foil after 30 minutes to allow my excess stock to evaporate.)

While the risotto is baking, add a little oil to a frying pan over medium heat and cook the chicken for 4 minutes each side or until cooked through. (I’d recommend poaching them according to these steps outlined by Bon Appetit instead.) Allow to cool slightly, then chop.

Alternatively, go down the meat-free route and stir-fry some zucchini, mushrooms and spring onions together.

Remove the risotto from the oven and stir the chicken (or vegetables), parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley through it continuously for 5 minutes, or until the risotto is creamy. (My oven dish was so full there wasn’t much stirring going on, but it still turned out okay.)

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Garnish with more grated parmesan and add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

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Author: Sonia Nair

Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based food writer who persists with her love of everything deep fried and spicy, despite being diagnosed with a histamine intolerance and lactose intolerance after incorrectly thinking she was fructose-intolerant for several years.

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