Pumpkins

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There’s a heck of a lot more to pumpkins than Halloween lanterns. As we slide into Autumn they’re just starting to appear in the shops and markets in all their tantalizing glory, what a brilliant selection. Names like acorn, butternut and crook neck squash, bright yellow pattypan, dark green little gem are just that and the little golden sugar pumpkins are also delicious stuffed.
Whats the difference between a pumpkin and a squash? There’s much debate, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if its orange it’s a pumpkin, if its not it’s a squash or something else - it’s a pretty good guideline
From the cook’s point of view the question is which squash/pumpkin is best to use for a particular recipe. True pumpkin aficionados will tell you to look out for flatter varieties with blue-grey, grey, or dark green skin and bright orange interior, the dense flesh will be sweet and flavourful and can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.
For pumpkin pie, you may be shocked to hear that canned pumpkin puree gives the best result and Libby’s brand is universally used in the USA for the Thanksgiving favourite pud.
In French and Italian Markets one can buy a wedge of pumpkin to roast or use for soups or stews. This is a terrific way to start to experiment, soon you’ll be hooked. Whole squash and pumpkins keep for months, they are so visually appealing that its tempting to buy lots to create ‘still lifes’ around the house. Enjoy them while you can but then begin to tuck in and register the difference in flavour as you experiment.

Roast Pumpkin

Serves 4-6
A delicious accompaniment to an Autumn roast.
½ a grey or green skinned pumpkin
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A few sprigs of thyme or rosemary

Deseed the pumpkin. Put it cut side down onto the chopping board and cut into small wedges (cut each wedge crosswise if you prefer), I don’t bother to peel the wedges but do by all means if you like.
Brush the pumpkin with extra virgin olive oil and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin, sprinkle with thyme leaves or chopped rosemary. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast in the pre-heated oven, 20 minutes should be enough but it will depend on the size of the pieces and variety of the pumpkin.

Spicy Pumpkin Crisps

These pumpkin crisps are delicious as a garnish on soup, salads, or as a crunchy topping for risotto.
225g (7½ oz) green skinned pumpkin, deseeded and peeled
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
chilli powder

Sunflower oil for frying
Heat the oil to 160C (325F) in a deep fryer or wok.
Cut very thick slivers off the pumpkin with a vegetable peeler.
Add a few slices at a time and cook until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and chilli powder.
Continue until all the pumpkin has been fried.

Chunky Pumpkin and Cannellini Bean Soup

Serves 6
4 tablesp. olive oil
2 large onions, about 12 oz (350g)
2 red peppers, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3lb (1.5kg) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes
2 pints (1.2litres) chicken stock
2 courgettes
7 oz (200g) Cavalo nero or Savoy cabbage
1 can cannellini beans
1 can tomatoes
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Freshly grated parmesan 

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the pepper and garlic, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes, add the chopped tomatoes and their juice. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cover and cook over a medium heat while you peel and dice the pumpkin or squash.
Add to the saucepan with the hot stock and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes or until the pumpkin is almost soft. Add the sliced courgettes and the cannellini beans, bring to the boil for a minute or two. Finally add the cavalo nero (2 inch/5cm pieces), or cabbage, cook for just a few minutes more. Taste, correct the seasoning, add a few torn basil leaves if available. Ladle into deep bowls and serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Note: Add more chicken stock if necessary.

Moroccan Pumpkin Tagine

Serves 4
Tagines are the conical terracotta cooking pots of Morocco and also the dishes cooked in them. Any large lidded saucepan can be used for this recipe.
8oz (250g) easy cook couscous
salt
1¼ pints (750ml) boiling chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablesp. harissa paste
2 tablesp. olive oil
2 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves (to taste), crushed
black seeds from 6 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 teasp. crushed coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken
4oz (125g) pumpkin, cut into 1 inch (2cm) cubes
4oz (125g) baby carrots, whole
4oz (125g) baby courgettes, green and yellow, halved lengthways
4oz (125g) baby pattypan squash, halved crossways
about 8oz (250g) cooked chickpeas, or canned or
4oz (125g) chick peas and 4oz (125g) blackeye beans
4oz (125g) green beans
salt and freshly ground pepper
a large bunch of coriander

Put the couscous in a pyrex bowl, add enough boiling stock to cover by about 2cm. Stir in the harissa paste. Season with salt. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Cover and keep warm in the oven.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the onions and garlic and sweat until soft. Add the cardamom and freshly roasted ground coriander seeds and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes. Add the pumpkin and carrots. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add 8 fl.oz (250ml) chicken stock. Bring to the boil, cover and cook for 10 minutes or so. Add the courgettes and chickpeas and blackeye beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add more chicken stock if necessary so its nice and juicy. Finally the green beans or sugar peas. Bring to the boil and serve immediately.
Fluff up the couscous and transfer to a serving plate. Top with the juicy vegetables and lots of coriander.

