Pumpkin, bacon, chestnut and barley risotto

I think this is the quintessence of autumn. The contrast in texture between the nutty grains of barley, the fudgy interior of the chestnuts and the meltingly soft roasted pumpkin is just what one needs on a chilly October evening. I also just realised that this dish is quite appropriate, today being Halloween. The recipe is here, for those who wish to try it. You can use normal risotto rice if you like - it will take half the time - but I quite like the flavour and texture of barley.

This recipe is a bit of a revelation because I've never eaten a chestnut before. Which strikes me as a little bit odd, given that I will eat anything. I suppose I have never had the opportunity. They always smell amazing, roasting on those stalls in the middle of towns in the run up to Christmas, but for some unknown reason I've never actually sampled one. So I got a little bit excited when I took my tray of scored and roasted chestnuts out of the oven, their skins unfurling to reveal a sumptuously soft interior. I love their texture and rich sweetness, and I love it even more when I remember that they are in fact very good for you. There's also something rather relaxing about peeling a tray of roasted chestnuts (it's one of those "One for the recipe, two for me..." moments). You can buy them ready-peeled and vacuum-packed, or frozen, but why forego the smell of roasting chestnuts in your kitchen?

I think I've stumbled upon a new addiction.