We all know it’s the season for pumpkins but most of us think about carving rather than eating the juicy vegetables.
Autumn isn’t just about Halloween. It’s also about taking a fresh from the field foodstuff and turning it into a tasty seasonal meal.
‘We’re bang in the season for pumpkins and squashes right now,’ says Neil Jones, head of catering at Fareham College. ‘But I think it’s a veg that people tend to shy away from and think of only in terms of carving and putting a candle in it.’
In the US, he says, people scrape out the pulp of their Halloween decoration and make dishes like pumpkin pie. But we’re generally more wasteful with the leftovers.
‘Certainly squashes seem to be more popular,’ says Neil. ‘But I think that’s down to better marketing. They’re actually in the same family.’
And he adds that the pumpkin is more versatile than many people think. Neil recommends roasting, grilling or boiling the veg or using it in dishes like lasagne or risotto.
Other ideas include a pureed alternative to mash with mustard seeds, butter and nutmeg and diced honey roasted pumpkin on sticks for a Halloween snack, as well as the more popular pumpkin soup.
And that’s not all this useful veg can provide. Neil recommends boiling the nutritious seeds in a pan of water and then simmering for a minute before baking them in the oven and sprinkling over a meal like risotto (see Neil’s recipe).
Pumpkin 1.8kg (4lb), peeled and deseeded
Parmesan cheese 50g (2oz), grated
Fresh breadcrumbs 50g (2oz)
Pecan nuts 50g (2oz), roughly chopped
Chopped thyme leaves 2 tbsp
Butter 50g (2oz), melted
· Preheat oven to 200°C /400°F/Gas 6. Cut pumpkin into 2.5cm (1in) thick wedges. Place in a lightly buttered ovenproof dish. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
· Mix together Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, pecans, thyme and seasoning in a bowl.
· Sprinkle evenly over pumpkin. Then drizzle over melted butter.
· Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and topping is golden. Serve immediately.
From the 2012 Dairy Diary.
Pumpkin risotto with pesto
Finely diced onion 40g
2 chopped garlic cloves
White wine 125g
Arborio rice 125g
Good chicken or vegetable stock 200ml
Shaved parmesan 2tbsp
Pumpkin diced 200g
Olive oil 25g
Fresh coriander chopped 1 tbsp
Pesto and baked pumpkin seeds
· Remove the top of the pumpkin and discard.
· Cut into quarters and scoop out the pips and put to one side for later.
· Cut off the outer part of the pumpkin until you are left with the pulp. Dice the pulp into a small but even size.
· Melt half the butter and cook the onions and the garlic until they become almost clear.
· Add the rice and cook for about two minutes but do not allow the ingredients to colour.
· Add the wine and reduce until the mixture starts to go dry.
· Gradually add the stock, stirring until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Make sure you stir continuously. The rice should have a slight crunch to the texture when cooked.
· Cook the diced pumpkin in the olive oil until tender but not pureed season with salt and pepper and fresh coriander.
· Just before serving add the remainder of the butter to the rice and the cooked pumpkin finish with a spoon of pesto drizzled on the top, Parmesan shavings and crunchy baked pumpkin seeds.
Recipe from Neil Jones