Thai Chicken, Pumpkin and Coconut Curry with Sticky Rice

Serves 4
1 bunch fresh coriander (roots intact)
4 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1cm/1/2in piece peeled root ginger, chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
350g/12oz pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm/1in chunks
350g/12oz chicken thigh meat
450ml/3/4 pint chicken stock
400g/14oz can coconut milk
300g/10oz sushi/sticky rice
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (Nam pla)
juice of 1 lime
4 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Remove the coriander leaves from the bunch of coriander and set aside. Roughly chop the remainder and place in a mini blender with the shallots, garlic, ginger, chilli, oil and curry paste. Whizz until well combined.
Heat a large wok or frying pan. Add the paste and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until cooked through but not coloured. Add the pumpkin and the chicken. Then continue to stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until just beginning to colour. Pour the stock and coconut milk, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the pumpkin is completely tender but still holding its shape.

Meanwhile, make the sticky rice. Rinse the rice thoroughly and place in a pan with 600ml/1 pint of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes until all the water is completely absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave the rice to steam for at least another 4-6 minutes until tender – it should sit happily for up to 20 minutes with the lid on.      Back to Top

To serve
Stir in the Thai fish sauce and lime juice into the curry. Divide the rice among bowls and ladle in the curry. Garnish with the reserved coriander leaves and the spring onions.

Temple House Pumpkin Bread

6 ozs (170 g) butter
1 lb (450 g) sugar
4 eggs, preferably free-range
1 lb (450 g) pureed pumpkin*
1 lb (450 g) flour
¼ pint (150 ml) water
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 ozs (110 g) chopped walnuts
4 ozs (110 g) raisins

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices and add to the pumpkin mixture. Add the eggs, pumpkin and water. Stir in the nuts and raisins. Grease and flour 3 x 1 lb (450 g) loaf tins and pour in the mixture. Bake for 1 hour at 180°C/350°F/regulo 4. 

This bread freezes well.
* Puree the pumpkin by cooking it in a saucepan with just a little water until soft, then mash or liquidise.

Top Tip

Pumpkins are so easy to grow, too late this year of course but you may want to save some seeds from a favourite pumpkin to plant next year.

Pumpkin seeds are nutritious and delicious toasted- Remove all the seeds from the flesh and rinse under cold water. Lay a single layer on a baking tray and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt. Put into the oven at 1201 C for 30-40 minutes, the seeds should be nice and crunchy. Serve as a snack or nibble.

Add some pumpkin sees to your favourite breakfast cereal or scatter over a lunchtime salad

Pumpkin oil, is dark olive green and deliciously nutty – try it on salads or drizzled over vegetables – it soon becomcs addictive – available from good food shops and delis.

Hot Chocolate is Rosalie Grace’s little shop tucked away in Cork’s Castle Street. Here you can have delicious hot chocolate made from Michel Chuizel chocolate drops or an Illy Coffee in several flavours, or buy the chocolate drops to make your hot chocolate at home. Rosalie stocks a range of luscious Michel Chuizel Chocolates – pralines, truffles…. and will make up gifts for personal or corporate use, weddings and other special occasions using lovely ribbons which she imports from France. Due to demand she now has a full range of these ribbons which one can buy for weddings etc. to match with any colour scheme.
Hot Chocolate, 13 Castle Street, Cork. Tel. 021-4251593 e-mail:coffeetime@eircom.net 

Growing Awareness Workshops in West Cork - New series of workshops coming up soon
12th October - Native Tree Seed Collection and Propagation at Gortamucklagh, Skibbereen. Tel. Paul 028-23742.
19th October – Traditional Vegetable Growing, Glebe Gardens, Baltimore. Tel. Jean 028-20232
26th October – Seaweed Day at Turk Head. Tel Christine 028-38379      Back to Top

British Cheese Awards

Congratulations to all the Irish Cheesemakers who were winners in the recent British Cheese Awards – Glenilen, St Tola, Carrigbyrne, Ardrahan, Durrus, Gubbeen, Dingle Peninsula, Wexford Creamery, Oisin, Carrigaline, Crozier Blue.

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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