IF you’re starting the New Year with some dietary resolutions then you’re not alone. With the ever-growing popularity of plant-based diets, many people have opted to give up meat and dairy for the new year.

Veganuary (or Vegan January) seems to be bigger than ever this year, with the founders of Veganuary estimating that over 350,000 people will switch to a plant-based diet this month. Even the major supermarkets and fast food chains have fully embraced the trend, each trying to outdo each other with their new range of vegan products.

As a fully committed carnivore, I’ll never give up meat, but I would always advocate quality not quantity when buying meat (which might mean eating less). I also appreciate that having a diet high in fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds can be healthier, and I do try to incorporate more plant-based meals into my menu, both at home and in the restaurant.

With this in mind, today’s recipe is for anyone who’s trying to go vegan this month, or even if you’re just trying to be a bit healthier or try some new recipes. If you’re not going vegan feel free to use regular dairy cream and parmesan cheese.


(serves 4)

1 medium sized pumpkin

300g Arborio risotto rice

200ml white wine

1 litre hot vegetable stock

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 courgettes, diced

100ml double cream or vegan alternative (soya/oat)

50g grated parmesan cheese or 1 tbsp nutritional yeast*

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

A few cherry tomatoes on the vine to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/350F/Gas4.

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the seeds. Chop into six pieces, drizzle with a little oil and season. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until soft.

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onions over a medium heat until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and stir in the rice so that the grains are mixed well into the oil and onions. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the wine and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.

Gradually add the stock a ladle at a time, stirring throughout and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before more stock is added. By the time the final bit of stock is poured in, the rice should be plump and almost cooked. If it seems undercooked, you can add a little more liquid, but it should still retain a slight bite at this stage. Add the courgette and cook for another few minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the pumpkin from the oven and scoop the flesh from the skin before roughly chopping into chunks (leaving the oven on for the tomatoes).

Finally, once all the stock has been absorbed into the rice, add the roasted pumpkin and stir in the cream, parmesan and parsley. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to rest for five minutes.

While the risotto is resting, drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for five minutes or until soft and slightly browned.

To serve, top with a few roasted cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil.

* Nutritional yeast shouldn’t be confused with active, bread or beer yeasts. It can be found in most major supermarkets or health food shops and has a distinctive savoury ‘cheesy’ flavour.